It’s been a long time coming all around, but late Tuesday afternoon the steampunk anthology AIRSHIPS & AUTOMATONS (see April 7, March 31, et al.) landed on my front porch, via FedEx, completing a voyage lasting nearly two and three-quarter years. As was reported here at the start of this year (cf. January 3), after a September 4 2012 acceptance of a story by me and adding that mine would be last in the contents of stories to be set in chronological order, “. . . then it disappeared. As an airship drifting behind a cloud, the anthology . . . was gone!
“And so it goes.
“Two long years passed, even rumors fading away like wisps of mist before an autumn dawn. . . .
“But then — actually on December 30 but due to a hiatus at this end not opened until January 2 — came an email from Editor Zaglanis with a contract attached! With it was a request to copy, sign, and return two copies ‘so I can cut you a check. Feel free to revise your bio if you wish. Thank you for your patience and the wonderful story.’”
And then, more waiting, but not so much this time. The Kindle copy was published first, but a bit of minor last minute editing was required before it went to print. Then it was at the printers. Then up on Amazon, where it can be found by pressing here. . . .
And now in my hands! A delightful volume of “[t]ales from a world that should have been. . . Fifteen stories spanning the ages from ancient Greece to a far-flung dying future” — from “A Courtly Diversion” by Gary Cuba to my own offering, “Raising the Dead,” one in my series of tales set in the “Tombs,“ a vast necropolis and its environs in the latter days of a ghoul-ridden, dying Earth.
From just a brief dipping in thus far, it has been worth the wait.
For he being dead,
with him is beauty slain,
And, beauty dead,
black chaos comes again.
And so came the anthology BLACK CHAOS II, from the back cover of which comes the quotation above, to my mailbox. Edited by Bill Oliver, this is Big Pulp Publications’s second zombie anthology — with a darkly humorous twist. To let them explain it: “Black Chaos comes again in 25 MORE frightful — and frightfully funny — tales of the zombie, from the wilds of 19th century Canada to the farthest edge of the galaxy, and from college dorms to Wal-Mart. You may think you know zombies, but not these!”
My zom in this zoo is called “Cold, Lifeless Fingers,” originally published in GC MAGAZINE for Halloween, October 1999 (cf. April 21, 10, et al.), of a zombie hailing from Port-au-Prince, but finding itself in a gated community in the US and, possibly, taking a yard sign it sees more literally than had been intended. For more information, one may press here.
Then, on Facebook, we have a wrap-up of last Saturday’s THE ART OF POETRY / THE POETRY OF ART II, a presentation of poetry inspired by paintings at the local gallery, the Venue (see May 23; also for the previous week May 17). My poem is titled “Animal Eyes” and is based on a piece by Ray Perigo depicting two theatrical masks called “Hangers On,” picking up on the theatrical theme in a nostalgic tip of the hat to Paris’s le Grand Guignol (1897-1962). The poem itself appears below while “Hangers On” may be seen by pressing here (look for the picture of the two masks in the second row, far left). Or for a more general look at the event, check the Venue’s wall by pressing here.
Animal eyes were best for gougings,
they bounced on the stage
while an actress screamed,
distracting the audience
who thought them hers.
This was one of the tricks
of the Grand Guignol.
A disfigured Henri pouring acid
on his ex-lover, Jeanne’s, face —
it’s water, of course —
in Le Baiser dans la Nuit,
her hands secreting coagulated paint,
red, as she claps them over her pain,
leaving streaks of burned gore.
a lighthouse-set orgy,
a woman thrown down to the rocks below
to avenge a wrecked ship,
another set fire before voyeurs’ eyes,
this all on a 20 x 20 foot dais,
practically in the laps of the playgoers
packed into a less than 300-seat room.
But it did not survive, the theatre of blood
given way to worse horrors,
the horrors of real life;
the players in masks now of human flesh,
no longer distorted
as those of the stage,
but, beneath, what thoughts hoarding?
Oops. It took a while for me to notice, but it seems there was an error in my May 11 post, “A Continuing View of World Horror Convention 2015.” In it I stated, of the Thursday night poetry reading, that my opening was with “what I introduced as a sports poem, ‘Godzilla vs. King Kong’ (‘It came to this, finally,/ the fight of all fights/ Godzilla against the King. . .’). And who was the winner? Well, fortunately there’ll be a chance to find out as the poem has been accepted by British ezine GRIEVOUS ANGEL (cf. March 30 — GRIEVOUS ANGEL was also publisher, last year, of my Rhysling-nominated ‘Beware of the Dog,’ see September 11 2014).” However a check of my records reveals that it is not “Godzilla vs. King Kong” that has been accepted by GRIEVOUS ANGEL, but a related poem, “On the Other Hand,” having to do with the King’s tragic love affair with Ann Darrow (a.k.a. Fay Wray). In fact, “Godzilla vs. King Kong” is currently being looked at by another publication, but it is not known whether or not it will be accepted and, whatever the result, it is likely to be a bit longer before the results of the fight will be known.
That is, at least by those who were not at the reading. It is correct that “Godzilla vs. King Kong” was the poem I read.
“The Venue held its first Ekphrasis, defined as a written poem inspired by a work of art. 5 local poets were invited to choose one painting from a selection of paintings submitted by 5 artists to write an ekphrastic poem. Each poet explained what about the painting inspired them, followed by the artist’s explanation of inspiration. Round two with 5 fresh paintings and poets will be held this Saturday, May 23rd at 6pm. Join us!” Thus the reading/showing last Saturday (as posted here the next day, cf. May 17) from local gallery The Venue’s report on Facebook. So this evening the second part came about, though missing one poet who was unable to appear.
Those of us here, in the order of reading, were Eric Rensberger, me, Tom Hastings, and Timothy Reed, on hand with the artists who followed each poet with their own story of how the art came about. An interesting part was that the readings varied not just in the poems themselves but in style of reading, more so than they had last week (though poet and Writers Guild founding member Patsy Rahn did involve the audience then with a sort of background, building song-chant as her poem progressed), with Eric and me giving fairly straight up readings (in both cases reading three “warm up” poems before the explanation and fourth, “inspired” poem, I adding a little more about how all four of mine related to one another and to the art); Tom adding a bit of drama, including chanting in the introduction to his; and Timothy miming to the drama of his reading, adding a second poem afterwards that included both reading and singing.
The artwork I had selected was a black and white still life of two theatrical masks, by Ray Perigo, titled “Hanging On” and my three opening poems, all of which also are in my collection VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), were “La Méduse” (also the poem that opens my prose fiction collection THE TEARS OF ISIS), to establish the idea of art; “Night Child,” originally published in TOMORROW SF and with a sequence on music and dance for, specifically, the performing arts; and “Émile’s Ghosts,” itself an ekphrastic poem based on a painting by Marge Simon, with a theme of times past and possible regrets. I pointed out also that the first and third contained references to France, to thus introduce my theatrical poem, “Animal Eyes,” on an actual theatre in Paris that is no more, the Grand Guignol,* suggesting that its horrific illusions — “masks” — could no longer compete with “the horrors of real life;/ the players in masks now of human flesh,/ . . . / but, beneath, what thoughts hoarding?”
*For a bit of background on which, see December 9 2014. The poem’s title, “Animal Eyes,” comes from the factoid that actual animal eyes were used for simulated eye-gougings because they could be counted on to bounce realistically on the stage.
One of two books I’ve been waiting for arrived today, my authors copy of MONK PUNK & THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN OMNIBUS (see May 10, January 6, et al.) from Hazardous Press! Now can White Cat’s AIRSHIPS & AUTOMATONS be far behind? MONK PUNK . . . OMNIBUS is a combined edition of the two separately titled anthologies with a few extra tales added in for good luck. And more to the point, including my story (from the original THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN, cf August 21 2011 et al.) “The Festering,” a Lovecraftian saga of love gone wrong, and toilets. Or, you never know exactly how deep an older neighborhood’s sewer system may reach.
Well, that aside, it is a big book too, weighing in in the 500 page or more class. More information can be found on Amazon by pressing here.
Two little oddities, the first with a touch of mystery as well. The first an email Monday to the effect that someone had tagged me on Facebook so, as is my wont, I plunked the magic twanger and went there to find out. Lo, it was a book cover photo from Lee Zumpe for something called DUST DEVIL which contained two poems that he’d written, but also apparently something from me too.
The trouble is, I did not remember a book or magazine called DUST DEVIL. Could this be something I’d submitted to under some other title, that changed it to DUST DEVIL before it published? Such things sometimes happen. But then wouldn’t it have said something like that in its acceptance letter? And I did not remember an acceptance letter, not to mention receiving a copy of the book myself.
I could have messaged Lee about it, asking for details, but also I tend to keep fairly good records and, lo, there it was — but published in October 2002! Nearly 13 years ago. But now, with the date, I found the copy on my “trophy shelf” (a rather varied and unkempt collection spanning three bookcases — not easy to search without some kind of hint). I had one poem in it called “Crows,” a subject I’ve written other poems on too, and, yes, there it was! Lee’s poems were there as well, titled “Mount Moldoveanu” and “Winter Wait.”
And then for the new, this today from Sean Taylor, is actually an extended blurb from Editor L. Andrew Cooper of REEL DARK (cf May 10, 4, et al.), but it mentions my name — and anyway it has more information than I’ve given below, as well its own link to Amazon. I’ve read most of the first part (of three) of the book myself by now and, if I may say so, I think it’s a good one, especially if you enjoy getting some of your horror at the movies. So, if so, check here.
My tale there, by the way, is called “Marcie and Her Sisters.”
clouded mid-May day
Bambi’s Mom is back again —
who’s for venison?
Yes, summer is here, as marked by the annual return of one of the local deer herd, collectively known as “Bambi’s Mom,” to the salad bar that is my front yard. One notes this is a mere week after Mother’s Day. Nevertheless, as the spotting was made this morning when I had had plans to use my front walk to carry the recycling down to the curb, it did pose a potential problem — the bucolic beasts have been known to kill pets locally* and they do have sharp, powerful hooves. In this case, though, loudly shaking the bin of cans and bottles was enough to drive B. M. to the neighbor’s yard.
But what a coincidence! Only Friday, courtesy of TOR.COM, what should I run across but an article by Mari Ness, “The Disney Read-Watch: Felix Salten’s Bambi: A Life in the Woods,” on the book that the iconic Disney movie was based on** — and which one may read for one’s-self right here. Not to mention that Bambi’s Mom also inspired the above short poem (a close variant, admittedly, on a poem I wrote on a similar occasion about two years back, cf. April 14 2013).
Another, less animalistic start to the summer season occurred Saturday evening with local art gallery The Venue presenting THE ART OF POETRY / THE POETRY OF ART. This was the result of an invitation to ten local poets to choose one of a group of paintings by local artists to use to inspire a poem. Thus the poem would be read, with perhaps some others, and with an explanation of how it fit the painting, followed by the artist’s explanation of his or her inspiration for the work. So yesterday brought a first group of five, the second group of which will be next week, for an interesting and pleasant two hours. Then next Saturday will bring the second group, of which (ahem) I will be a member, more on which next week.
*Not the cave cat Wednesday, however, who due in part to a heavily trafficked road in front of the house is strictly an indoor cat.
**Not only that, in a second, and delightfully cynically tongue-in-cheek piece, Ness takes on Pinocchio, which can be read by pressing here.
May is Short Story Month and to celebrate Untreed Reads Publishing has announced a sale on all individual short stories at $0.25 each. This doesn’t include novellas, however, letting some of my titles out, but the Christmas/science fiction/horror tale “I’M DREAMING OF A. . .” is on the list and can be obtained by pressing here. And it may be especially apt for the warm weather months that are coming, with temperatures soaring into the 90s and above — what better pleasure then than to sit back and read about snow?
Also short story anthologies are on sale at 50 percent off through the end of the month which, speaking of the Christmas season, includes the New Year’s Eve anthology YEAR’S END: 14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR, with my lead story “Appointment in Time.” So for more mid-summer chills just when they’ll be needed for only $1.50, click here.
Then when you’ve done that, if you wish to look into on-sale offerings by other authors, press the word “Home” in the upper left of the I’M DREAMING OF. . . or the YEAR’S END page for the Untreed Reads store with links to complete sets of sale stories by genre. The sale is good only through Untreed Reads only, but books are available in all formats, EPUB, Kindle, and PDF.
Thursday night, one may recall, brought readings of poetry. These were followed a half hour later by a panel on TERRIFYING TROPES: DARK CARNIVALE: FREAKS, GEEKS, MAGICIANS AND SPIRITUALISTS covering, well, just that. “Magic, mystery, and romance” — except you don’t know what hides under the greasepaint. The panels I got to struck me as quite good in almost all cases, in this case also touching on nostalgia — weirdness and whimsy — and different takes between children seeing the glitter and wonder, rides, excitement, lots to do, versus teens where it becomes highly sexualized, a place to take girls where anything can happen, versus adults who now take their kids. And the carnies themselves as playing roles, but even after the gates are closed as members of a separate culture (cited here was Tod Browning’s movie FREAKS).
Friday brought more TERRIFYING TROPES: POE-ETICS: SETTING SCENE AND ATMOSPHERE IN SUPERNATURAL FICTION, with a note that “The Dark Place” in horror is any place in that it’s being seen through the protagonist’s eyes. So, in writing, establish the protagonist’s hang-ups — what’s in his mind — and think like an actor to not just see but react to a setting (and don’t forget other senses too, especially sound). And look for details, especially ones the reader might not expect, as well as picking your own words carefully, also with an ear to their sound and their connotations, in setting a scene in the reader’s head too. Then WEIRD SOUTH: FROM VOODOO TO RATTLESNAKE REVIVAL: SOUTHERN FOLKLORE IN HORROR LITERATURE brought in mixtures of cultures, especially in places like New Orleans, and distortions brought through oral retellings. Thus the Devil may have been to some people an African god, yet close and personal to a Christian. In that the South industrialized late, people still live close to the ground, and folk magic plays in people’s minds — the idea of Hoodoo, a large collection of magical techniques, versus Voodoo and Santeria which are actual religions. But the truly frightening person is not one the Devil speaks to, but the one who says he’s been spoken to by God, because he’s the one who’s going to act on it. DEADLY DEFINITIONS: WE ARE BIZARRO! BEATING ON THE BONGOS AND SCRAPING THE VISCERA OF HORROR’S ZANIEST SUBCULTURE then spoke to “the weird stuff” — Burrough’s NAKED LUNCH, BUBBA HO-TEP, David Lynch movies, THE KAFKA EFFECT. To try to add something that “completely f ***s up, doesn’t blend in, twists 180 degrees” . . . but still works. Surreal, or told in a surreal way. Or, as one panelist put it, think Dr. Seuss, noting that that’s one of the first things, with talking animals, that we give our children.
Also on Friday were several showings of short films that I got to, in whole or in part, plus PANEL/READING: DARK POETS FACE TO FACE in which a group of poets (one, though, in absentia whose plane hadn’t come yet) read one another’s works, explaining why they chose that particular poem and commenting on it. This was a repeat of a panel I was on in New Orleans two years before (cf. June 19 2013) and then, as now, it was interesting as a look into the poets’ minds as well as just fun, whether as audience or at the table.
Saturday’s fare included more panels, with DEADLY DEFINITIONS: WHEN THE WEIRD GO PRO: EXPLORING THE PARAMETERS AND CONSIDERING THE DIRECTIONS OF A LITERARY RENAISSANCE concluding that maybe the “new weird” isn’t that new. There’s Lovecraft too, where when you end with a monster too big to kill, that’s “weird, not horror.” Post-Lovecraft we’ve become more self-absorbed, but the knowledge at the end of a story that here’s a thing we’ll never understand, that’s weird. Giant butterflies that will eat your soul . . . a magician with a spell that will destroy everything . . . that’s weird as well. But there’s always been weird fiction, it’s just that we’re talking about it in a perhaps new context. Also weird fiction “works better in short form, while longer novels need to include redemption.” WEIRD SOUTH: I WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AGAIN: WHY ARE SO MANY CONTEMPORARY VAMPIRE NOVELS SET IN THE SOUTH spoke of Southern traits, as surface politeness that may mask darker feelings underneath, as well as the South’s dark history in general (“that’s why we fear clowns, they have smiles painted on and you know it’s hiding something”). Thus vampires, beautiful people, cultured, walk among us and, unlike, e.g., zombies, we don’t smell the rot that lies underneath. Then add tradition, strong religious feelings including the darker parts of the BIBLE, resistance to outsiders and “foreign” ideas (such as fearful Counts from places like Transylvania), master/slave relationships which the South still has trouble handling, and like the South, lush and green where everyone flourishes except the outsider, like kudzu and vines that grab hold and won’t let you go, so is the vampire both beautiful and grasping.
Earlier Saturday but to the point too, was SPECIAL PRESENTATION: DACRE STOKER: BRAM STOKER/TRAVEL GUIDE NEW DISCOVERIES 118 YEARS LATER, a PowerPoint presentation by Bram Stoker’s grand-nephew on Stoker’s life and experiences that led to the writing of DRACULA, with places and backgrounds, plus some recent discoveries adding to our understanding of the novel; plus a presentation, MEDIA: WHCFILM: SKIPP’S SATURDAY SINEMA FUNTIME, in which Director John Skipp showed a short film and possibly pilot for a TV series, BOMBO AND FLOPSY IN “AN HONEST MIS-STAKE.” Clowns . . . and vampires.
And then Sunday, finally, brought WEIRD SOUTH: THE DEVIL CAME DOWN: GROWING UP LOVING HORROR BENEATH THE MASON-DIXON LINE which amplified several themes from the days before, on the South’s unique features, but authors too including Edgar Allan Poe (though born in Boston, brought up in Virginia), story-telling traditions that affect all classes, folk expressions and word choices and multiple meanings and high-context cultures. Then, one hour later, from noon to 1, TERRIFYING TROPES: THE DEATH PANEL: FUNERALS, CEMETERIES, BURIAL, AUTOPSIES, AND DECOMPOSITION brought the convention for me back to DEATH TO DUST (as in my mis-citation in my Friday panel) with many excursions from mourning customs, to green burials and “death composting,” uses of cremains, paintings and photography of the dead, “death cafes,” food used in funerals, medieval medicine, books bound in human skin, and other objects preserved in museums.
After which time it was time to go.
Travel times were good for a change, partially due to Atlanta being a hub for the airline I was using. That is, virtually all flights passed through Atlanta anyway, thus I arrived in early afternoon Thursday, and left the hotel for public transportation via MARTA to the airport, and home, at about the same time Sunday. I was armed with a list, the five things I must be available for, one Thursday evening — plenty of time for the ride from the airport, lunch, registration, settling in — two Friday, one each Saturday and Sunday mornings. So duties, below, were evenly spaced, with much time left for other activities to be taken up in tomorrow’s post.
Thursday, 8 to 9:30 p.m., brought Linda Addison’s READING: HORROR POETRY OPEN MIKE, with a fairly good crowd with almost everyone with poems to read. Quality varied as would be expected, as did themes and styles as people read one poem each in turn, one actually a humorous song, with time enough to allow about half of us to do an encore. Linda read an opening poem herself, followed by G. O. Clark, followed by . . . me with what I introduced as a sports poem, “Godzilla vs. King Kong” (“It came to this, finally,/ the fight of all fights/ Godzilla against the King. . .”). And who was the winner? Well, fortunately there’ll be a chance to find out as the poem has been accepted by British ezine GRIEVOUS ANGEL (cf. March 30 – GRIEVOUS ANGEL was also publisher, last year, of my Rhysling-nominated “Beware of the Dog,” see September 11 2014). More information on that available as it becomes known.
While not reading themselves, Bruce Boston and Marge Simon were also present, with whom Gary Clark and I made a quartet during the brief times when none of had other obligations. Gary was also present for my last scheduled item, my otherwise under-attended 9-9:30 Sunday morning reading (that is, at a time when most conventioneers who were up and sober were most likely attending church) at which I presented two stories, “Casket Girls” from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION (cf. April 28, et many al.) as a curtain raiser and, having by then picked up the other half of my audience, “River Red” from THE TEARS OF ISIS as the main event.
I had two panels, the first being SCAREBIZ: JUST THE FACTS, MONSTER: HOW TO DIG DEEPER THAN THE INTERNET FOR ACCURATE STORYTELLING, on Friday 5-6 p.m. For those present, this was the one where I cited a book several times as DEATH AND DYING (the actual, not misremembered title is DEATH TO DUST, by Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D.) as, among other things, the inspiration of the story that opens THE TEARS OF ISIS, “In the Octopus’s Garden.” Indeed, as a short story writer I gave a fair bit of emphasis to serendipity in research as a source for ideas. But, idea in hand, research is also needed to get details right, whether from living, e.g., in an area or thoroughly reading tourist guides, using internet, print, recordings and films, in addition to personal experience to add more verisimilitude. My sum-up was from a TV producer who had been advised by a local expert, filming a miniseries in the then USSR, that it’s the small things that must be gotten right, because these earn reader/viewer confidence that allows you to slip in the Big Lie — that is, the story itself when one is writing fiction — with practically no one noticing.
Saturday, 9-10 a.m., brought my second panel, TERRIFYING TROPES: URBAN FANTASY: IT’S SELLING LIKE HELLCAKES, BUT IS IT HORROR?, which was well attended despite the hour. Much involved panelists’ definitions of what urban fantasy is in the first place (my quip: “Imagine Woody Allen directing NOSFERATU”); whether there was urban fantasy prior to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER; distinguishing the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance by whether it’s a sexily attired woman or man on the cover; and whether it must actually involve a city, or if suburban or even smaller town settings still qualify. I cited my VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) as being perhaps 75-percent urban fantasy poetry, involving vampires in ordinary societal problems (e.g., what gift to bring to a newly married vampire’s reception?), and there seemed to be general agreement that, as opposed to high fantasy, urban fantasy involves the supernatural within a societal background that readers can identify with. And to answer the question of the panel’s title, yes, it should involve horror, often perhaps tending toward the mild side, but that’s up to the writer (or perhaps more to the point, the writer’s editor and/or publisher) — there’s no definitional reason why it can’t be more intense.
And then, finally, there was the MASS AUTHOR SIGNING Friday, 6:30-8 p.m., to which, in part because I generally travel light, I had brought only three copies of THE TEARS OF ISIS (one with the old cover, and with a turned up corner) along with maybe half dozen of the smaller poetry book VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE). Business was pretty brisk as these things go, though, with people bringing their own materials to be signed along with actually buying books there. And the bottom line was: I sold one copy of VAMPS and, offering a dollar discount on the damaged copy, sold out of the others.