Archive for May, 2012
Speaking of les vampires français, it was one of those lovely coincidences that the night I submitted and the day I received the acceptance for Guillemette’s story “La Fatale” (see entry just below) overlapped nights I happened to be watching a recently bought DVD “inspiré du roman de Bram Stoker, le spectacle musical Dracula: Entre L’Amour et La Mort.” Yes, the musical version of Dracula — in French. Actually produced in Quebec where it ran from January 13 to December 16 2006 (with the version here filmed in November that year according to the credits, although the DVD didn’t come out until 2008), it has since been performed as well in France and elsewhere. Translated as “Dracula: Between Love and Death,” it was created by Bruno Pelletier (who also plays the part of Dracula) with music by Simon Leclerc and lyrics by Roger Tabra.
On the down side, it’s only available in French (and québécois to boot, as well as a few lines in Ukrainian) with no English subtitles, and as for me the title is about as far as my language skills are going take me. So I was actually watching it a second time last night and the night before, that is Act I Tuesday and Act II Wednesday, with English versions of the songs in hand gleaned from a very helpful translation effort in blog style on allthelyrics.com. However I will say that, even without the translations the way I saw it the first time, the music is great, the dancing and acting, the costumes and settings all great too. For me at least — but then I like things like les trois vampiresses (a.k.a., in the movies, the “Brides of Dracula”) done up BDSM style with Medusa-like headdresses!
Also the plot should be sufficiently familiar that it can be followed well enough without really knowing the words. There are some variations, though, to be aware of (the large puppet-creature that starts it off, by the way, is not a character per se but rather a sort of announcer-commentator). It follows the conceit of, e.g., Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Dracula in seeing the vampire as a Vlad Tepes extension whose wife has been lost and who discovers, 500 years later, Mina Murray as a kind of soul-descendant, thus setting up a major conflict as being between Dracula and Mina’s husband-to-be Jonathan Harker; Lucy in this version is Van Helsing’s daughter (Van Helsing, seen as very religious, has tried to keep her from the evils of the world, but she rebels with results that are not good); Renfield as a drug addict plays a more modern sort of madman; other parts are thus eliminated but the three vampire women have their roles expanded to almost an equivalent of the three Fates, at some moments standing in in a way as a kind of Greek chorus. So one part is literal, a telling of a variant of the original novel in music, but another level is allegorical taking in the larger themes of good and evil, weakness and strength, love and pain and death, and ultimately redemption. And it is ultimately Mina who must choose, whereas the original “Elhemina,” as the warlord Dracula’s promised bride, is the one who was cursed from the beginning and so had “turned” him.
The cat creeps in, the cat creeps out. Or in this case practically leaps! Just over two weeks ago (cf. May 14) I reported that WHITE CAT MAGAZINE had accepted “Hunks,” concerning a romantic tête-à-tête over dinner gone suddenly sour, for its summer posting. My first sale for May! Emboldened by this I sent in another last night, “La Fatale,” about Mina Harker’s discovery, regardless of whatever happened to Dracula, that she’s still turning into a vampire and, thus, her subsequent flight to France. But details abound, of the painter Philip Burne-Jones’s portrait of one Mrs. Patrick Campbell as “The Vampire” and Rudyard Kipling’s poem of the same name, and how Mina (née) Murray’s father might once have been friends with Bram Stoker (for the full story, at least of Burne-Jones and Kipling, as well as the timing of Stoker’s DRACULA, and the origin and meaning of the term “vamp,” see my essay on “Vamps: The Beginning” in January’s HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER, reproduced here in “Poetry (Essays)” under “PAGES” to the right). And so I explained in my cover letter, referring to “Hunks,” that this was a “story in somewhat a different style . . . about another dangerous woman but also in a somewhat different way.”
Editor Chuck Zaglanis wasted no time getting back this morning, accepting the story “to round out the winter issue. I like this Mina.” So Wilhelmina, now under her name’s French version, has joined Camilla of “Hunks,” lately resident in French Guiana (“[a]lmost in the shadow of Devil’s Island”) and fearful of habits she might have learned there, on the pages of WHITE CAT with summer and winter their respective seasons. In Mina/Guillemette’s case however her need is to learn to embrace her new habits.
WHITE CAT, incidentally, is currently closed to short story and flash fiction submissions until, I believe, January next year, so I owe Editor Zaglanis extra thanks for being willing to consider “La Fatale” anyway. It was only after I’d received his acceptance — a funny story — that the automated reply arrived to tell me my email had been received but, in effect, that I needed to check the guidelines more often. (Oops.)
This is the print edition first, since SCIFAIKUEST comes both ways, in print and in a different electronic edition. And the poem was originally called “New Growth,” but editor Teri Santitoro believes in doing things right, and real haiku — as in Japan — would not have titles. Wasted words, you know. In fact they would normally be shorter as well, if translated into English, than the common 5-7-5 syllable pattern. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to title most poems and to use 5-7-5 as a guide for writing short, sometimes epigrammatic (another trait not really a part of most Japanese haiku) pieces, just that I’ve never really considered most of them “real” haiku, rather just English language short poems with whatever value they have in their own right.
That said, it was fun to work with Teri, she having me rewrite seven spring/summer/heat/growing/love/dry land themed “horrorku,” paring the extra word or two from the bone until, of them all, she selected one. And so here it is, on the bottom of page 9 in the May 2012 hard copy issue, concerning a properly horrific problem with lawn care. Then seven pages later, SCIFAIKUEST being a Sam’s Dot publication, I might note on pages 16-17 a two-page ad for VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) complete with a (non-haiku styled) sample poem. For those interested, VAMPS can also be ordered directly by clicking its picture in the center column and following the instructions that emerge, while more information on SCIFAIKUEST can be found by pressing here.
I watched an odd Irish film a few nights back, DEAD BODIES (2003), about a guy who accidentally kills his ex-girlfriend (who had moved back in to his apartment because after they broke up she found she couldn’t get along with going back to living with her mother). So, because he’d pushed past her leaving his place to get out of an argument, he reasons she must have tripped and fell, and scared he’ll be arrested for manslaughter he pretends she’d left already and then takes the body out to the woods and buries it. The problem is, as he digs the hole, he discovers there’s already a body there — so girlfriend gets dumped on top. So a dog digging in the woods leads to ex-girlfriend’s body’s discovery, followed by police also finding body #2 and identifying it as a politician’s wife who’d disappeared eight years ago. . . . And, the thing is, the movie wasn’t played for comedy but was serious (and a bit sad) pretty much all the way through.
However there’s a little bit more. The investigating policeman seems to have a past and, well, the original guy gets himself a new girlfriend who may have an agenda too. Or maybe the guy’s just the world’s biggest loser. Nevertheless, the film walks a knife-thin line between absurdity (check girlfriend #1, you’ll be glad when she’s gone!) and nihilism (it’s billed on the cover as suspense except nobody much seems to give a damn; for me, in fact, it’s reminiscent of the final scenes of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD where, even if you do everything right to survive the night, you’re still shot the next morning — and here nobody even makes the attempt to do things right). Moreover, it was nominated for seven Irish Film and Television Awards and won in three categories (Best Actor for lead Andrew Scott, Best Editing, and Best Sound/Sound Editing). So, while I almost regret having to say it, I think DEAD BODIES will be worth a second look.
Then several weeks back (life intervenes, I’m only getting around to reviewing them now) the Fox HD channel finally showed AVATAR (2009 — gee, it doesn’t seem that long back) and, the following night, perusing the freebies on the local cable’s “Movies on Demand” I ran across 1959’s THE ANGRY RED PLANET. Thus seen back to back, the thing that struck me is they tell the same story. ANGRY RED PLANET begins with the discovery of the presumed lost first ship to Mars in a near-Earth orbit, allowing ground control to signal the ship’s computer to bring it back to base. Two of four crew members are still aboard, the Pretty, Young, Civilian Female Assistant Scientist and the Handsome Young Captain, the latter of whom has a space fungus of some sort growing on his arm that threatens to take over his entire body. Also the data tapes the ship should have detailing what happened have been erased and, when they ask the assistant scientist, she more or less goes into shock, so they (and we) have to find out the story via hypnosis (and flashback). AVATAR has to do with an Earthling base on an alien planet where folks want to mine a rare mineral called “unobtainium” (for which, Heaven help me, I chronically mentally substituted the old ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE SHOW’s “upsidaisium”), trying to get in good with the natives (or at least learn where the stuff is and, if they can’t be talked into cooperating, where their vulnerabilities are) via mind transplants into cloned native bodies.
So, the ANGRY RED space crew consists of four stock characters, seen in various manifestations from the mid 1940s (World War II films at first, later Cold War era science fiction) to at least the mid ‘60s: 1. The Handsome Young Captain, 2. the Pretty Civilian Female Assistant Scientist, 3. the Older Usually Civilian Head Scientist, and 4. the Mildly Obnoxious Working Class Joe Who’s Often from Brooklyn (in this case a non-commissioned officer who actually references Brooklyn, but who doesn’t really attempt the accent). Also, just so you’ll know — and this isn’t really a spoiler, just straight formula — #s 3 and 4 will be least likely to survive. In AVATAR, however, they’re brought back in new guises, #1 becoming a wounded, wheelchair-bound Marine who’s mind-transferred into a Handsome Young Native (who later becomes a planet-wide high chief), #2 a Pretty Native Female (an on the ground expert, as it were, who mentors #1 — and also just happens to be the local chief’s daughter), #3 an Older Female Civilian Head Scientist, and #4 a promotion to More-Than-Just-Mildly Obnoxious Head Officer With Working Class Manners. As for survival, you have your scorecards. Things don’t go too well in AVATAR, however, though much of the earlier part of the film concerns various adventures the hero has in learning about the planet (one of which, the flying reptile lesson, is eerily reminiscent of a more extended sequence in 2002’s DINOTOPIA). It seems the upsi-oops-unobtanium is underneath one of only (I think) four World Trees which, since the natives consider these sacred, is not a good omen, and to which the Head Scientist adds some vague mumbo-jumbo about the whole planet having maybe some kind of hive mind. Fighting ensues, the upshot of which is most of the humans are kicked off because, well, while we humans have made admirably enormous scientific and technological strides, they’ve far outstripped our abilities at socialization (particularly with non-human species). In ANGRY RED, on the other hand, once into the flashback we see the crew having various adventures in which they learn about Mars (a three-eyed monster is seen through the landed spaceship’s porthole, a plant tries to eat the Pretty Female Assistant [setting up a stock Rescue by the Handsome Young Captain situation — by AVATAR standards ANGRY RED is blatantly sexist, Cappy’s continually tying to put the make on her aboard the ship too, but then it was made 50 years before], a lake monster attacks just as they spot a distant Martian city, a giant amoeba-like goo thing attempts to absorb the ship, and the ship is held on the planet for a time by a mysterious force field) as well as hear the Older Head Scientist opine some vague mumbo-jumbo about the whole planet having maybe some kind of hive mind. The upshot of which is, the force field having finally let the ship go, the hypnosis having been a success, the means to cure the Captain’s space fungus (a souvenir of the amoeba-like goo thing) learned, a final non-erased data tape is discovered in which we see the three-eyed monster telling us that our scientific and technological advancement has far outstripped our abilities at socialization and Don’t Come Back.
Are these films worth seeing? Yes. (Granted ANGRY RED PLANET contains sexism — well, let’s face it, once he’s cured of the Martian goo, the Captain nowadays would probably be up on sexual harassment charges — and AVATAR a sort of queasy noble savage/Native American ambience that I suspect might irritate me mightily if I were Native American myself, but, even with one just three years old, perhaps these films can be seen as simply typical of their times, and possibly even of extra sociological interest for it.) The “message,” if not ground-breaking, holds up well enough and the story line, if a bit simplistic, provides sufficient adventure for a good night’s entertainment. The special effects, though, are something else: ANGRY RED PLANET, once boots are on the ground, is angry and red through a system of ultra low budget red-tinted stock with occasional solarization, with puppet monsters (did I mention the combination giant rat/bat/crab/spider?) against actually well done matte backgrounds. These intersperse with aboard-ship scenes that are strictly standard providing a contrast that, if perhaps not even intended to be “realistic,” are even better. They’re interesting. And with AVATAR I can say almost the same thing. Much, much, much, much more expensively done with state of the art computer effects (the only fault of which is that occasionally one remembers what’s being watched is still essentially a cartoon — the fault in this case, though, being much more the viewer’s than the presenters’) contrasted with grittier, pretty much standard by today’s taste scenes on the human base. But as for the “on the ground” scenes in AVATAR, cartoons or no, the impression is beautiful.
A bit of niceness: In what’s been an otherwise rather slow month, COVER OF DARKNESS has just accepted two poems to be printed next summer. “Surprise Package” and “The Vampire’s Rule, Or, Some of Your Blood, Mister?” are both dark humored pieces, the latter a horrorku not much longer than its title (six syllables longer, in fact – yes, I counted, it’s what we poets do 😉 ) and, unsurprisingly, about vampires and a not-much-talked-about problem they face; the former a rondelet about . . . well, let’s let that one be a surprise. So what’s a rondelet? See VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) and the poems “California Vamp” and “Rondelet for a Sanguine Santa” for two examples.
“Surprise Package” and “The Vampire’s Rule, Or, Some of Your Blood, Mister?” are both scheduled to appear in the June 2013 issue of COVER OF DARKNESS, one of a number of magazines, both print and electronic, produced by Sam’s Dot Publishing.
Untreed Reads’s electronic chapbook of PEDS (cf. April 2 and 3, March 8), while still a little ways away from completion, is now one step closer. I’d had a few changes in the contract I’d looked at last month, agreed to on all sides, but, due to the vagaries of life in general, the updated version was late in coming. Finally when I got home from DC and ogling the space shuttle (see May 8) I sent an email asking if there’d been a delay. Oops. So anyway it’s been printed again, the new copy put in the mail last week to arrive today and, signed, to be returned tomorrow.
“Peds” is a reprint originally published in HARSH MISTRESS SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURES (no, not those sorts of adventures — HARSH MISTRESS was named in homage to Robert Heinlein’s possibly greatest novel THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS) in Spring-Summer 1993. It’s a near-future, novelette-length story having to do with ghettos and politics and a sort of “class warfare” that goes on today (in the US at least) except we’re all so used to it even the 99 Percent hasn’t really recognized it as an objective for general protest.
Then, speaking of Untreed Reads Publishing, I got word today that VANITAS is available at only $0.75 from BooksOnBoard, representing a 25 percent discount on its normal $0.99 list price. A number of other Untreed Reads titles are apparently on sale too, according to Untreed Reads’s editor Jay Hartman, but I found my other current title I’M DREAMING OF. . . . was actually listed at a higher price, so, while that may just be a mistake, it might pay to compare prices with Untreed Reads’s own site before buying. Also, no ending date for the sale seems to be listed, so if you’ve been thinking of buying VANITAS at least (the most direct way to it at BooksOnBoard is to press here, then click on “Author A to Z” in the Advanced Search box to the right, then go to screen “5” on the list of numbers on the left), you may want to act fast.
I suppose this comes in the “Late News” Department: yesterday evening, approximately 20 minutes shy of midnight, there came an email from Carol Hightshoe of WolfSinger Publications apologizing for spacing out on sending submitters information on MYSTIC SIGNALS, Issue 11. This is a combined print issue containing the entireties of THE LORELEI SIGNAL from last July and the September-November SORCEROUS SIGNALS, with a couple of extra stories thrown in. Since, according to CreateSpace, MYSTIC SIGNALS was itself published on September 9 2011 it is, yes, a tad late – but better late than never, say I. It is available from both CreateSpace and Amazon.com, with various overseas Amazon sites to come hopefully in the near future so, if you might have missed one of the issues that make it up, or would just like to have the combined one in hard copy, now is your chance.
My manifestation in this mélange is “When Cats Are Away” (cf. Sept. 8, et al.), about an itty bitty pretty kitty and its also good-looking temporary owner, Tana the thief, and her on again, off again love-hate relation with the magician Balthyon in the ancient-world city of Trebizond. It seems the city’s cats have gone missing, and what with winter coming on and the city’s granaries overrun by mice, there could be a problem. . . .
“When Cats Are Away” is also the lead story in STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, obtainable by clicking its picture in the center column, and, one of an early series of sword and sorcery stories, first appeared in the Fall-Winter 1991 issue of HAUNTS.
How’s that for a hokey headline? But then May is sort of a hokey month, summer-like, but not quite summer. Mellow this year for the most part, even started with a kind of vacation. Family . . . and Civil War fests . . . and space shuttles. Early summer session has already started at the university, but it’s spring term still for the lower grade schools. (Just offered a reprint zombie story for the Bloomington Writers Guild having to do with an incident on the way to Senior Prom.)
So what to do? Me, I’m still behind on submissions, just as I was last month, not conducive to summer acceptances. And as for May, well here it is, the 14th, nearly half way through the month, and no acceptances to have reported here?
Well . . . not quite. Here I was, thinking my mellow thoughts, checking the old email-a-roonie, when what should I come upon but a missive from WHITE CAT MAGAZINE, a sort of funky e-zine that pays well for short fiction, around the 2500 or so words or less area. Having no history with WHITE CAT as yet, I was sort of thinking “another rejection,” but still in a benign, mellow sort of way, like it’s still a pleasant day, isn’t it? But wily WHITE CAT editor Chuck Zaglanis had a surprise for me.
Thus I opened it to read: “I like the story very much and am adding it to our summer release.” (Turns out as well that the editor and I have a sort of history, he being an assistant editor on DARK WISDOM magazine back when I’d sold a few stories there — and it never hurts to have one’s name known — although that, technically, is beside the point.) This will mean, I believe, that the story, called “Hunks,” the saga of what began as a perfectly normal dinner date on the verge of going bad, should be available on WHITE CAT’s website around July 1.
A funny story about “Hunks,” incidentally. Those who’ve followed this blog may recall my occasional mention of my “Tombs” stories — often in terms of one or another being reprinted, or sometimes a new one sold. These are a series set on a far-future, dying Earth, many of them romances on boy meets girl themes although often with one (or both) lovers deceased. Little impediments to love of that sort. So, after several of these had gone through my writers group a few years ago, one of the members asked, “Don’t people in your stories ever just go out on dates?”
So, set in our regular, everyday world, “Hunks” is the story I wrote in answer.
Back home from a long day of airplane riding, HWA Stoker Poetry Rules committee wrangling on a borrowed computer, two rejections on Sunday (one poetry, one fiction, such is the life) , but then a bit of good news today — or actually Tuesday a bit past midnight. The new mass market edition of FUTURE LOVECRAFT (see March 16, et al.) now has a cover ready to be shown. The volume itself, to be published by Prime Books in August, will be a reprint of the Innsmouth Press version released last December, with (ahem) my story “Dark of the Moon,” the tale of an international lunar revisit gone wrong, itself reprinted from CHILDREN OF CTHULHU (Del Rey, 2002).
And, speaking of science fiction, where I returned from was the Washington DC area where I was visiting my sister and nieces three in Fairfax, Virginia. Among other activities, watching family friendly (mostly) horror movies on sister’s premium channel TV, getting her DVD player working with ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (warning: if the alligators have left the swamp, you should too), watching a mountain cannon being fired twice at Fairfax’s Civil War Day (the cannon disassembles, allowing it to be packed on a train of three mules [with a fourth to carry the powder and shot] and hence carried up mountains, across swamps, etc. more agilely than the average field piece), and a visit Friday to Chantilly and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and now permanent home of Space Shuttle DISCOVERY.
Fascinating. From her maiden flight on August 30 1984 to her March 9 2011 final landing, DISCOVERY served nearly 27 years and, far from being sleek and shiny like most of the other planes displayed at the center (one of my favorites, an Air France
Concorde — the SST from the 1970s-early 2000s), she’s dinged up and scratched and with odd little painted-on labels like where to cut into the cabin should it be necessary to get the crew out quickly and, of course, the occasional new-looking, still shiny tiles where old ones were damaged enough from repeated re-entries they had to be replaced. DISCOVERY’s last mission was for 13 days at the International Space Station; she was also the first one to go back in space after the CHALLENGER and COLUMBIA disasters; and she was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope as well as flying two of its servicing missions.
I’ve been away from the official cave computer complex but have checked in on borrowed machines, including coming across a review, posted last month, of my DAILY SCIENCE FICTION Christmas Story, “Naughty or Nice?” (cf. April 13, December 28 2011, et al., including links to the story itself). The review by Carl Slaughter on DIABOLOCAL PLOTS is rather kindly so naturally I will recommend that readers click the link here, then scroll down to the entry for December 22. And then as noted above you can scroll down this site to find the story plus, for April 13, a more recent poem about the protagonist of the story — the story itself being based on another poem called “The List,” but you’ll have to read VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) to find that one.
So it all falls together. . . .