Wednesday, October 7, 2015

129. More video lies } from the Unfinished House.

The following is an excerpt from the column Video Lies, a regular feature in the 1990s ‘zine Kraken Farmer, edited by Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

The Borrower. Dir. John McNaughton. Perf.  Rae Dawn Chong, Pam Gordon, Tom Towles, and Mädchen Amick. Cannon Pictures, 1991. Film.

An ant informs another ant you’re punished now you’re a man.

“Make special note of Pam Gordon, very funny as a weirdly enthusiastic coroner who behaves as if she had been struck by lightning as a small child.” Vincent Canby, New York Times, Oct. 18, 1991. 

She sees cells explode life.

I’m in a heavy metal band my friend Mädchen makes a video we scream “Oedipus wrecks!” Mom and Dad watch The Garbage Pail Kids Movie with headphones they don’t hear when “he took a face from the ancient gallery” when Valerie Vomit “that third blood type we haven’t been able to classify yet” vomits they don’t hear when Mädchen shotguns an alien dog through the French doors there’s a body but “there was no one / not a soul around.”

Overexert and revert with a blast. We are transient-alien in our bodies. We accept this as mortality, but for those thieves who hop bodies. Listen to the teeth click ins your new head. EMT: “Yeah. You wanna tell me where the head is or is that too much trouble?” OFFICER: “No trouble. There is no head.”

A homeless man’s body is a perfect hiding place.

Monday, September 14, 2015

128. More video lies } from the Unfinished House.

The following is an excerpt from the column Video Lies, a regular feature in the 1990s ‘zine Kraken Farmer, edited by Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

Basket Case 3: The Progeny. Dir. Frank Henenlotter. Perf. Kevin Van Hentenryck, Annie Ross, and Tina Louise Hilbert. MCA/Universal Home Video, 1992. Film.

If you have ever seen a severed hand or foot, or a head cut off and lying some way away from the rest of the body—analogous is what someone does to himself, as far as he can, when he will not accept his lot and severs himself from society or does some unsocial act. —Marcus Aurelius

Stacy, who has no forearms, is a bookkeeper. Her colleagues are impressed with what she can do, are repulsed by the knobs of bone that suggest fingers but grow from her elbows, imagine her limited life, would never suggest out loud that her life is limited, try to act as if they don’t notice, and feel keen gratitude for their own fully-developed limbs. Stacy is not homicidal, does not dwell in a rattan basket, and, while she knows other people shaped by phocomelia, they are not family, kept safe at Granny Ruth’s.

Belial, undeveloped and once-conjoined twin of Duane, a growth with a face and pointed teeth, finds a home amongst other creature-shop cast-offs, and no longer desires to be re-attached to his physically normal but psychopathic brother. Belial’s fantasy life reveals he is creepy, but in an ordinary way—he dreams of topless models without wants other than to serve, sexually and otherwise, their master. Belial’s lust is common; his brother’s love—mad Duane believes he is not whole without Belial—is extra-normal.

Belial and Duane are better off when not at odds.

What can't Stacy do?

Our freak show romantic notions take us nowhere.

Monday, August 10, 2015

127. Supernatural Tales 30 reads } New Genre no. 7

David Longhorn, editor of Supernatural Tales and author of the story collection The Glyphs, reviewed New Genre no. 7. He considers what the issue adds up to—
If there's a common idea here it's the way that ideas long rooted not merely in genre fiction but in popular culture can be reworked, evolved, or otherwise mutated into something new and interesting.
—then looks at its parts, story-by-story.

At just about the same time Longhorn’s review appeared, I received issue 30 of Supernatural Tales. Back in February I was asked, along with a number of other authors who appeared in ST toward its inception, if I would contribute. I sent “Wild Dogs.”

In its earliest incarnation, “Wild Dogs” was “After,” a novella about a young man reeling from a break up, and with nary a supernatural element (though the protagonist—thoroughly self-absorbed and annoying—is plagued by weird dreams). “After” became “Rottweiler In a Nightclub,” a three-page parody of “After.” “Rottweiler…” introduced a dog into the narrative, who has the following exchange with the protagonist:
The dog jumps up onto the stool beside me. We face the bar, look at each other in the mirror.
            The dog says, “Give me your drink.”
            I do so. It puts its front paws up on the counter. A drop of blood falls from its snout into the glass.
            “It’s vodka,” I say. “I usually have gin.”
            The dog grunts.
            The dog says, “We are brothers, you and I.”
            I don’t feel so confused, anymore. I reach into my coat for my cigarettes. I offer one to the dog. It accepts, withdrawing it from the pack with its lips, and bares its teeth as it does so.
Before, at last, the story became “Wild Dogs” it was called “Humbaba,” with the idea that the protagonist is transformed into a monstrous spirit of the forest / city. If you read the story knowing this and knowing something about The Epic of Gilgamesh, you’ll see numerous connections between my “sourly-witty social realism” and that ancient myth.

Fellow Supernatural Tales old-timers include Helen Grant, Lynda E. Rucker, Michael Kelly, Mark Valentine (whose story is dedicated to the memory of Joel Lane) and Steve Duffy. Longhorn's review of New Genre no. 7 resides here; and there's a review of the  30th issue of Supernatural Tales here.

Addendum: James Everington, author and critic (who wrote about my "What Water Reveals" as pt. of his "Strange Stories" series), posted a recommendation to read Supernatural Tales 30.

Monday, July 27, 2015

126. VERA SHEVZOVA } frond 1 - 37.

Monoton‘s Monotonprodukt 07 was properly reissued in 2012 (Desire Records) and Craig Leon’s Nommos and Visiting were reissued in 2014 (Rvng Intl.), but still no one has brushed off Vera Shevzova’s frond 1 – 37. This negligence causes me to ask: does the album even exist?

Occasionally, during our print pre-history, Shevzova would get written up in ‘zines dedicated to early 1980s arcana, but no one seemed to know anything—there was a cassette, it was written, produced in Poland (then, without fail, a lament about the production value of such objects)—but no one actually heard the music. In '89 I saw a tour poster stapled to a telephone pole in Boston, but I was too young to get into the club.

Recently, I uncovered on the shelf of a used bookstore, the sleeve of Shevzova’s frond 1 – 37. Thrill and disappointment. No record! Inside, typed on a yellowed sheet, a bit of a press release.

Either Shevzova is real, and a crate-digger needs to find her and upload frond (or whatever)—or there’s no Shevzova, just cardboard and paper.

I posted the album sleeve at Jeff Crouch’s Famous Album Covers.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

125. New Genre no. 7 attends } Readercon 26.

A full Readercon schedule is posted. A few panels and readings are of interest.

On Sat., July 11th, attend

1. “Joanna Russ Reminiscences” at 10am, particularly to hear stories from critic Michel Dirda and editor David G. Hartwell; 2. “When Should We Argue with Reviews” at 11am—as a panelist, I could bring up the back-and-forth in the Feb. 19th ed. of the New York Review of Books re. Charles Baxter’s review of The Annotated Lovecraft (S.T. Joshi accused Baxter of a “personal animus against Lovecraft” and argues that Lovecraft was “in touch with an extraordinarily diverse band of friends and colleagues, ranging from… Robert E. Howard to the highbrow poet Hart Crane”; Baxter begins his reply: “One would think, reading S.T. Joshi’s response to my book review, that I had attacked the object of a cult” and calls out Joshi on the fact of Lovecraft’s racism, “his defense of Lovecraft’s views in his letter is astonishing in this day and age; he quotes, with apparent approval, Lovecraft’s suggestion of apartheid as a benevolent remedy.”); 3. at noon, Nicole Kornherstace will read from Archivist Wasp; at 1:30 I will read from a novel-in-progress—anyone who attends my reading gets a FREE copy of New Genre no. 7 (while supplies last); and “The Influence of James Blish and Damon Knight at 3pm with Karen Burnham, John Clute, Gordon Van Gelder, and Gary K. Wolf.

# # #

The Readercon program includes photographs of Readercon participants; I was not asked to provide a photo of myself for the Readercon program—so, I scrolled through the program PDF with some apprehension. I hoped to find no photo. I worried I’d find an embarrassing photo. Instead, next to my bio, is a photo of a man I’ve never seen before.

What a simple trick! By pairing my name and a few details about my work with a face, that face becomes my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

124. New Genre no. 7 } envelope addendum.

Daniel Mendelsohn wrote in the introduction to How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, “For (strange as it may sound to many people who tend to think of critics as being motivated by the lower emotions: envy, disdain, contempt even) critics are, above all, people who are in love with beautiful things, and who worry that those things will get broken.”

My criticism has never been criticized; it is always me—I am “jealous,” my criticism is “nothing but a ploy to bring attention to yourself,” etc. Instead of making such assumptions, why not engage with the criticism? (A. to do so requires the ability to do so.)

That’s how, I realize: on July 11th at 11am, I will participate on the panel “When should we argue with reviews.” The etiquette of when interests me less than how, but I’ll give when some thought and why, too——

Later that day, at 1:30pm, I’ll read from a novel in progress. My Readercon readings are not usually well attended. Let me engage in a bit of bribery: anyone who comes and listens to me read will receive a complimentary copy of New Genre no. 7 (while supplies last).

# # #

John Cotter, who contributed the ghost story “After the Storm,” received his copy and wrote this about the issue.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

123. New Genre no. 7 is } New Genre no. 7.

Very early this morning I wrote, “Maybe after the first issue was printed I was in a celebratory mood—New Genre was actual—but that didn’t last. For all the care we took, the issue wasn’t perfect, and ever since, when a new issue arrives, I only feel anxious.” I added, “I am, however, entirely confident about the stories. That’s true of every story I’ve ever published—they’re all fantastic.”

New Genre no. 7 is in hand. The stories are Jennifer Claus’ “The Room Is Fire,” Geordie Williams Flantz’s “Parents of the Apocalypse,” Matthew Pendleton’s “Work Planet Welt Space,” John Cotter’s “After the Storm,” and G. Carl Purcell’s “The Middle-Managers of Páchnout.”

My designer, Eliza Smith, wrote toward the end of production: “I read all the stories in my final pass and think this is my favorite issue of NG. Maybe I'm biased, but I think all five of these stories have a unifying thread of exceptional quality, and I feel so lucky to have worked on this issue.” Of course we’re biased, but I agree.

The authors waited a very long time for this issue to happen. Mr. Flantz was particularly faithful, for which I am grateful.

All the anxiety, what kept me awake last night and on into the morning, is the worry that I’ve not or will not—that the issue doesn’t—serve the stories as well as they ought to be served.

# # #

Apparently I attended Readercon 20 in 2009. I dimly recall moderating a panel “The Career of Elizabeth Hand,” but I don’t remember anything else about the convention. According to the program, I spoke about “[Edgar Allen Poe’s] importance to the development of the [horror] genre,” led a discussion called “Short Horror Fiction: The State of the Art (and Market) Today,” and interviewed Victoria Blake, founder of Underland Press. Let’s be clear, I don’t know much about Elizabeth Hand’s career (though I am acquainted with her and she is great), I don’t know how Poe helped develop the horror genre, I am a poor navigator of the short fiction horror market, and—well, ok, I did know something about Underland. There was talk, at one point, of Victoria buying the digital rights to New Genre. I haven’t been to Readercon since.

I will attend Readercon 26, on Sat., July 11th. Also in attendance will be G. Carl Purcell. If you will be at Readercon, seek me out for a copy of New Genre no. 7. And I bet Mr. Purcell will autograph your copy.

And by the way, Mr. Purcell, as Greg Purcell, is in the latest issue of Fence. There’s a party in NYC on Thurs., June 25th at Babycastles to celebrate Fence no. 30.

# # #

Watch this space for news re. New Genre no. 7 as it enters the world, and contact me here with any questions.