Posts Tagged ‘Black Humor’

The play is part of the Indiana University Arts and Humanities Council celebration, Granfalloon:  A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence (see also below, May 11 2018), “Vonnegut On Stage: War, Technology and Unintended Consequences” presented this afternoon and tomorrow evening by Cardinal Stage at the downtown Bloomington John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium.  Cardinal Stage presents an evening of dramatic adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories from WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE in partnership with the 2019 Granfalloon Festival presented by the IU Arts & Humanities Council.  Staged readings will include “Epicac” (adapted by Vonnegut) and “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (adapted by Claris A. Ross for NBC radio), which speak to Vonnegut’s wariness of the military industrial complex and the unintended consequences of technological advancement.  A second performance will be tomorrow (Saturday) night at 7 p.m., today’s being a 3 p.m. matinee more convenient, as it happens, for me to get to as well as (Friday being a work day) more likely to have tickets still available when I showed up at the door.

The readings themselves were presented in radio theatre format, the first in fact, according to the blurb above, adapted by the author himself, with performers in chairs stepping up to the mike to speak their parts accompanied by a variety of audio special effects.  I thought it worked well.  The first, “Epicac,” was about a newly invented supercomputer of special interest to the Navy for use in battles, but which, due to a lovesick programmer, became more interested in poetry and love itself, transferring its own affection to the programmer’s fiancee.  Then the second, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” from Vonnegut’s first published short story, has to do with a civilian professor developing what we might now call teleportation — an ability to manipulate solid objects with his mind — and his subsequent revolt against the military’s interest in using this in warfare, having become as he puts it himself the world’s “first weapon with a conscience.”

I had reread “Barnhouse Effect” fairly recently and, as I remember it, think the adaption did a good job of presenting the essence of the story.  In any event, I’ve dug out my old copy of WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE and plan to take another look at both stories tonight.

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A conversation with Robert Weide, filmmaker*, biographer and personal friend of Kurt Vonnegut will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at IU Cinema, 1213 E. Seventh St.  For more than 30 years, Weide has been working to create a definitive documentary covering Vonnegut’s life and work. He will give a sneak preview of several extended clips of the work in progress and discuss his work on the film.  (From the “Events” section of the local newspaper.)

So I, a Vonnegut fan, a writer myself, and one interested in the arts — and creation of art — in general, made sure to be there last night. In fact, I even prepared myself by making a point to read the preface (by editor and compiler Peter Reed) and Vonnegut’s own introduction to 1999’s BAGOMBO SNUFF BOX, of previously uncollected short fiction, which describe the period in which these works were written, the 1950s and early ’60s where one could earn $3000 for a short story from magazines like COSMOPOLITAN or THE SATURDAY EVENING POST; the rise of TV that replaced these magazines to a large part, bringing a time where one had to write a whole novel to earn the same amount as an advance.  But Vonnegut’s early novels never sold that well until, including a deal of luck, his masterpiece SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE with its anti-war sentiment hit the market at just the right time to become a best seller.  And so I was able to anticipate some of what was to come, as described in the Indiana University Cinema’s blurb:  This special event is a conversation with filmmaker, biographer, and Kurt Vonnegut’s personal friend, Robert Weide, incorporating extended clips from a work-in-progress version of his long-awaited film, KURT VONNEGUT:  UNSTUCK IN TIME.

More than 11 years after his death, Kurt Vonnegut — who was born and raised in Indianapolis — remains one of the most popular literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Readers from one generation to the next, the world over, continue to find their lives transformed by his comic and cosmic insights, on display in such bestselling books as CAT’S CRADLE, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, MOTHER NIGHT, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and on and on.  Amazingly, all of Vonnegut’s works remain in print, and his popularity shows no sign of waning. Yet to-date, there has been no definitive film documentary covering his extraordinary life and work.  For over 30 years, film and TV producer, director, and personal friend, Robert Weide, has been working to correct that oversight.  He will be giving a sneak preview of several extended clips from the work-in-progress, as he discusses his 36-year odyssey to complete the film.

The event is presented as part of Granfalloon**: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence, an initiative of the Arts & Humanities Council of Indiana University.

And so it goes, for me, as writer, an enlightening and a humbling experience.  Yes, luck played a part in Vonnegut’s success, both good and bad, plus some horrendous life experiences, but I’d not realized the amount of hard work, and number of false starts that went into SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE until he got it “right.”  Or that success did not go well with him in certain ways, though it did in others, including a final bit of luck in his reluctant 2005 publication of A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, a collection of essays that became an instant best seller, two years before his 2007 death.

But one more surprise too, while the blurb spoke of film clips, Robert Weide announced that he couldn’t decide, ultimately, which ones to show, so instead we we got to see the entire two-hour film, in its present not-quite-completed condition, followed in turn by a Q and A session.  A little bit rough, but whenever the final version comes out, I’ll recommend it!
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*Among other things screenwriter and co-producer of the film version of Vonnegut’s MOTHER NIGHT.

**(Wikipedia)  A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel CAT’S CRADLE), is defined as a “false karass”. That is, it is a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is meaningless.  Charles J. Shields’s 2011 AND SO IT GOES:  KURT VONNEGUT:  A LIFE  quotes the novelist, who wrote that a “granfalloon is a proud and meaningless collection of human beings. . .”  That biography also cites Hoosiers as “one of [Vonnegut’s] favorite examples” of what the term refers to.  Other events include displays at the Lilly Rare Book Library, lectures both there and at City Hall, a stage reading of the musical adaptation of GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and several concerts.

And came time Sunday for the Bloomington Writers Guild/Boxcar Books First Sunday Prose Reading, this month with featured writers Tony Brewer and Joan Hawkins and followed by the usual open mike session, but with a twist.  Two writers — Shayne Laughter and . . . moi — would be allowed ten minutes each, rather than the usual three-to-five.

So it began with poet, sometime radio play and screenwriter, and Writers Guild Chairman Brewer demonstrating that he sometimes writes stories too with an allegory of death and the afterlife (and vultures), “The Trouble with Boys” of young lust and death, and handy hints on tanning one’s deer hide.  The second of these also included an odd interruption, a noisy customer who dropped in to buy a book and, somehow in the course of the purchase, shared with all that he was a two-time rabies survivor.  Tony took this well in stride, though, and ended by introducing Joan Hawkins, fedora crowned, who read a piece from a memoir-in-progress, TALES OF SCHOOL AND SUICIDE.  This was about a marathon New Years Day poetry reading in New York’s Lower East Side in the early 2000s, the highlight of which was actress, director, and co-founder of The Living Theatre Judith Malina (1926-2015)* with a striking ChristmasRatrendition of a scene from ANTIGONE.

Then we lesser lights had our time on the stage, starting with Shayne Laughter with the first part of a contemporary story-in-progress, “The Nature of the Beast,” related to her reading of the previous month of “Emmonsburg” (c.f. December 6), a story inspired by her grandfather’s writings about growing up in Indiana.  This was followed by a refreshment break, and then my “longer” short reading of a tale of the just-past holidays, “The Christmas Rat,” originally published in the Winter 2007-8 DOORWAYS and reprinted in THE TEARS OF ISIS, including showing copies of the illustrations used with its first publication, followed in turn by several more readings, the last introduced by poet-essayist Antonia Matthews as being probably “more wholesome” than mine.  (But then when I had finished my story, amongst the applause I thought I heard one person mention she was “glad Christmas is over” so, as I see it, I’d done my job. 😉 )

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*Fun Fact:  Though perhaps best known for her work with The Living Theatre, Judith Malina also appeared in several movies including, in the role of “Grandmama,” 1991’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY.

“Ever have kinky thoughts about Spock and Kirk?  Princess Leia?  Ever wonder just what you could do with the light saber?”  Yes, THE FIRST ANNUAL GEEKY KINK ANTHOLOGY (cf. November 7 and chainsaw4) is now available in a (ahem) hard copy edition, complete with my own Yuletide-themed “A Christmas Carnage” detailing the adventures of a typical (which is to say, nerdish and virginal) Lovcraftien hero and his long-deceased umpty-umpth great aunt Carol.  And chainsaws.

Buy it, read it, consider reviewing it if you dare — the fun begins right here.

So . . . as promised, the email came at exactly 11:02 Friday night.  The FIRST ANNUAL GEEKY KINK ANTHOLOGY!   And what might such an anthology contain?  To quote from the blurb:  “Inside these pages, you’ll find everything a geeky kinky reader could want — from alien anal probing to comic book super heroes and super GeekyKink300-200x300villains, and even such slightly obscure nerdishness as a new take on Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear and all sorts of Elvin sex.

“And of course, there are ample references to Doctor Who, Star Trek, Harry Potter and Devo. . . .”  Not to mention my own story, “A Christmas Carnage,” jolly and gross, for more on which see just below, November 4.

Or to enter into, as it were, the horse’s mouth, one can press here for the publisher’s site with the rest of the blurb plus ordering info, while Amazon fans need but press here for the Kindle edition (though Editor Lori Perkins warns that the print edition there may take a few days longer).

In connection with Riverdale Avenue Books, we’re looking for new and/or previously published stories featuring geeky kinkiness.  Or kinky geekiness.  How does your inner geek get their rocks off?  Have you turned that amazing scene where you were Twilight Sparkle giving it to another bound pony right in the Pinkie Pie? Got a hot hunt short story about Boba and Han?  Maybe a story set AT the GKE?  Send it in!

Such was the call for the FIRST ANNUAL GEEKY KINK ANTHOLOGY and, believe it or not, I happened to have something that just might fill the bill.  Originally published in IN THE BLOODSTREAM from Mocha Memoirs Press in 2013 (see October 28, September 23 of that year), “A Christmas Carnage” is a Dickensian (based, that is a little, on A CHRISTMAS CAROL), Lovecraftian (sort of), splatterpunky eroticish tale of a young Miskatonic U. grad who has a chainsaw in his closet (a nervous sort, he keeps it for personal protection), and a more than family interest in his long-defunct umpity-umpth-great aunt Carol 3frenchwho had once been an artist’s model in Paris.  So when she makes an appearance as, he would like to think, his Christmas Present . . . well, there is a price, of course, as well as a hint that those in the World of Spirits don’t appreciate puns.

Today the word came:  “Congratulations!  You are in the First Annual Geeky Kink Anthology WHICH WILL BE PUBLISHED THIS FRIDAY, so we need you to sign and return this contract asap.  Please let us know if you will be attending GKE this coming weekend, so you can read your work?”  Proof sheets are to be expected in 12 to 24 hours.  The GKE, or Geeky Kink Event, which alas I had to apologize I would not be getting to, is (to quote their site), “a three-day kink event in New Jersey featuring a full dungeon, classes and workshops, vendors, and plenty of social activities.”  There’s no word, however, as to whether NJ Governor Chris Christie is expected to be a guest.

But I did sign and send back the contract this p.m.

Then for a brief news flash, the previous evening CHILLING GHOST SHORT STORIES (cf. August 21, et al.) arrived.in my groaning overstuffed mailbox.  From Flame Tree Publishing, this is a chunky, nicely made nearly 500-page book containing ghost tales both old and new.  Mine, a reprint from GOTHIC GHOSTS (Tor Books, 1997), is titled “Victorians” and can be found between Charles Dickens’s (ahem!) “The Signal-Man” and “The New Catacomb” by Arthur Conan Doyle.




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