Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“Listen to them—the children of the night. / What music they make!”
– From Bram Stoker’s Dracula

So begins the second of three readings, by me (cf. October 17), on the topic “Let Us Explore Where Vampires May Be Found,” on the Indiana University Public Broadcasting Station WTIU.  The program:  THE POETS WEAVE, produced by LuAnn Johnson and announced by Romayne Rubinas Dorsey, and which may be heard by pressing here.  Thus, to repeat the introduction:  Today, [James Dorr] will read on the subject of vampires and things vampiric from his all-poetry collection Vamps (A Retrospective), which is available from White Cat Publications or Alban Lake Publishing.  More information can also be found on James’ blog.

James reads “Why She Started Writing Poetry,” “California Vamp,” and “Chagrin du Vampire.” 

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Listen Now:  Let Us Meet Some Of The Vampires

The word does not necessarily travel fast, but it comes.  Let us recall posts for August 17 and 8 (and also related, September 30, August 26) in which I spoke of recording poems for the WFIU radio feature THE POETS WEAVE.  Today, from producer LuAnn Johnson:  I’m not sure if I ever got back to you about air dates for your episodes.  . . .  The first aired this last Sunday.  The second is scheduled to air this Sunday, Oct 21 — but we’re in our fund drive week so there is a chance they will need to cut it for pitch time.  If so, I’ll reschedule for the following Sunday, and then the third will air the Sunday after that.

Thus the first of three sessions for which one may press here,* as announced by MC Romayne Rubinas Dorsey:  James Dorr writes short fiction and poetry leaning toward dark fantasy and horror, with his latest book a novel-in-stories, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth.

Today, he will read on the subject of vampires and things vampiric from his all-poetry collection Vamps (A Retrospective), which is available from White Cat Publications or Alban Lake Publishing).  More information can also be found on James’ blog.

James reads “Le Meduse,” “Vampire Thoughts,” “Daylight Savings,” and “Night Child.”
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*(Or for gluttons for punishment and/or lovers of King Kong, for WTIU’s TV counterpart one may also check here, cf. September 25, 18.)

Yes it was, the Bloomington Writers Guild “Second Thursday Player’s Pub Spoken Word Series” (see October 9; October 13 2017, et al.) with a special early Halloween lineup to honor October.  How special?  Even the five open mike readers at the end chose at least some poems, etc. specifically for spookyness while featured musical guest Travis Puntarelli also went out of his way to play and sing numbers with, let us say, Gothic overtones.  Then of the headlined readers, the first one was . . . moi.  Or to read from the blurb, JAMES DORR is a short story writer and poet, working primarily in dark fantasy and horror with some forays into science fiction and mystery.  . . .  The story he’ll be reading tonight is called “River Red,” and appears in THE TEARS OF ISIS.  It is set on a far-future dying Earth, populated by various creatures including ghouls — eaters of the dead — and is in the same universe as his latest novel-in-stories, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, out from Elder Signs Press.  This was followed by another musical interlude, then by the main event, a dramatic reading by Writers Guild members of . . . well, to quote again from the blurb, DRACULA is a screenplay for a never-made film by the late, notorious Ken Russell, Britain’s cinematic sultan of excess and outrage whose films include TOMMY, ALTERED STATES, LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, and GOTHIC.*  The script was written in the late 1970s and published in 2009.  The film came close to being made only to be abandoned when Universal put its Frank Langella headlined version of DRACULA into production.  Russell’s script, however, allegedly formed the impetus for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version, whose screenwriter James V. Hart was directly involved in the inception of Russell’s interpretation.

In a departure from usual practice, the evening ended shortly after 8 as opposed to a more normal 9 p.m., to allow for an additional band Players Pub had scheduled for the night.  This specifically cut down the amount of time set aside for the play, allowing for only two or three scenes, but enough to give an idea of its flavor, set in the 1920s, that of a vampire motivated by a love of music and on a quest to confer immortality on dying artists.  However, the Writers Guild also announced plans to present the play in its entirety at some time in 2019.
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*Re. GOTHIC, cf. October 5, September 30.  But readers may recall having met Mr. Russell before as creator of THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER (July 17 2015, “E. A. Poe Meets Alice in Wonderland”), described as a buggy interpretation “for the 21st century” of not just Poe’s “House” (which possibly more deflates than falls at the end of the picture) but almost everything else Poesque beginning with a wink of the eye to “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Which is to say more October fun is approaching, this from the Writers Guild again in just two days from now, Thursday evening, October 11 at Bloomington’s Players Pub.  Or, let’s let Chair Tony Brewer say it again.  THU OCT 11:  switching gears from Frankenstein to Dracula . . . the Writers Guild at Bloomington presents a staged reading of excerpts from Ken Russell’s unproduced screenplay DRACULA, plus horror writings by James Dorr and music by Travis Puntarelli.  Booo!  And what will I read?  Well, maybe that should be a surprise (though I wouldn’t be all that shocked if I hadn’t mentioned it somewhere elsewhere — it’s sort of a “go to” for me for occasions of this sort).

For now anyway just know you have been warned.

So it’s over now, the Monday after.  Thanks have been Facebooked to the participants, of which I’m one.  But it ended last evening with a flurry, a reading performance (with sound effects) of a radio play version of FRANKENSTEIN, written and directed by Russell McGee (cf. September 30) and produced by Writers Guild Chair Tony Brewer, for which to quote the playbill, [t]his faithful adaptation presents the creature as an intelligent being that has suffered the injustice of mankind.  In celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of Shelley’s creation, we felt it was important to emphasize Shelley’s text and allow the creature to speak for itself, in Shelley’s own words.  And then one extra twist, to help de-emphasize the hulking, inarticulate monster we may have met in the movies, [t]o that end, we have cast a female actor as the creature to help lift Shelley’s own voice from the text.

It was interesting, the novel itself depicting the “monster” as one that suffers rejection when it really wants companionship with, if friendships with normal humans are too much, at least a creature like itself.  It teaches itself to speak and to read, including such books as Milton’s PARADISE LOST.  But in the end, eight-feet tall and misshapen, it is still driven away, ultimately seeking instead revenge against its creator.  And, if you missed it Sunday, all is not lost.  From the Facebook “thank yous” (including, I might [*ahem*] add, “much gratitude to our panelists and FrankenExperts Monique Morgan, Adam Henze, Joan Hawkins, Rebecca Baumann, and James Dorr”):  The performance will be broadcast on cable access and WFHB, and available online before long, so if you missed the performance you’ll get a chance to see/hear it.

Making buttons, making monsters on Barbie Doll bodies, these were among the attractions in the “Crafts and Activities” room Saturday.  Also scheduled for all day Saturday, and maybe part of the night too, was a full read-through of the novel’s text, part of FrankenFest as well as the Indiana State Library’s One State/One Story program.  This was a team reading, with people signing for 15-minute time slots, and as it happened was of the 1831 text, one available in a large print edition which was a great help in a not always that brightly lit Monroe County Library auditorium.  I was scheduled myself for 1 p.m. to 1:15 but, noting not as many had signed up as had been hoped, also took over an extra slot just after 3.  Be that as it may, Writers Guild Chair Tony Brewer was talking about continuing for hours after the Library’s normal Saturday closing time (which means, as I write this, they might be just finishing up about now), with hopefully extra readers arriving with more late-evening fortitude than me.

Two other items, which also caused pauses in the reading as readers wanted to be at them too, began with a 2 p.m. “FrankenSlam Poetry Presentation” with poems having to do with the novel itself as well as ancillary topics recited by Adam Henze.  That took us to 3 and my volunteer “extra” in the reading room, and then at 4 p.m. IU English Department assistant professor Monique Morgan (who we met two posts below on the FrankenPanel, see October 4) spoke on “The Science and the Fiction in Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, on scientific thought in the early 19th century and the influrence on the novel of Erasmus Darwin, Luigi Galvani, and Humphry Davy, and other intellectual threads which added to the novel’s texture.

The announcement was flattering:

FrankenFest

October 3–7, 2018
Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein!

FrankenPanel

Noted horror and sci-fi author, James Dorr, The Lilly Library’s Franken-expert, Rebecca Baumann, and IU professor Monique Morgan talk about this classic novel. Moderated by Joan Hawkins, Indiana University professor of horror and avant-garde cinema.

Adults and age 12 & up
6–7:30 PM
Wednesday, October 3
Meeting Room 1B, first floor

“Noted author” one wishes!  But more can be said of the other two, Rebecca Baumann being head of public services at Lilly Library, the Indiana University rare books archive, who among other things explained why the original printing of FRANKENSTEIN was in three volumes (a common practice of the day when, books being a bit of a luxury, many read them through “circulating libraries”) and why a print run of 500 copies implied a much larger readership then than it would today; and Monique Morgan, associate professor of English with a specialty in Victorian literature who, referencing the part in Volume 3 where Victor Frankenstein first creates but then has second thoughts and destroys the female he was building to be the monster’s companion, discussed male/female relations in the early 19th century and Mary Shelly’s place in the mix.

Moderator Joan Hawkins had led off, introducing the three of us plus citing chapter 4 in volume 1 when the monster first comes alive and Frankenstein’s reaction to it as not a single action but a sort of process, while I followed her by quoting from the preceding chapter the method Frankenstein had used in studying the process of moving from life to death to lead to, through a kind of reverse engineering, “discovering the cause and generation of life.”  But I also mentioned the 1930s films FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and the “launching the kites” scene in the latter, quoting a passage in chapter 2 describing a tree destroyed by lightning and then 15-year-old Frankenstein’s father explaining electricity (wherein “he made also a kite, with a wire and string, which drew down that fluid from the clouds”) which Shelly later rewrote in the 1831 edition, changing the father to “a man of great research in natural philosophy” who “entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism” — “galvanism” being a key hint (assisted by a passage in her introduction about how listening to a discussion of galvanism led to her dream that inspired the novel) that the “cause and generation of life” would most likely have something to do with electricity, as indeed is the case in the movies.

This all took up a bit less than half the session, which then opened up to audience questions, expanding on the sexual mores of Shelley’s time; the transformation of the well educated, if self taught, well-spoken monster of the book to the lurching, grunting hulk of the movies (Boris Karloff actually does move with some grace, it was pointed out, and as he gains a few lines in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN it also shows him in the process of learning); Victor Frankenstein as flawed creator becoming himself a monster in his own way; and modern science fiction monsters (or possible monsters) in robots and androids, with actual fears of industrial robots displacing humans plus such cutting-edge concepts as artificial intelligence.

Let us remember “Crow and Rat,” two of the lowest of the low in the New City world of TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, and how they, while not in the novel itself, had found acceptance in the British anthology HUMANAGERIE (see August 31, 11, July 29).  Expected out in “late October,” the date has now been set more precisely.  According to Editor Allen Ashley:  As you may know, we will be launching HUMANAGERIE at FantasyCon 2018 in Chester (UK) on Friday 19 October 2018.  And wait, for our UK readers there’s more:  But as Londoners born and bred, we are also negotiating a London (UK) launch.  So, please save the date of the afternoon of Saturday 24th of November 2018 for the London launch of the HUMANAGERIE anthology.  More precise details to come, but for those who will be in Britain this month, and should you have a yen to attend, more on the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon 2018, Oct. 19-21, can be found here.

So sometimes we just have to get away from it all for a bit, and music hath charms, yes?  And do we remember MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY, celebrating the post-apocalyptic mythical status of the “Cape Feare” episode of THE SIMPSONS (see October 24, 2015)?  So it’s here as well, the Cape Feare episode noted that is, at Number 20 of “A Definitive Ranking of the 40 Best Songs in ‘The Simpsons,'” by Tom Victor, as presented — with clips! — via SHORTLIST.COM, which to see/hear for oneself one may press here.  If one might recall the protests of the 1960s, in a time when some protests may be back in fashion, check out Number 11, the almost definitive “Union Strike Folk Song” by Lisa Simpson (“We’ll march day and night,/ By the big cooling tower,/ They have the plant/ But we have the power”).  Or for pulling the stops on an all out production number, what could surpass “We Put the Spring in Springfield” at number 2?

But for Number 1 . . . well, it’s one I can’t show to the Goth cat Triana (or, there’s a reason “Horror” is in the key tags), but as long as the family pets are away you can find it yourself!

With a busy week coming up, today’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading and Open Mic” (cf. August 26, et al.), co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and the Monroe County Convention Center, offered featured readings by relative newcomer Breon Rochelle Tyler (see May 29 2017) who read a poem about being free, introducing her own work on freedom, mothers, art, and creation; followed by many-time participant Maria Hamilton Abegunde (August 27, April 1, et al.) with several works in progress, including two inspired by current events, and ending with three selections from her LEARNING TO EAT THE DEAD.  In the audience readings afterward, my part consisted of three more poems from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), the second of the three recordings done for fall broadcast on WFIU’s “The Poets Weave” (see August 26, et al.), “Why She Started Writing Poetry,” “California Vamp,” and “Chagrin du Vampire.”

Of busy weeks, though, next Sunday’s normally scheduled prose readings will not be held due to FRANKENFEST (cf. August 5), the 200th Anniversary celebration of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s novel FRANKENSTEIN, co-sponsored by the Monroe County Library and the Writers Guild at Bloomington, and made possible by a grant from Indiana Humanities with additional funding from the IU Arts and Humanities Council.  Running October 3 through 7, events will include a Wednesday evening FrankenPanel, of which I will be a participant; FrankenFilms (FRANKENSTEIN, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and GOTHIC) on Thursday, October 4; a FRANKENSTEIN Read-a-Thon among other activities on Saturday the 6th; and FrankenTheatre on Sunday, a live radio theater adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN by Russell McGee, who also directs, presenting the creature as an intelligent being who suffered the injustice of mankind.  All events will be held in the Monroe County Public Library.




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