Seven days more until Halloween, starting the countdown today. And to help all to celebrate Halloween week, Max Booth III of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing has chosen my 2014 Bram Stoker® fiction collection nominee THE TEARS OF ISIS, with nine other books, to put on sale for one week only for 99 cents each! To let Max tell it in his own words: Starting now and ending November 1st, we are offering ten of our horror titles for only 99c on the Amazon kindle store. If you’re the kind of person who loves horror and cheap eBooks, then look no further. Well, okay, look a little bit further — you still have to actually click the links. So first click here, then scroll down to THE TEARS OF ISIS, fifth on the list — or, to get to TEARS directly, just press here.
In other news, it is nearly Election Day as well and aren’t we all beginning to think in political clichés? But this one marks the first new fiction acceptance for all of October (not to mention on Halloween week to boot), making it a pleasant surprise indeed! And oh, the odds! The email came Monday from Bob Corry of PHOBOS: After rejecting more than five hundred stories, I’m very happy to accept “Dark Call of the Sea” for our fourth issue.
Well, there were a few things in its favor, though the acceptance did take some time. The theme for the issue is “Deep Black Sea,” for stories, flash, and poetry hauled from the brine of oceans both real and fantastic. . . . Did I mention the story’s title is “The Dark Call of the Sea?” And in fact it had been narrowly rejected by PHOBOS for a previous issue, with an apt, but not quite that apt theme, and with a suggestion for a small change which I thought was okay and so adapted to a slightly rewritten ending. The story itself is a Lovecraftian fable of music and art and a summer ill-spent on a seaside vacation at Innsmouth.
And, speaking of sea stories (as well as art), let me point out that the opening prose tale in THE TEARS OF ISIS — on sale through Halloween, remember? — is “In the Octopus’s Garden.” For more information on THE TEARS OF ISIS you can click on the link above or, for perusing reviews from its Amazon site, press here.
On a far-future, exhausted Earth a ghoul — an eater of corpses — explores the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest. . . . And so starts the first answer to British blogger Sonnet O’Dell’s questions on DUSTY PAGES (see also just below, et al.) for October 24, exactly one week prior to Halloween. Other topics include if the glass is half full or empty, motivations, appearing in public, and my first crush — at least that I’ll admit to. And at the end, we’re back to my upcoming TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH with a quote from the book for the start of a final blurb: “The city had once lived, blazing with light. The books all described this. The Ghoul-Poet sat in the midst of a heap of them, pages torn, rotting, spread out all about him. This was a library, the pride of New City, or rather a square that had faced the library, that had received this avalanche of thought — words embossed on parchment — that cascaded down when the library burst, its walls weakened with age. . . .” For more, one may press here.
Then Sunday evening, at downtown Bloomington’s Buskirk-Chumley theatre, I was to read the same quote and a little bit more as an introduction to the flavor of TOMBS, followed by one of the book’s story-chapters, “Raising the Dead.” This was an entr’acte of sorts between screenings of THE EXORCIST and a new Korean film, THE WAILING, as part of a three-film Halloween festival sponsored by local magazine THE RYDER (cf. October 17 — the other film, screened first, was ARSENIC AND OLD LACE followed by a live mini-dramatization of Angela Carter’s short story “The Company of Wolves” by Cricket’s Bone Caravan), billed in THE RYDER’s calendar as “a tale of necromancy, dark fantasy, airships, and doomed love.” But a funny thing happened on the way from the 1 p.m. sound check to the actual screenings having to do with, live stage sound okayed, a glitch in the sound for the films themselves. This took about 40 minutes to work out, which was okay for the first two films and the “Wolves” presentation, but by the time THE EXORCIST ended, it was already a bit past 8 p.m. As a result, including a significant audience drop-off (it being Sunday night, meaning many had to be up early for Monday), we decided to postpone my reading to get THE WAILING back on only-slightly-delayed schedule.
So, tentatively, but more if/when it actually comes to pass, “Raising the Dead” will be read by me at the Ryder Film Festival’s continuation next Sunday, October 30 (yes, All Hallows Eve Eve) at local Bloomington drinkery Bear’s Place at probably a bit after 7 p.m., sandwiched between HORROR OF DRACULA at 5:30 p.m. and an 8 p.m. reprise of THE WAILING. And, oh yes, for this one you must be over 21.
Just a reminder, my interview with Sonnet O’Dell on her DUSTY PAGES blog (see July 5, et al.) is still scheduled for Monday, October 24 — just one week before HALLOWEEN! — at 7 a.m. GMT. That’s British time, so night owls on this side of the Atlantic might be able to get a sneak peek before bedtime (depending, of course, on how late bedtime is, as well as for those in the vampiric trade). In the meantime, alas, one of the local cave computers died last night, the one that takes care of bloggie business here, so I probably won’t be able to post until Monday afternoon, EDT, on a library computer. Whatever works, yes?
But for early risers, one can get to Sonnet’s open blog (for whatever might be the post of the moment), as well as the latest on TOMBS when it’s time, by pressing here.
A mosaic novel is a novel in which individual chapters or short stories share a common setting or set of characters with the aim of telling a linear story from beginning to end, with the individual chapters, however, refracting a plurality of viewpoints and styles. So says Wikipedia, adding, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is a very early example. Or then there’s OXFORDREFERENCE.COM which simply says a book of short stories that share a common setting or characters and which taken together form a larger narrative. This last of which taking in what I might call a “novel in stories,” as with my own TOMBS, upcoming next year.
But it can get complex — I think myself Of John Dos Passos’ three-volume USA. But still, back to the idea of “novel in stories,” I think as well of Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN. Then for more examples there’s today’s email and TOR.COM, bringing us Angela Slatter with “Five Mosiac Novels You Should Read,” who also explains: A mosaic novel, you say? What’s that when it’s at home? How’s it differ from a common or garden novel? Well, my favourite explanation is from the inimitable Jo Walton: “A normal novel tells a story by going straightforwardly at it, maybe with different points of view, maybe braided, but clearly going down one road of story. A mosaic novel builds up a picture of a world and a story obliquely, so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.” And for more of which, one is invited to press here.
That title may be a little misleading. Okay, a lot? But it occurred to me that, as a horror writer, cults and people’s joining of cults is an area that might be worth exploring whether for story ideas, or defining characters within already written (or read) stories. Does DRACULA, for instance, with vampire-in-progress Mina psychically linked to the one who is “turning” her, actually describe a cult, with the ritual of driving a stake through the count’s heart representing an ultimate means of deprogramming? I think, myself, of my New Orleans-based “Casket Girls” (cf. August 4, March 6 this year; April 28 2015; April 17 2014; et al.) as having formed a polyamorous society of ladies with similar dining habits, but to what extent might that be cult-like too? Or, more generally thinking, how many horror tales might simply feature bands of non-supernatural zealots who, possibly, might stick together after some menace has been conquered — think torch-bearing mobs following a charismatic burgermeister to seek more Frankensteins’ castles to burn.
Then there are the real cults, as that of Charles Manson. Or in Waco Texas. But are all cults bad? Which all comes down to that, via the magic of today’s email, I ran across an interesting piece, “How Do People Become Indoctrinated Into Cults” by Derek Beres, on BIGTHINK.COM for which one may press here. Is the horror writing community in itself a cult (well, for this one no, because we all run in different directions — at least when we’re left alone — so we’re probably more like a hypothetical herd of cats. All after the mouse, yes, but. . . .)?
So, changing the subject, last night I and four others met in an old house on darkest 6th Street for a ritual of our own, a rehearsal for a reading performance of a play, to be presented on October 28 at local Bloomington pub The Back Door. Scenes from a grisly play in progress, “The Unfinished” by Donald Mabbott, will be read by Writers Guild members Shayne Laughter, Joan Hawkins, Tony Brewer, and James Dorr. Just in time for Halloween!, to quote the blurb for it. A horror-themed open mic will follow. For more on this one, one may press here.
We are screening 3 films at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater: Arsenic and Old Lace, The Exorcist and The Wailing. Frank Capra’s Halloween comedy Arsenic and Old Lace stars Cary Grant as a man learns that his eccentric but sweet aunts have been seeking out lonely, elderly men, poisoning them, and burying them in the basement. Controversial from the day it opened in 1973, The Exorcist is now recognized as a defining classic of the genre. Our third film, The Wailing, is a 2016 release. A foreigner’s mysterious appearance in a quiet, rural village causes suspicion among the locals in The Wailing. Released in June of this year, The Wailing has garnered enthusiastic reviews on the film festival circuit and is currently the highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes. You can read more detailed descriptions of these below.
The Halloween Fest will also include spine-tingling live performances in between films by James Dorr and by Cricket’s Bone Caravan, so come early and stay late.
So begins Bloomington’s local Ryder Film Series announcement of the coming weekend’s special showing, from 2:15 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., “Halloween Fest: Sunday, Oct 23 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.” That’s right here, downtown on Kirkwood Avenue for those unfamiliar with the venue, with my part scheduled for the intermission between THE EXORCIST and THE WAILING. And for what I’ll read (hint: it’s the same tale I read for the 4th Street Arts Festival in September, cf. September 4), let us let the Ryder explain: [Dorr] will be reading a selection from his newest book, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, a novel-in-stories scheduled for release by Elder Signs Press in spring-summer 2017. Set on a far-future dying Earth in and around a vast necropolis known as the “Tombs,” “Raising the Dead” is about a young woman who seeks to restore the soul of her newly deceased husband to his body; a tale of necromancy, dark fantasy, airships, and doomed love. “Raising the Dead,” I should add, has also been published in White Cat Publications’s 2015 steampunk anthology AIRSHIPS & AUTOMATONS (cf. May 27, April 7 2015, et al.).
Schedules, ticket prices.and more can be found on the Ryder’s own site by pressing here. And, if all the above weren’t enough, they also add: Wait, there’s a fourth film. On Sunday, October 30th we will screen the 1958 classic, Horror of Dracula, at Bear’s Place. If you purchase a movie pass for the films at the BCT on Oct 23rd, you can use it for Horror of Dracula as well.
John Boorman’s ZARDOZ is a psychedelic, science-fiction allegory 0f 1970s America on a path to possible destruction. Zed (Sean Connery) is an ‘Enforcer,’ part of a warrior/exterminating clan controlled by the God-like Zardoz, who appears as a giant floating head in the sky. Zed discovers the secret of Zardoz and infiltrates a secret, utopian land of eternal life (and apathy), whose residents are fascinated by their newest specimen from the outland. Zed’s presence, however, may upset their society’s balance in profound ways.
So says the the Indiana University Cinema program book of Friday night’s midnight showing, to which Wikipedia adds: The film received mixed-to-negative reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a “genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators. . . The movie is an exercise in self-indulgence (if often an interesting one) by Boorman, who more or less had carte blanche to do a personal project after his immensely successful Deliverance.” Jay Cocks of Time called the film “visually bounteous”, with “bright intervals of self-deprecatory humor that lighten the occasional pomposity of the material.” Nora Sayre, in a 7 February 1974 review for The New York Times, called Zardoz a melodrama that is a “good deal less effective than its special visual effects”. . . a film “more confusing than exciting even with a frenetic, shoot-em-up climax.” Decades later, Channel 4 called it “Boorman’s finest film” and a “wonderfully eccentric and visually exciting sci-fi quest” that “deserves reappraisal”.
Other reviewers have said things ranging from pointing out, as is explained in the film, that the name of the God himself comes from THE WIZARD OF OZ (wiZARD of OZ — get it?), the carnival fake discovered by Dorothy behind the screen, to the fact that Sean Connery spends most of the film wearing an orange diaper. And all this is true: the film is fascinating, yet draggy in places; overly violent in other places yet circling around a sort of philosophical center; visually lovely in places yet, as it ends, at least somewhat disappointing.
So see it. It’s worth at least one look. And as to what it’s about, well, while some point to an H.G. Wells-ish Eloi/Morlock element,* perhaps half way through I began channeling a different book, by Robert Graves, that I’d read many decades ago called SEVEN DAYS IN NEW CRETE.(a.k.a. WATCH THE NORTH WIND RISE depending on whether one has the US or British edition). Graves, noted for novelizations based on Ancient Greece and Rome (e.g. HERCULES, MY SHIPMATE [“retelling” the ARGONAUTICA, the voyage to win the Golden Fleece]; I, CLAUDIUS), wrote this one as his take on a re-created matriocentric utopia as might have existed in Minoan culture before men took over and messed everything up (one may note that, while a point isn’t made of it, the ZARDOZ utopia also appears very woman-based). But Graves’s point is that every so often the “North Wind” must rise, there represented by a contemporary English poet brought purposefully to New Crete and unwittingly bringing about its destruction, because perfection is ultimately, of necessity, a static condition, leaving a choice of knocking it down and starting over or seeing it atrophy.
Or at least that’s the way I remember it.
*One might also see in Zed an echo of the “savage” John in Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD.
So four days following MURDER MAYHEM, just below, its companion volume CRIME & MYSTERY SHORT STORIES (cf. September 6, et al.) has made a Wednesday arrival from Flame Tree Publishing. My tale in this is “Paperboxing Art,” a 1998 Anthony short story finalist originally published in the Summer 1997 NEW MYSTERY, a science fiction associational tale of a sculptor with overtones of insanity and horror. Or at least an attempted murder — and lethal defense. With MURDER MAYHEM, this will actually be my third appearance in Flame Tree’s “Gothic Fantasy” series, the first being “Victorians,” originally published in GOTHIC GHOSTS (Tor, 1997), in November 2015’s CHILLING GHOST SHORT STORIES (cf. November 4 2015, et. al).
In this one my close companions are, once again, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, preceding my story, a first-time publication by contemporary writer Jennifer Dornan-Fish.
Saturday this week offered a farewell of sorts, afternoon and evening retrospectives as a final tip of the hat to ten years of the Dark Carnival Film Festival, a.k.a. in its final sessions, Diabolique International Film Festival at the Indiana University Cinema (cf. September 28 2015; September 21, 20, 19 2014). These were films from past years, fifteen shorts for the matinee session that proved to be favorites from previous screenings, some that I’d seen before, some that I hadn’t, starting with one in a dentist’s office and ending with killer shopping carts, and by small boys reading an Ancient Tome from their devil-worshiping deceased grandfather’s chest. The best of these tended to be black humor, of which there were quite a few, while another trend was for movies that set up horror situations, then left the outcomes to viewers’ imaginations.
Then evening brought, well, to quote the catalog: Long one of the Dark Carnival Film Festival’s favorite features, THE TAINT is a throwback to classic Troma films — with all the goopy horror and absurd humor that implies. Tainted water begins turning men into misogynistic head-smashing psychopaths, and our two young heroes must brave the bizarre world that results in order to find a cure. Contains mature content, including violence, language, and sexuality. To which the docent offered before the screening, “A great one to go out on . . . a very extreme film,” and, “offensive is a dime a dozen [but] is wonderfully measured. [Director Drew Bolduc] knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Or as Kevin Dudley on Amazon put it: one particular quote from the Fangoria.com review stated “THE TAINT is exactly what happens when smart filmmakers intentionally make a stupid movie.” The basic plot involves an experimental penis enlargement drug that turns men into oversexed misogynistic maniacs is unleashed into the public water supply and all manners of depravity cut loose. To which I might add, while not one to invite the whole family to, as Troma films go it was not a bad one.
Then back at home, Saturday’s street mail brought its own prize, Flame Tree Publishing’s deluxe edition of MURDER MAYHEM SHORT STORIES (see September 6, July 11, et al.). My story in this is “Mr. Happy Head,” originally published in WICKED MYSTIC, Spring 1996, and sandwiched between Dick Donovan (J. E. Preston Muddock, 1843-1934, who took his pen name from his fictional Glasgow detective, who in turn, some theorize, supplied the slang term “dick” [to pardon the expression] for an American private detective) and, in a non-Sherlock Holmes adventure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Also expected from Flame Tree Publishing is CRIME & MYSTERY SHORT STORIES, for which keep watching here.
At the end of August I posted a piece with the partial title “The Death of Poetry?” (cf. August 31) on the relative lack of interest in reading poetry these days as compared with centuries past. In it I included a quasi-announcement, that is, one to be followed up on if only a certain condition was met, to wit: “And yesterday I finished and submitted an essay, somewhat on request, to answer the question of why new generations don’t seem to appreciate poetry even as much as we do now. What can we do to tempt them to read it and, hopefully, thus immersed discover for themselves its joys. What do we as readers and writers find that attracts us? (More on this later, the essay that is, if it is accepted — if not, you didn’t hear about it here either.)”
And so, a piece of good news e-arrived Saturday evening. The above-mentioned essay, “It Begins With the Sound,” has been accepted by ILLUMEN for their newly instituted “Why Should I Read Poetry Project,” an attempt to reach out to younger, and possibly not so young, possible future readers of speculative verse. To quote today’s email from Tyree Campbell, “Yes, absolutely this goes in ILLUMEN. I think I still have room for it in the Autumn 2016. If not, then the Winter 2016-17.”
More to be reported here as it becomes known.