Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

So I’d been invited to be in this reading group discussion that brought up the possible influence of “classical” vampire movies on what a character would know about vampires, given the time the book takes place.  This brought up (on my part) some details about the Universal Pictures sequels to the Bela Lugosi version of DRACULA and how, wandering a bit off topic, I had been introduced to these myself via Saturday night horror movie shows on TV.  But checking some details brought me farther off topic to the shows themselves and their often iconic-in-their-own-right hosts.  Me, I liked “Zacherley” (a.k.a. John Zacherle) after he’d moved from Philadelphia to New York.  And from there I was brought, via LISTVERSE.COM, to “Top 10 TV Horror Hosts” by Dan Lepore, for which press here (and note as well, most come with with clips from the shows themselves, for which be especially sure to scroll down to number 4 to witness Maila Nurmi’s 1954 opening of THE VAMPIRA SHOW).  And not only that, but here’s an extra (more serendipity), Zacherleys 1958 performance of  the song “Dinner With Drac,” for which press here!

Then one more note, having recently pointed out discounts on B & N and Amazon for TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, for UK readers in particular (albeit I’m giving US prices here) it’s being offered at 29 percent off its $14.95 list price, at $10.52, on the Book Depository, for which press here.  At least for the time being.

One quick note and one just for fun.  The quickie, as of Sunday a new review is up on Amazon for TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, by Andrew Suhrer, a fellow author.  And it’s for five stars too!  In fact, all reviews both here and on B&N (three reviews there) are 5-star reviews, if I may so brag.  (Though to keep myself honest, there are two on Goodreads that aren’t quite as glowing.)  Nevertheless, for the ones on Amazon one may press here.

And then the fun part, fellow poet and Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association member (and one-time editor of the SFPA journal STAR*LINE) Marge Simon posted a challenge a little while back, to compose a poem of twenty lines or less using the words “Vermin,” “Theremin,” “Decision,” and “Vitamin,” for e-publication in SFPA’s newsletter.  The best, also, would get an ice cream prize.  A half dozen or so of us responded and while, no, the prize-winner wasn’t mine, it was one of two that got honorable mentions.

Alas, I don’t think there’s a link to see all the poems if you’re not a member, but for more on the SFPA (see also, March 29, 22, et al.) one may press here.  And to read at least my poem, it’s right below:

MUSICAL SUMMER

Vermin infested the theremin,
roaches by the look of them,
probably the same that invaded the drugstore’ s
vitamin counter
two weeks before.
So now these super bugs
bursting with good health and bad decisions,
operating the instrument from inside,
wailed their hatred of all that was human
out beyond the stars.

 

Enjoy, enjoy!

Today?  Yesterday?  The start of the month?  These types of changes sneak up on one, but this afternoon’s traipse of the internet has revealed that TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH can now be obtained in both Kindle and Nook for electronic readers.  The cost on Amazon is $8.99 as can be discovered (and should one wish, ordered) here while its Nook equivalent can be found for only $8.49 on B&N’s site here (though you then have to press the “See All Formats & Editions” button).  Of other statistics, TOMBS is listed by Amazon in both formats as having been published on June 1, though as we know that was actually the print version only.  Also, one may have noticed the new Nook version comes in at fifty cents less than Amazon’s Kindle, convenient for electronic bargain seekers, but while B&N charges the full list price of $14.95 for its print edition, Amazon cuts that by a whacking two cents to come to a mere $14.93.  (Needless to say, the days of pre-order and later-in-June deep discounts are past, but several reviewers on both the sites seem to indicate the book’s worth its full price.)

It wasn’t to be a big convention, even by NASFiC standards – I was told there were 400-some paid attendees, but actual crowds seemed considerably less.  But I hadn’t gone for a big convention necessarily, though part of it was the new novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, and a chance to show copies of it to fans in the hope word might spread.  In fact the convention could sort of be considered cozy, though part of the reason I really went was for the adventure.  The North American Science Fiction Convention, held for us home folks in years when the World SF Convention is going to be overseas, was itself overseas for 2017 — if only a little.  Farther than Cuba, though, or Haiti, in San Juan Puerto Rico.

So, yes, that’s still the United States, no problems with passports, but a lot of people speak Spanish too (which I myself don’t), and some don’t speak much English.  The money’s the same, which is helpful too, though some foods tended to be more salty, and others sweeter than I would prefer.

But in the hotel things were more familiar, including an unfortunately sparse con suite (most missed: morning coffee, heated things being forbidden, the staff explained, for “liability reasons”).  So, okay, make that a pioneer adventure.  Nor was there an autograph session, but there were a small number of readings scheduled, of which one was mine!  And there were panels, for the most part well attended.

My Part of the Show

I had two panels Friday, the first on “Genre Blending” which, in my introduction, allowed me to point out TOMBS as an example, keyworded by Amazon as Horror and Dystopic Science Fiction and on this blog as Science Fantasy and Dark Romance.  Discussion included the reason for genres — originally to know which shelf to go to in the library or bookstore — and whether “literary” fictioneers look down on us (but with one advantage of ghettoization, we have our own festivals such as NASFiC, and another as I pointed out of coming to know a small number of writers well enough to allow

San Cristobal

a sort of apprentice system).  But for the future with more and more book sales via the internet the old shelf labels are being replaced by keywords, allowing cross genres for readers to narrow their searches farther.  Then following that, “The Critical Eye” (with me moderating) included discussions of writers’ groups and mutual critiques prior to publication, editors’ comments and suggestions and why and how to sometimes decline these, and finally post publication reviews, even if not all necessarily “five star” — and why fans do authors a real favor by writing reviews, even if only one or two lines, and sending them to Amazon, et al.

Saturday gave me another panel, “World Building as More than Background,” again offering an opportunity to present TOMBS as an example (“It starts by finding the rivers,” I answered to the moderator’s opening question – rivers move commerce, and commerce brings cities, and cities begin to define civilization).  Other questions:  If you like a world, do you expand the book into a series? Can you get mired in research, and how to get out of it (my answer there referenced my story “The Wellmaster’s Daughter” which I built from leftover research about deserts, and which became my first ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE sale*)?  What do you do if your world is so popular readers want to write fan fiction in it?  And, as an example of a “built” world, this was immediately preceded by my reading (in fact, I came into the panel a minute or two late) in which I followed the back cover blurb and section II part of the Ghoul Poet’s story in TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, for orientation of a sort, with the story-chapter of “The Last Dance” to a rather large audience as readings go at conventions I’ve been to.  In fact, it was almost as though there were a cadre of readings groupies, other readings that I dipped into drawing relatively large audiences too, for which kudos to NASFiC and/or I hope it’s the beginning of a trend.

Then Sunday morning brought “Zombies Over Time and Space,” a more relaxed free-wheeling affair with an audience that didn’t mind our straying into vampires for part of the session (I had pointed out that functionally post-Romero zombies are really vampires, just after solid food rather than liquid, and that he himself had said NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was meant in part as a homage to Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND).  Also touched on were Vodoun and Haitian zombies (the “zombies of folklore”), attempts at scientific explanation including various poisons (e.g. Wade Davis’s THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, the “zombies of science”), the Nineteenth Century New England vampire epidemic, and semi-salacious gossip involving Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelly, and other companions.

What I Wasn’t On

There were other panels, including one I had been assigned to at first but then removed from in later schedules, “Writing Diverse Characters of Impact” on Saturday morning, that I still attended.  Others included “Alternate Histories Outside the West,” “Imagining the Impossible” (this primarily about visual art, but of interest to me as having to do with creativity), and “How to Make Religions in Fantasy/SF Stories Real” (also in its own way relating to TOMBS).  In addition, the Opening Ceremonies Thursday night were followed by an “Ice Cream Social” (and as we know, cf. July 7, my being caught in a sudden rain on my way back to the hotel I was staying at), Friday night offered an Artists’ Reception, and Saturday brought an “Alien Abduction Masquerade Party” including food and a live slide show and reading performance of 1976’s “The Capture,” by Robert Aspirin with art by Phil Foglio, depicting an SF convention hijacked by aliens.

The Castillos

Weather for the most part was good, despite brief bouts of rain the first three days. Sunday it was supposed to be rainy in the afternoon, which was to be my free time for exploring the old

El Morro

part of the city and the “San Juan National Historic Site,” but Weather Channel forecasts aside it turned out to be sunny.  Lovely.  So this was the main “adventure” part, including a glance into the huge Cementerio Maria Magdelena de Pazzis outside the city wall to the north, the Cathedral of San Juan, the Plaza Colon (a very nice park, of which there are several, in this case with a statue of Columbus at the top of a pillar but up too high for my camera to reach to), and to the south a walk down the Paseo de la Princesa along San Juan Bay and entering the city through its original main gate.

But the main attractions were the two castillos, that of San Cristobal to the east, dating back to the Seventeenth Century, and a century before that El Morro guarding the bay on the western tip of the city, begun in 1539.  Both fortifications continued to be added onto over the centuries, El Morro ultimately having six separate levels (of which I explored five but skipped the “water battery” at the very bottom, my knees beginning to give out by then), including a lighthouse at the top built (I think) in the early Twentieth Century — and still in use.

And then, Monday morning, I chickened out on taking the city bus (I had come in on the bus, however, through – someone has to say it, yes? – picturesque narrow streets) and hailed a taxi to the airport.  Time to go home.  But, having changed my seat to the left of the airplane the evening before, I did have a brief final look through the window at a tiny Morro Castle to start the trip back to the mainland.
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*”The Wellmaster’s Daughter” can also be found in my collection STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (for which, click its picture in the center column).

Today’s serendipity comes to us courtesy of Usman Mlk, via BARNESANDNOBLE.COM (a.k.a. “B&N SCI-FI&FANTASY blog”).  No, TOMBS isn’t on the list, but perhaps it’s in a different category (or possibly not 😉 ).  But to start us off, quoth author Joel Cunningham in “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2017 So Far”:  As six-month periods go, the first half of 2017 has certainly been, shall we say, interesting.  But even as the real world works ever harder to convince us that we’re all living inside a genre novel (though what kind will depend on your particular point of view:  sci-fi?  Alt-history?  Dystopian thriller?  Grimdark fantasy?), the authors we rely on to provide us with an escape into fictional worlds continue to up their game.

So I myself may be away from computers later this week, but there’s plenty for us all to busy ourselves with.  For a few suggestions, albeit from one who would love to sell you the books itself, press here.

By the time the first three reviews appeared, I was in the middle of TOMBS.  Later, re-read them and frankly can do no better, as they all appreciated this excellent novel-in-story format.  So begins the fourth review on Amazon just up today, by Margaret B. Boston, on TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  Fortunately, she adds that she will try, continuing on with her own much-appreciated assessment.  She also gives it five stars out of five, as do the other three reviews as well.  To see for yourself (and, perhaps, to buy?) press here.*

Then one other note, as NASFIC approaches the first long-range weather reports for San Juan have been posted.  Highs in the eighties — warm, but not sweltering — and most days with clouds but only Thursday listed as threatening afternoon rain (and that still just a 30 percent chance).  And best of all, no hurricanes in sight.  So, so far so good (though another site warns I’d do well to bring mosquito repellent).
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*To keep myself absolutely honest, not all reviews everywhere have been five-star.  There is one on Goodreads that’s kind of crummy, though all that may mean is not everybody’s tastes are the same (and if you want to see it, no fool I, you’ll have to look up the site for yourself 😉 ).

No, the Goth cat Triana’s kibble was on time and eaten; rather the headline refers to Third Flatiron Publishing’s Kurt Vonnegut tribute anthology CAT’S BREAKFAST (see May 17, April 27), also served up on Kindle this morning. That’s Kindle, not kibble, for which via Amazon one may press here, with a paperback edition expected from Createspace in the near future.  To quote from the blurb:  While satire and humor have long been standard tools of the trade for fiction writers, the authors have channeled the uniquely Vonnegutian attitude into all-original stories that probe and instruct us on themes such as free will, mental illness, social cruelty, loneliness, and family.  The book [also] contains a flash humor section.  (This from the publisher’s own site, with this next from Amazon)  The new “Cat’s Breakfast” anthology from Third Flatiron pays tribute to the imagination and inspiration of the late author Kurt Vonnegut. Emulating Vonnegut’s famous “gallows humor” and skeptical view, these all-original satirical stories are a delightful antidote for the malaise and division plaguing contemporary society.

What more can one ask for?  My puss in the purée is “Dead Girls, Dying Girls,” originally published in SO IT GOES, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing’s 2013 tribute anthology (cf. April 24 2013, et al.), a modern morality tale of sorts of a thoroughly up-to-date young lady, a science fair, and . . . bears.

Then in other news, a third review of TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH is now up on the Amazon site.  This is the one from THE GEHENNA POST (cf. June 3), an extremely good description in my opinion, and can be seen in situ by pressing here (where one may note also that Amazon is still offering a substantial discount, but not quite as big as it had once been, so perhaps one might buy now lest the price go up further 😉 ).

There is a sense of sadness to Rollin’s vampires and even at their most violent, they exhibit weaknesses (to time, to the sun, to unrequited love) that make them far more sympathetic than a typical horror movie heavy.  Clocks are often closely associated with vampires, deepening the symbolic importance of time and fate in Rollin’s world.  It’s no coincidence that one of the most iconic images from his filmography occurs in LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES (SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, 1971) when a scantily clad female vampire emerges from within a grandfather clock to menace a young bride.  (Tenebrous Kate on DIRGEMAG.COM)

Think of this as a serendipitous journey.  Long-time readers of this blog may know that vampires are high among my interests.  Cf. the “Casket Girls,” several stories of whom have been published in various places jean-rollin-part-1-feature(see, e.g., August 4 2016, April 28 2015, et al.).  But also an interest in surrealism (February 20 2015, June 22 2014, others), and a chance link back to my own post on “Sweet Lesbian Vampire Love” (August 14 2016) reminded me of a place where these are combined, in the French-language films of Jean Rollin with 1968’s LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE (RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE) an early example.  Then enter DIRGEMAG.COM, linked to in the August 14 post, and another completely different article, “Sex, Death, and the Psychedelic Madness of Jean Rollin,” by Tenebrous Kate.

As it happens, I have a number of Rollin’s films in my own collection (I may re-watch RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE tonight!), but rather than describe things myself, I’ll simply suggest reading Tenebrous Kate’s piece by pressing here.  And to close, I’ll quote two more paragraphs from it, these ones on settings (and not without noting another connection in the second, echoing perhaps an interest parallel to my own TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF Rollin-ViolLATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, albeit in maybe a different direction.  But who can resist a good graveyard, eh?).

Rollin’s films are set far from the noise and action of the city, in isolated and frequently old-fashioned settings.  Beaches, with their endlessly cycling tides and cleansing ocean waters, are places of death and rebirth.  Scenes of vampires risking exposure to the sun at dawn on the rocky shores of Normandy figure prominently in Rollin’s films.  Centuries-old country châteaux hold terrible secrets and can be interpreted to symbolize the nobility of France’s past.  These buildings are populated by strange and often supernatural characters who reflect the opulent decay of their surroundings.

Perhaps most noteworthy of all are Rollin’s cemeteries: overgrown with weeds, gates rusted and creaking, these cities of the dead are transitional places between the everyday world and that of the supernatural.  Cemeteries are places where the living and the dead occupy the same space, a fact that Rollin uses for maximum symbolic impact.  Characters arrange secret graveyard rendezvous, only to uncover secrets that appear in the form of treasures, gateways, or menacing monsters.

I’ve been missing out on conventions of late, partly because of the StokerCon split from World Horror Convention (but still in the space of about a month, making it difficult to schedule both), partly for costs, but now with a new book, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, just out I will be going to NASFiC next month.  This is the North American Science Fiction Convention, held in years when WorldCon will be overseas, and not a convention I’m entirely a stranger to having attended the one in Detroit in 2014 (cf. July 23 et al. that year).  This year’s will be in a possibly more exotic setting, San Juan Puerto Rico (well, yes, that’s a little bit “over sea” too, but it’s still in the US), Thursday through Sunday July 6-9, and late Saturday I received a list of panels I’m scheduled to be on.  So for those who’ll be there too, or are just interested, here’s the scoop:

Thursday – 7 p.m. – Bahia 1 – Reading from TOMBS
Friday – 10 a.m. – San Geronimo – Genre Blending
Friday – 4 p.m. – San Geronimo – The Critical Eye (moderating)
Saturday – 11 a.m. – San Cristobal – Writing Diverse Characters of Impact
Saturday – 3 p.m. – San Cristobal – World Building as More than Background
Sunday – 11 a.m. – San Cristobal – Zombies Over Time and Space

As it happens, most of these have a specific relevance to TOMBS — the idea for me is I hope to have a good time too, but technically I am to be there on business, to help put the word out.  TOMBS is a multi-genre work (Horror, Dystopian SF, Dark Romance); individual chapters include female and/or LGBTQ characters in prominent positions; world building suffuses the whole work.  (Though zombies, on the other hand, are only mentioned in passing in one of the story-chapters, and in a subsidiary role.)  Also, slightly related as of today all three reviews received thus far are up on Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, and two on Amazon, so it’s spreading.  If any out there are reviewers as well, and would be interested in a look yourself, please get in touch with me (a comment below with info on how to get back to you would work fine).  Or, if interested in getting to NASFiC yourself (I understand convention rates for hotel rooms end this weekend, but there are other hotels in the area too), for information press here.

Also received Saturday:  an email from Cin Ferguson of Scary Dairy Press that MOTHER’S REVENGE:  A DARK AND BIZARRE ANTHOLOGY OF GLOBAL PROPORTIONS, to give it its full title, has finally seen publication.  This was the “eco-anthology” originally planned to be out on Earth Day this year, April 22, but delayed (see April 24, 11, et al.).  My story in this is a reprint called “Swarms,” first published in Lone Wolf’s CD ROM anthology, BLOODTYPE, in 2001 as well as my 2007 print collection DARKER LOVES.  For information/ordering MOTHER’S REVENGE in paperback press here, with a Kindle edition also expected to be out in the next few days.

The Indiana University Cinema is dark for the summer, but other film outlets exist on the campus and so, Friday night, I paid a visit to the Indiana Memorial Union and a special screening of KONG:  SKULL ISLAND.  Long story short, it is a good movie, action/adventure more than science fiction/horror, but it isn’t really a remake of the original KING KONG, nor does it pretend to be.  Therein lies its power, it is its own movie, yet using the major tropes of the original – just in its own way.  It takes place in the early 1970s, the Vietnam war just ended, a perpetually fog-enshrouded island just discovered through satellite photos, and, hey, let’s give it an exploration!  The photography of the movie though is more reminiscent of APOCALYPSE NOW, very striking for those who remember it, and it even has an ultimately antagonistic Colonel Kurtz character, this one in charge of a helicopter squadron to ferry the explorers in and who, losing too many of his men to Kong, not-unreasonably wishes to bring the big lug down.

And Kong is big, with biplanes replaced by helicopters and that fight practically the opening round.  So the survivors are on the ground now, meeting other monsters plus local natives, and with the latter a World War II Navy pilot shot down some 28 years before.  Yes, it’s a bit corny, but KONG:  SKULL ISLAND is not ashamed to have fun with itself, and anyway now he can act as a guide, to get everyone to their pickup point where the ship that brought them and the ‘copters in will expect to meet them just three days later.  For details, the Amazon site has plenty of good reviews, most of them quite favorable, which I recommend to those interested.

But, some of the Amazon reviews notwithstanding, the King does get sweet on the Ann Darrow (that is to say, Fay Wray) character, here a photographer fresh away from the fighting in Vietnam herself.  But only a little — no climbs up skyscrapers this time out (and the “biplanes” dispatched before they even meet, though “Ann” does climb a very high rock), and Kong, no fool, knows when to let impossible loves go.  The climax, rather — the third trope from the original, displaced — is the one-time fight between Kong and the T-Rex, here a giant lizard that lives with its fellows beneath the ground (there are intimations of Hollow Earth Theory — JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH anybody?) and Kong, in fact, is the one who protects the natives from these far nastier beasties.

The anti-“political correctness” crowd may not like this, the dog whistles tend more lefty than righty, but KONG:  SKULL ISLAND isn’t a political film either, nor should it be looked at that way.  No, Kong isn’t even registered to vote; all he wants is a chance to beat on his chest in peace and another outing on the Big Screen which, even if not his original 1933 triumph, is still a lot of fun to watch.

Then, back to the writing business, about four hours after yesterday’s post, Heidi Angell’s review popped up on Amazon. This the third of the three presumably sent there, but perhaps that’s the charm and others will follow.  In the meantime though, while the Goodreads link I gave will connect to both Heidi’s and Christine Rains’s, for the second review from C.P. Dunphey on GEHENNA POST (to give all equal time) press here.  (And one thing more, to all, while thinking of Amazon let us not forget rival Barnes & Noble.  Heidi’s review is there as well — perhaps others will join it here?)




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