Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

It’s been awhile.  The issue was actually published on New Year’s Day (cf. Jan 24, 2; Oct 7 2019, et al.), and today the copy arrived in my mailbox, a longish time later though not a record.  The publication is HOUSE OF ZOLO’S JOURNAL OF SPECULATIVE FICTION, VOLUME 1, with an original call:  HOZ are looking for literature that explores possibilities for the future.  We want challenging short stories that are character driven, that reimagine the world and our place in it.  We are looking for radical authors, feminist authors, LGBTQ2S authors, authors who experiment.  Themes that thrill us:  transhumanism, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, new systems, resistance, activism, queer perspectives, feminist perspectives, nature.  My own story in this, “Golden Age,” a tale of extension of life through bio-mechanical transplants was originally published in MINDSPARKS in Spring 1994 (also reprinted in ZIPPERED FLESH 3, see February 3 2017, et al.), and is one of thirty-two items, both prose and poetry, in a hefty three hundred plus page book — a fair bit of reading to help fill the hours while confined to one’s home.  Or to see more for yourself, press here.

A xenological invasion.  A creature in the pipes.  A monster in the dark.  A dragon.  And childhood toys that are more than they seem.  Five novelettes.  Five stories that will force you to get in touch with our undeniable connection to the animal and insect worlds and the monster within . . . for are we really all that different from the monsters that we loathe?  Our deft and expert authors have won awards and had work in award-winning anthologies, and these stories showcase their gift for terrifying us but also in finding the humanity through our fear.  They are . . . Gordon B. White, James Dorr, Mark Pantoja, Jon Gauthier, Peter Emmett Naughton.  We challenge you to read these stories, but only if you’re ready to explore the nightmarish creatures within us all.

Say what?  Let us hark back to June 11 2019, et al., when the Kindle edition was already up (and had been, in fact, since late May) with a print edition from Tell-Tale Press to be in the future.  So it’s been awhile, but the time has come — had actually come yesterday — and now it’s here, the paperback version of THE BLOOD TOMES VOLUME TWO, CREATURES, NOVELETTES EDITION for those of us who like the feel of a book in our hands, five long stories of beings both real and imaginary to kindle (sorry) the reader’s imagination.  My tale in this:  “The Bala Worm,”* set in modern-day Wales, of a quest for a dragon last seen in the Middle Ages.  Or at least one just like it.  And where do vampires come into all this?

For more on the new paperback edition one need but press here (or to check all titles on Tell-Tale Press’s own website, including the CREATURES, NOVELETTES Kindle version, one may press here).

*”The Bala Worm” is a reprint first published in BLACK DRAGON, WHITE DRAGON (Ricasso Press, 2008) and reprinted in my 2013 collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.

This is a dark film, literally.  Dark browns, shadowy, scenes in the slums of a Mexican city in the midst of a drug war, and how a child may or may not survive after her own mother becomes a victim.  Having just seen it this evening I’d have to add I had trouble following it — the kind of film I may want to see again, having just looked it up now on Wikipedia to, as it were, compare notes on the plot.  Interesting, sad, but requiring perhaps sharper eyes than mine to ascertain just what, exactly, it is lurking within some of the darker places.
This is the Indiana University Cinema’s take on VUELVEN  (literally “Return,” or so says Wikipedia), or in the U.S. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID:  A haunting horror fairytale set against the backdrop of Mexico’s devastating drug wars, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID follows a group of orphaned children armed with three magical wishes, running from the ghosts that haunt them and the cartel that murdered their parents.  Filmmaker Issa López creates a world that recalls the early films of Guillermo del Toro, imbued with her own gritty, urban spin on magical realism to conjure a wholly unique experience audiences will not soon forget.  Del Toro, who presented the film along with López at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, described it as “an unsparing blend of fantasy and brutality, innocence and evils.  Innovative, compassionate, and mesmerizing.”  The two are currently working together on a werewolf Western.  In Spanish with English subtitles.  Contains explicit content, including violence, strong language, and drug references.
So think Magical Realism and realize that what exactly is “real” may be called in question.  The girl, Estrella, is given three wishes in the midst of a school shooting incident.  Then when she discovers her mother missing she wishes to have her back.  Well, there are such things as ghosts, or visions, and demands from the grave to “bring him to us,” the one, that is, responsible for Mom’s death.
She finds other children orphaned in the “war” and, as a condition to join them, is told to murder one of the drug chiefs which, attempting to carry it out, she wishes she didn’t have to do — which may come true as well, but not without her still being linked to the death.  Then for the third, at the kids’ leader’s request, she wishes for a scar on his face to be erased, which leads to more death and a chase that ends with discovering her mother’s corpse.  And with the drug gang’s big boss hot on her heels. . . .
These are some notes at the end of Wikipedia’s article:  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 98 reviews, and an average rating of 8.22/10.  The website’s critical consensus reads, “TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID draws on childhood trauma for a story that deftly blends magical fantasy and hard-hitting realism — and leaves a lingering impact”.  Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 76 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating “Generally favorable reviews”.
Peter Debruge of the Variety wrote, “The actors may be young, but the story skews decidedly mature.  After all, in her commitment to realism, López allows terrible things to happen to the kids — including death in several cases — and that’s a hard thing to accept, not because it doesn’t happen in the real world, but on account of the melodramatic and manipulative way such tragedy is handled”.  Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Both the emotion and the horror might have taken still deeper root if the world of the movie felt less hectic and more coherently realized, if the supernatural touches and occasional jump scares welled up organically from within rather than feeling smeared on with a digital trowel”.  Brian Tallerico of the wrote,”TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID may be imperfect, but you can feel the passion and creativity of its filmmaker in every decision.  She’s fearless.”
Oh, and yes, the “tiger” has up to now been sort of a graffiti logo, to be not afraid.  But there is a real tiger too (what one might call a validation) at the very end.

The announcement came Thursday night, that the HOUSE OF ZOLO’S JOURNAL OF SPECULATIVE LITERATURE, VOLUME 1 (see January 2, et al.) has now been released in all formats, print and Kindle on Amazon and e-book format on its own site, as well as being listed on Goodreads.  Delving into themes of post-humanity, future-shock, and the consequences of climate change, these short stories and poems fearlessly explore what it means to be human.  Alternately dark and hopeful, heartbreaking and humorous, this volume contains stories and poems to spark the imagination and inspire new perspectives on the future.

My page in the poke is a reprint originally published in Spring 1994 in MINDSPARKS (also more recently in ZIPPERED FLESH 3 from Smart Rhino Publications, cf. February 3 2017, er al.), “Golden Age,” about what it means to grow old in a society in which death may be becoming practically unknown.  For more information or purchase, links to Amazon and to the House of Zolo can be found in the January 2 post below, while for the new Goodreads page and its links one can press here.

Traditional silhouette animation as invented by Reiniger is a subdivision of cutout animation (itself one of the many forms of stop motion).  It utilises figures cut out of paperboard, sometimes reinforced with thin metal sheets, and tied together at their joints with thread or wire (usually substituted by plastic or metal paper fasteners in contemporary productions) which are then moved frame-by-frame on an animation stand and filmed top-down with a rostrum camera – such techniques were used, albeit with stylistic changes, by such practitioners as Noburō Ōfuji in the 1940s and Bruno J. Böttge in the 1970s.  (Wikipedia, “Silhouette Animation”)

Say what?  The “Reiniger” is German director Lotte Reiniger, in whose entry Wikipedia also has to say:  In 1923, she was approached by Louis Hagen, who had bought a large quantity of raw film stock as an investment to fight the spiraling inflation of the period.  He asked her to do a feature-length animated film.  There was some difficulty that came with doing this, however.  Reiniger is quoted as saying “We had to think twice.  This was a never heard of thing.  Animated films were supposed to make people roar with laughter, and nobody had dared to entertain an audience with them for more than ten minutes.  Everybody to whom we talked in the industry about the proposition was horrified.”  The result was THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, completed in 1926, one of the first animated feature films, with a plot that is a pastiche of stories from ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS.  Although it failed to find a distributor for almost a year, once premiered in Paris (thanks to the support of Jean Renoir), it became a critical and popular success.  Because of this delay, however, THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED’s expressionistic style did not quite fit with the realism that was becoming popular in cinema in 1926.  Reiniger uses lines that can almost be called “colorful” to represent the film’s exotic locations.  Today, THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED is thought to be one of the oldest surviving feature-length animated films, if not the oldest.  It is also considered to be the first avant-garde full-length animated feature.

Or in other words Saturday afternoon’s Indiana University Cinema feature was not exactly your average, Disney-style kiddie cartoon.  It was okay for the kiddies though who, brought with their parents, could get in for free.  In silhouette the prince and his rescued-from-the-demon-isle girlfriend were likely just kissing, as were, later on, Aladdin and the prince’s sister.  Of the latter, in fact, with the father of the prospective bride looking on, it may not even have been quite that sultry — especially what with pop being the Caliph!

But then again maybe that was the point, with the limitations of the technique deliberately used with its also suggested exotic backgrounds to force one to exercise imagination. The two stills with this post perhaps will help give an idea. To give the IU Cinema program blurb the final word, I’ll only add that the latish afternoon presentation was different — and fun.

When THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED premiered in Germany on September 23, 1926, it was hailed as the first full-length animated film.  More than 75 years later, this enchanting film still stands as one of the great classics of animation.  Taken from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, the film tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse and sends the rider off on a flight to his death.  But the prince foils the magician’s plan and soars headlong into a series of wondrous adventures.  This cinematic treasure has been beautifully restored with its spectacular color tinting and with a new orchestral recording of the magnificent 1926 score by Wolfgang Zeller. 

This is another “anthology coming out from the cold” episode, for which we go back to late October last year (cf. October 29, 6, et al.).  The project, BEER-BATTERED SHRIMP FOR COGNITIVE RUMINATIONS, the “witty and wacky all-illustrated micro-story and saying compendium,” including my own 75-word fairy tale epic “As Fine as Frog’s Hair.”  An ambitious attempt, it didn’t fare as well at its kickstarter as it might have, and production costs (“all-illustrated,” remember?) were apt to be high.  Well, these things do happen, so. . . .

So yesterday (still late “today” as I write this) word came from Editor Jaleta Clegg:  Yes, I am still working on this project.  I hope to have it ready to send out within a few months.  I’m still waiting on most of the art.  I’ve started pulling together the pages that I have everything for.  Once I have most of the art, I will start sending proofs to authors and artists. . . .  Or in other words, the battered-not-beaten Shrimp is still a “go.”

Of all these, I find this especially heartening, BEER-BATTERED SHRIMP being one of those quirky projects that’s hard to describe, but promising to be a delight when it’s finally realized.  More to be announced here as it becomes known.

It’s not a happy film, first off — but it is a fascinating one.  The docent at the Indiana University Cinema showing last night ended his introduction saying “the film must be soaked in.”  Soaked in . . . immersed?  Or, as I did, settling in my chair, leaving my mind open, and just enjoying the ride.  No thought, no attempt to decipher symbols — all that can come later; and, in the moment, I think the film worked.  A massively unreliable narrator (stay in his head, enjoy the ride!) and certainly not a happy one, but a film I think is worth seeing.

Here’s what the IU Cinema program book says about it:  From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind modern horror masterpiece THE WITCH, comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale set in the 1890s on a remote island off the coast of New England.  Two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson), trapped and isolated due to a seemingly never-ending storm, engage in an escalating battle of wills as tensions boil over and mysterious forces — which may or may not be real — loom all around them.  The film evokes a wide range of influences, from literary classics by Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson to the supernatural tales of H.P. Lovecraft, while presenting a story and film unlike any other.  Contains mature content, including violence and sexual situations.

But wait, there’s more.  The docent mentioned that one source of inspiration, some details of which may be in the film too (note, e.g., the names of the two men), was an incident at an actual lighthouse off the coast of Wales.  The old lighthouse brought about a change in lighthouse policy in 1801 after a gruesome episode, sometimes called the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy.  The two-man team, Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith, were known to quarrel, so when Griffith died in a freak accident, Howell feared that he might be suspected of murder if he discarded the body into the sea.  As the body began to decompose, Howell built a makeshift coffin for the corpse and lashed it to an outside shelf.  Stiff winds blew the box apart, though, and the body’s arm fell within view of the hut’s window and caused the wind to catch it in such a way that it seemed as though it was beckoning.  Working alone and with the decaying corpse of his former colleague outside Howell managed to keep the lamp lit.  When Howell was finally relieved from the lighthouse the effect the situation had had on him was said to be so extreme that some of his friends did not recognise him.  As a result, lighthouse teams were changed to rosters of three men, which continued until the automation of British lighthouses in the 1980s.  (Wikipedia, “Smalls Lighthouse”)

As for the seagull, well, killing one’s bad luck — the same, one recalls from high school English, as with albatrosses.  See, part of the fun is assembling pieces together after you’ve seen the film and decided you want to know more about it.  For instance the title, THE LIGHTHOUSE, as well as the movie’s initial idea came from a fragment by Edgar Allan Poe, though with just one character rather than two, which I’m not going to quote but which you can read by pressing here.  (And note the meerschaum pipe and the dog.)

We are very excited to announce that we rang in this new decade with the launch of our very first release — The HOUSE OF ZOLO’S JOURNAL OF SPECULATIVE LITERATURE, VOLUME 1.  We’ve been working for many months with twenty-eight talented writers and poets and are so proud to share this incredible volume of short stories and poetry with the world.

So I’m a day late, but The House of Zolo has made good its promise to publish the premiere issue of the HOZ JOURNAL OF SPECULATIVE LITERATURE (see November 21, October 7, et al.) on the first day of 2020.  My story in this one is a reprint, “Golden Age,” going all the way back to MINDSPARKS for Spring 1994 (more recently republished in Smart Rhino Publications’s ZIPPERED FLESH 3, cf. February 3 2017, et al.).  But for the volume as a whole, let us let the publishers themselves tell us.

In this exciting new collection, writers and poets from around the world conjure fractured dimensions, cast dark nightmares, and offer alternatives to the apocalypse as they navigate to the very edges of time and back.  Delving into themes of post-humanity, future-shock, and the consequences of climate change, these short stories and poems fearlessly explore what it means to be human.  Alternately dark and hopeful, heartbreaking and humorous, this volume contains stories and poems to spark the imagination and inspire new perspectives on the future.

Curated and edited by Nihls Andersen and Erika Steeves with guest poetry editor, Jon Parsons, HOZ’s Journal of Speculative Literature is an international collection of short stories and poems by some of today’s most compelling writers:  Jessica Barksdale, Joe Baumann, L. X. Beckett, Melanie Bell, Jenny Blackford, Robert Borski, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd, M. S. Chari, Deborah L. Davitt, Joe DiCicco, Steve Dillon, James Dorr, Kevin Freeman, Amelia Gorman, Vince Gotera, Russell Hemmel, Richard Leis, E. H. Lupton, JBMulligan, Jennifer Loring, Sally McBride, Stephen McQuiggan, Laurel Radzieski, Samannaz Rohanimanesh, George Salis, Lucy Stone, Ojo Taiye, Cohl Warren-Howles.

To see for yourself, in Kindle press here (with a print edition due as well January 7), or for EPUB the House of Zolo’s own site here.

Those horrid vagabonds, Crow and Rat, have been at it again!  Or at least the book they appeared in, HUMANAGERIE (cf. September 8, July 24, et al.), published in the UK in October last year is still getting reviews.  Thus the latest, by Megan Turney in the British science fiction magazine SHORELINE OF INFINITY:  One of the joys of reading this collection was not knowing what to expect from one poem or short story to the next.  The style of these texts dabble in magic realism and fantasy to the almost academic; each style as engaging as the last.  Even though I could easily recommend every contribution, there are a select few that I find myself returning to. The key element that that drew me to these specific texts was their focus on the often unusual, but always compelling, question of what it means to exist.  So, in no particular order, my personal favourites included:  ‘The Orbits of Gods’ by Holly Heisey; ‘Crow and Rat’ by James Dorr; ‘Aquarium Dreams’ by Gary Budgen; ‘Polymorphous/Stages of Growth’ by Oliva Edwards; ‘And Then I Was a Sheep’ by Jonathan Edwards; ‘Hibernation’ by Sandra Unerman; ‘Wojtek’ by Mary Livingstone; ‘Notes for the “Chronicles of the Land that has no Shape”’ by Frank Roger; and ‘Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation’ by Jason Gould.
Well, despite the inclusion of Ms. Rat and Mr. Crow with their habit of finding themselves in places where they’ve not been invited, Turney’s review is extremely thoughtful, even scholarly, and well worth reading — as is the anthology itself with hats off to Editors Allen Ashley (with special thanks for bringing the review to my attention) and Sarah Doyle.  For example, to quote from the final paragraph:  To paraphrase literary critic Karl Kroeber, this kind of literature can serve as a powerful lesson in ‘how our world [is becoming] so exclusively humanised as to be self-diseased.’  To agree with the writers of Humanagerie, it is considerably ironic that we continue with such detrimental practices.  Whilst nature has the power to persevere without us, we certainly wouldn’t be able to survive without it.  So, finally, it surely seems like the right time to recommend such an outstanding contribution to this increasingly essential genre, especially one that emphasises our need to be more aware of humanity’s destructive behaviour.
To see all for yourself, press here.

Featuring over 100 Christmas microfiction horror stories from around the World.  Christmas is near/bring holiday fear/to young and old/snippets to be told/proudly they write/of people’s fright/snippets of fear/Christmas is here!/Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas/Scary, Scary, Scary, Scary Christmas (slightly re-punctuated)

So goes the blurb.  And as of Thursday, SCARY SNIPPETS:  CHRISTMAS EDITION has been up on Amazon in print and Kindle editions (see November 14).  This is the one for stories from 100 to 600 words long of sinister nature relating to Christmas, Hanukkah, or other Yuletide holidays, from Suicide House Publishing, my part of which at a tad under 500 words is “He Knows When You’re Awake,” on the making of Christmas presents and joy.  And now it’s available, possibly just in time itself for ordering for Christmas gifts; for more, press here.

Then Saturday brought the Bloomington Writers Guild’s year-end election meeting and pot luck Christmas party, at the end of which was an around-the-table “open mike” session.  So what did I read?  In that it’s just been published, “He Knows When You’re Awake,” of course.

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