Posts Tagged ‘Science Fantasy’

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.
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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.
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To see all for yourself, press here.

It’s really kind of self explanatory, the story’s whole title, that is. “Catskinner Sweet and the Twirling Teacups of Deadwood City,” which is next to last — or next to next to last depending on how you count things — in the Death’s Head Press anthology BREAKING BIZARRO (see September 2, June 15) that arrived Saturday afternoon.  Well, maybe some explanation, a “catskinner” for instance is someone who herds cats, or drives such a herd, much like a muleskinner.  Or twirling teacups or flying saucers, it’s how you look at it.

But the thing is it’s all absurd, twenty-six stories in all — or is that twenty-seven. That is twenty-six written stories, the last of which is “How to Build a WW2 Armored Express Train Set” by John Wayne Comonale (preceded by me with “Catskinner Sweet,” natch), which is followed by the title “Title:” by “Your Name:” and nine or ten pages of lined paper.  That is, the last story in BREAKING BIZARRO is yours in a do-it-yourself kit sort of way.  And that is bizarre.

But the thing is the book has been published in both print and electronic versions, and you can have yours too by pressing here.

It’s not easy being different — and especially so if one has what one may call “special” powers.  So, too, of films, Julia Hart’s FAST COLOR (billed as Drama, Science Fiction, and Thriller) being a last minute addition to the Indiana University Cinema’s “International Arthouse Series” with special reference this fall to films directed by women, and of which the docent declined to comment on “the way the movie unfolds.”

There was, though, a blurb, even if emailed just four days before:  In the dystopian near future of a drought-plagued American Midwest, a young woman, Ruth, with superhuman abilities is forced to go on the run when her powers are discovered.  Pursued by law enforcement and scientists who want to control her and study her powers, Ruth is running out of options.  Years after having abandoned her family, she realizes the only place she has left to hide is home.  While seeking shelter with her mother, Bo, and the daughter she’s never really known, Lila, Ruth begins to mend her fractured familial bonds and discovers how to harness her powers rather than be haunted by them.

And on Friday the thirteenth as well (and a rare one on which there was also a full moon!), I had some doubts as I went to the screening.  But I can say that I was delighted.  The docent did point out that FAST COLOR received rave reviews at its premiere at the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival; for myself I would say while there may have been plot holes as well as a possibly simplified ending (e.g., would not agents of the “evil” scientists and cops still have pursued the main character, even if having had it demonstrated that that might not be a good idea), the characters came off as emotionally true — relatable to and likeable, if in weird circumstances — and the SFX (when sparingly used) were good.  All of which I’d expect goes to good direction.

A quick Sunday note that yesterday’s email brought a notice from HUMANAGERIE Co-Editor Allen Ashley (cf. July 24, April 3, March 21, et al) announcing yet another review, from the international poetry news and event website WRITE OUT LOUD (a.k.a. WRITEOUTLOUD.NET).  Word of the anthology does get around!  My part in this is the TOMBS related tale of “Crow and Rat,” a pair of good-for-nothings on a dying, depleted far-future Earth and, while reviewer Neil Leadbeater doesn’t cite it specifically (there is, however, a paragraph on prose in general, as well as the poetry), it does give a nice overview of the book as a whole.  It also ends with a link to the publishers website, for those who might be interested in buying it or just for further information, while the review itself can be seen by pressing here.

So what is “Bizarro”?  According to DARKMARKETS.COM, Bizarro is a genre that thrives on absurdity and satire and often grotesqueness.  It’s surreal and imaginative.  BREAKING BIZARRO will scream weirdness to its readers.  That’s what.  But to the point, Saturday afternoon brought a proof copy of BREAKING BIZARRO with my story “Catskinner Sweet and the Twirling Teacups of Deadwood City” (see June 15) and, what with arts fairs and readings and all, I finally got to the actual corrections late Sunday night.  So done is done, and shortly before midnight I sent my fixes in, to be received presumably bright and early this Labor Day morning.

But does it scream weirdness?  Well, “Catskinner Sweet” is more a tall story, a sort of precursor — or maybe subcategory — of modern day bizarro, but Editor Patrick C. Harrison III apparently thinks it will fit, placing it in the contents as the next to last story.  That is, one true enough to the concept that it’s in a position where readers finishing the anthology may well remember it when or if a sequel is published, and that’s not a bad thing (the story that follows it has to do with a protagonist’s would-be girlfriend’s butt, incidentally, so one can understand placing that where it will be “the end”).  As for more on the anthology proper, for those who can’t wait the Kindle edition can already be pre-ordered now by pressing here, with an announced publication date of September 15.

Remember those ne’er-do-wells “Crow and Rat,” and how they slinked into England to be in the book HUMANAGERIE (cf. April 3, March 21, et al. )?  So wouldn’t you know, they’ve gotten themselves in the news again, or at least the book that accepted them has.  According to Co-Editor Allen Ashley:  I just wanted to let you know that HUMANAGERIE has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award in the “Best Anthology” category.  Sarah and I are absolutely thrilled.  And of course, we could not have done this without the superb writing that we received from all of you.  . . .  The British Fantasy Award shortlist of five titles — including an anthology edited by our very own Dan Coxon (AKA Ian Steadman) — now goes to a select jury for final decision, to be announced at FantasyCon in Glasgow on 20 October.  The British Fantasy Award, I might add, is not a small thing; sponsored by the British Fantasy Society it’s the UK equivalent of, on this side of the ocean, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula or the Horror Writer Association’s Stoker Awards(R), rather rarefied company for such as Rat and Crow!

“Crow and Rat,” one might remember, were beggars and thieves in the far future world of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, albeit not in that book itself, whose unwise (and probably one-sided) love simply led them into even more trouble.  To quote from their own story, [h]is name was Crow, and she was called Rat.  Both of them were beggars in the New City, not the creative kind, jongleurs or tale-tellers, gossip-mongers or criers or news-spreaders, but rather the shabbier, desperate grubbers of others’ detritus — ghouls as it were of the wealthier precincts’ trashheaps and middens.  Petty thieves, sometimes, when courage and opportunity blessed them.  In other words, common enough to be unnoticed.

However the book they are in has been noticed.  For a complete list of British Fantasy Award finalists in all categories one can press here — while for background information on the world Crow and Rat came from, the world of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (which disdains to give rascals such as them even a mention), one can click its picture in the center column.

Catching up, what a wonderful feeling when it’s story acceptances!  This came in after I’d written yesterday’s post (and that for a late Thursday night sale itself!), from Editor-in-Chief Patrick C. Harrison III:  Congratulations! We at Death’s Head Press have chosen to publish your short story, “Catskinner Sweet and the Twirling Teacups of Deadwood City,” in our anthology, BREAKING BIZARRO.  Please look over the attached contract (don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions) and email a signed copy back to us within the next few weeks.

The story, a reprint originally published in the March 2001 edition of NUKETOWN, to quote myself in my cover letter when I sent it in is written stylistically as a tall tale, yet is still an absurd story of the Olde West, and of how a failed alien invasion, an ace muleskinner who also could herd cats, a failed tree planting, and green-glowing mice turned a dying town into a city as up to date as St. Louis.  That and the invention of a better mouse trap and a warehouse full of dried navy beans, which all also combine to serve young love — although at worst with a mildly implied PG rating.  This one, also, is a bit longer than yesterday’s “Frogs’ Hair,” which actually is about five words shorter than my self-quoted description above.

And so today, Saturday, back went the contract, with more to be reported here as it becomes known.

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it, once in a universe long ago, far, far away, PayPal used to tell one when one had received money.  Or maybe it is that they now considered themselves so important that, why just naturally, people would visit them every day — maybe even each hour! — to see what they’d spent and/or what they’d got.  So, silly me, having blogged about Tell-Tale Press’s publication of my novelette “The Bala Worm” (for which, see just below for yesterday’s post), I started to wonder if, having earlier posted on May 14 that payment was due within a week, I had in fact been paid.  So, what to do?  Check PayPal.

So the good news is this:  I have not only been paid, but the cash came just a day after the 14th, on May 15, semi-pro to be sure but nevertheless a nice little sum and worth several dinners.  Even with cocktails, should I wish to have them.  And one more surprise, one more little secret the folk at PayPal were concealing from me — or, rather, were daring me to seek myself — payment had also been received from CURIOUS GALLERY (cf. May 1) for “Appointment in Time” apparently just after I’d sent back the contract, on May first as well!

“Appointment in Time” is a clockpunky New Year’s Eve story originally published in Untreed Reads Publishing’s YEARS END:  FOURTEEN TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR, about how the New Year actually comes forth (not exactly the same as they show on TV), while for “The Bala Worm,” well, you can read it yourself right now for free by just pressing its link in the post just below.

Another quickie!  Today brought an edited copy of “Appointment in Time” from CURIOSITIES Editor Kevin Frost (cf. May 1):  Got a couple of minor edits, then I can move thecuriosities-issue-5-cover-shot manuscript to the narration queue.  The edits, two, were minor indeed, an added comma and one word misspelled, so this afternoon my “okay” went back, with my 2012 New Year’s Eve tale of steam and clocks and year-end horror one step closer to its new appearance in CURIOSITIES, as well as possible future podcast in THE GALLERY OF CURIOSITIES.  And with this an “extra,” courtesy of fellow blogger Brian James Lewis who directed me to a review he wrote on DAMAGED SKULL WRITER of the previous, Winter 2019 issue of CURIOSITIES, emphasizing its general high quality — one I can hardly wait now to see my own story appear in!  To read for oneself, one need but press here.

This was a quickie, sent just eight days before submissions closed — and accepted one day after!  The call was intriguing, under the rubric “Curious Gallery”:  Hello!  This project is a comfortable two-headed beast at play in the curious and often dark corners of retropunk fiction.  That means steampunk, dieselpunk, dreadpunk, bronzepunk, others too numerous to name punk  . . .  but not atompunk.  Sorry, space fans, we draw our line at Sputnik.  About 2/3 of rejections are for “bad fit.”  We buy nonexclusive rights for fiction, cover & interior art, music & sound effects usage, and narration services. The story, a sort of clockpunky reprint, “Appointment in Time,” originally published in YEARS END: 14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR (Untreed Reads, 2012).  And so this afternoon Editor Kevin Frost replied:  Thanks again for your time and submission. We wish we’d get more like this so yes, we’d like to obtain it.

And there we have it, contract sent and signed this p.m., for short story magazine CURIOSITIES plus its podcast partner, THE GALLERY OF CURIOSITIES, a twice monthly podcast which features stories from the publication.  Not every story we buy will make it to an audio podcast release, but we do make good effort to get it there before our rights expire.  So maybe a “maybe” on that podcast publication, but time will tell, with more to come here as it becomes known.




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