Thursday, April 26, 2012

59. A new anthology } of old stories.

Paul Walther’s “The Toll” is the first story I bought for New Genre. My initial response was disbelief: was it possible someone sent me a good story, or did all the bad submissions lower my standards? Nope. The story was good. Is good.

Now, “The Toll” is dusted off for a reprint anthology called Hauntings. The anthologist mentioned on her blog that she was “reading for… a reprint anthology for Tachyon…. I'm looking for stories published between around 1985 – 2011 and would prefer stories that haven't been reprinted lately. I've chosen stories by Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Cadigan, and Caitlin R. Kiernan and have several others I'm likely taking. But otherwise I'm open to suggestions.”

“The Toll”—along with another story I published in New Genre (“The Line I Walk” by M.J. Murphy) and a story of my own—was suggested. “The Toll” was selected by the anthologist for reprint.

A list of the authors included in the anthology was posted at Tachyon (along with some of the worst catalog copy I’ve seen in a while. Dig it: “This spine-tingling anthology—complied by the horror genre's most acclaimed editor—collects a chilling array of ghost stories from the past twenty-five years. Our obsession with the mysteries of the afterlife is explored in these supernatural tales….” Tachyon! Tell me how this anthology contributes something new, how it offers up horror stories from the past twenty-plus years even avid readers may have missed, and that the stories approach what it means to be haunted with intensity and intelligence. Don’t resort to William Castle-esque, movie-house gibberish).

Reprint anthologies give stories a second life. New Genre is an obscure journal with a tiny readership, and New Genre #1 is nearly thirteen years old. “The Toll,” reprinted, will be set in front of a bigger audience. I am grateful for that. Paul’s story deserves to be read (again).

[The image above is an early layout of the cover for issue #1 of New Genre; not much was changed for the final version.]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

58. Abbey Road } Abbey Road.

This day, every year since about 1989, I listen through The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The first time I heard the album was on cassette, a dub from a cassette, the Capitol cut, nonetheless (so opening humble with “Here Come the Sun”). I thought “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” was clipped by tape run-out and longed to hear the whole song. Wore every cassette copy thin. Today, the CD remaster—broke the seal an hour ago. Relish the details. Lennon’s rambling “Aw” at the end of “Come Together.” Ringo's rolling drums on “Something.” The synthesizer on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (Paul’s laughed delivery of “writing”), the sighing harmonies of “Oh Darling.” All the little bits that glue the b-side medley. The happy chatter before “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” those most magnificent bells between “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Sun King.” Is “You Never Give Me Your Money” my favorite Beatles recording? Who cares. Just cross my arms and listen. What’s hollered a minute before the sonic wind in “I Want You (She’s so heavy)”? Nowhere to go. Love you. Listen to Abbey Road on the day I die. I’ll listen to it on the day I die.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

57. A difficult } translation.

Nathalie Z. was a student of mine a few years ago. She took a literature course with me when I taught for a Boston-area design school. She was studying interior design but brought to it a strong desire for activism, and in fact hoped she might combine the two. She is Bolivian and Canadian, shuttled back and forth by family throughout her childhood. During the same semester Nathalie told me about her life in Bolivia, my friend Sarah Gray returned from her travels in South America. Sarah and I talked about her visit to Bolivia over beer at Matt Murphy’s in Brookline.

A result of these conversations, and an invite to contribute to Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic series, was “A Line Through el Salar d'Uyuni,” which ends on that salt flat in Bolivia (Nathalie had never been to the flat, but Sarah traveled across it, and my sister contributed some of her experiences on a Tunisian salt flat). I had material left over—notes that didn’t fit into “A Line” that became “The Great Blind God Passed Through Us,” published in Strange Tales III.

I decided to push to do a third “Bolivia story,” which proved to be very complex, bringing together elements of New York City, Henry Walter Bates’ In the Heart of the Amazon Forest, Beowulf, the Popol Vuh, and some very excellent field notes written for me by Jenna Lawrence. (She made an appearance in an early draft of the story, but proved to be too nice a person to deserve such a fate.) The result is “Translation,” available in the current issue of Supernatural Tales, available both in print and as an e-book from Lulu.

Pictured above are some of the first notes I made for the story, a jumble of Popol Vuh translations of and my interpolations to the Mayan myths regarding the Hanahpu brothers, the calabash tree, and the Blood Maiden.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

56. Readings } & recordings.

Iowa Digital Library, associated with The University of Iowa and Prairie Lights Bookstore, has now a public archive of “author readings, interviews, talks about writing.” Prairie Lights was one of the first stops John Cotter and I made on our book tour (a tour that ended for me in Chicago last month). The Prairie Lights reading was ideal. A large crowd, comprised of friends, their friends, and a happy number of strangers. John and I were in good spirits, we read well, and afterwards had the pleasure of talking with audience members who wanted to know more about us. We sold all our books, too.

Rob Schlegel introduced us. John read first. He uses a microphone well, so sounds terrific on record. I stray from the rostrum, so fade in and out during my self-intro. Rob sets me up as the “former poet laureate of western Montana’s Potomac Valley,” a reference to the two years I taught elementary and junior high school students at Potomac School. When I thank him for his introduction I say I was “given the laurel by a group of 5th graders.” (Rob took the crown from me when I left Montana.)

I also said, “There’s something about having your own book that’s odd. It’s like an object from an alternate reality. Every other book looks real but one with my own name on it does not.” I pause, give a short description of Color Plates, then read “Olympia,” “The Tub,” “Woman Fixing Her Stocking,” and “White Lilacs and Roses.” Here, the recording is good; either I adjusted to the microphone or a savvy sound engineer made the adjustment for me.

Is it rare for a non-celebrity to have a recording of a great night? As rare as candid photos of the first conversation you ever had with your wife. More of the story is “18. Readings } a leg. & bones.

[The photo above is of Iowa City, taken from the Iowa House Hotel. The quoted description of the public archive is from Kyle Minor's April 1st HTML Giant post.]