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.

Alligator II: The Mutation. Dir. Jon Hess. Perf. Joseph Bologna, Dee Wallace, and Richard Lynch. Cannon, 1991. Video.

Swamp-rat floats /on a human ribcage.

Red flashlight floats / and a fisherman’s leg.

Breakfast with a VHS tape on a timer. Cop Hodges dances with a food truck vendor. “Maybe it’s machinery.”

TWO COPS: Hodges, you can’t park here.
HODGES: Get it washed. [Hands over his keys.]
TWO COPS: Hodges!

See the serpent woman walk, talk, “and crawl on her belly like a reptile”; see her meet “...that ain’t no gator” but a Future Chemical gator—“You ever seen a nest this big?”

A mutant alligator eats who swims among the reeds in Regent Park. No, you may not explode grenades beneath Lake Shore Drive. Remove the alligator = gentrification = the loss of local color, i.e., The Crazy Boys. Send in the man on stilts. Feed the alligator land developers.

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 P├íchnout.”

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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

122. “Over you } (just for a change).”


On the E train to Science Park listen to Abbey Road with fervent interest, especially the b-side, especially the transitional stuff—chimes and chatter (“Oh listen to that now… [laughter]… Oh look out”), crickets, a roll on a big cymbal. To be in that big room inside the record.

“Time Transfixed”—the MBTA runs a line to and in-to that room—the other direction is late afternoon, “was a way /to get back homeward.” Lo-fidelity tape hiss and train racket, passenger chit-chat, the lap of the Charles against Gridley Dam, and the crackle of the Van de Graaff generator all sound in that room.

Monday, March 9, 2015

121. House show } Holy Komodo.


Cryptic invitation:

mauwf
bring furniture
& paper to
allagash trail
03.07.15 9pm

An empty house at the end of icy Allagash Trail Road. Split-level, big windows covered with invisible paper, teal wall-to-wall carpet, teal carpeted steps and upstairs hall. Band names on the wall. Bathroom. A soft couch. We waited for the Holy Komodo while we discussed age. A woman asked if I knew Tom Leotard. Possibly she thought I might be Tom Leotard or, as likely, she wanted to sell me some Tom Leotard.    

Downstairs for the Holy Komodo. We stood against the wall to watch. “How do you make a cult following?” My companion asked; the cult followed. My companion asks—she’s interested in how people make an idea actual in the world and subsequently cause the world to take notice. Bare cement walls, stamped by plywood forms. White wiring wrapped around the support beams. Bright, single-cell organisms projected on a sheet behind the band. Nina on keys, sang, dark hair flash and keyboards.

Flock of Seagulls hairdo camera-phone filmed the band, the audience, and us interlopers. A woman with her boyfriend behind her grinned. A crowd-surfer barely cleared the ceiling beams. “If you must mosh,” Nina said, “do it away from the equipment we’ve spent all our money on.” She was obeyed. My companion noted Flock of Seagulls hairdo; “If I had hair like that, I’d—” the rest of her comment lost, but something like, “—voodoo fan.”

From where I stood, Joel, the drummer, was the most visible member of the band. Pink and salmon, all joy—before the show he’d told an anecdote, said, of his brother—“he’s a lot skinnier than I am”—a claim hard to believe. Komodo’s recorded output in no way prepared me for the vigor of his drum work (in retrospect, hinted maybe by “Make Time”). He sat and he stood.

My thoughts were not especially interesting. Teenagers in the midst of an experience that—if remembered—will become a shorthand for who they think they are. People who go to house shows. Who shout: I was in that place. Pressed by the reptile nation, we braced ourselves against the wall.

An angry woman clutched a glass pitcher of ice water to her chest. My companion asked, “What do you think she’s on?” The angry woman shouted, in response to someone else’s interest, “You’re not my friend!” The pitcher sweated. The angry woman sat hard in a wooden rocking chair. Maybe she ate some bad Tom Leotard.


[ Photo of Holy Komodo at Space Afrika house show courtesy Sierra Clark. ]

Friday, March 6, 2015

120. Notes made while } Philip Glass & Tim Fain played.

“Mad Rush” (Glass says, from 1979). Sweet is thot / just the / piano” \\ a near stop + / the small / keys retake / the piece // [gold curtains, purple shirt, vest, pleated brown slacks] \\ left hand / crosses / the right / for a / lower / note [E. leans against me] \\ gold + green + brown / …keep [the work] warm / + kind… \\ write in your own line. / …the place the performer goes to / [E. wants to ask questions “when does the next song begin?”] / partita, 2 movements, for a chaconne \\ …holds the violin with his chin / + plays after \\ a breath / in the midst / emerges / familiar / Glass / built into the old form \\ we want high + low together / always

\\ [Fain] jumps / onto the notes, / feet planted but / heels up. / …scrape / drag \\ written for him + / …sounds / like him / “Metamorphosis” (Glass says, I like to play the even \\ ones in reverse order [4 then 2] ) / a little / showy \\ fast / went up / as I don’t / recall / embrace / heat. \\ not uncomfortable / but too / warm // in places, the keyboard / is re- / found \\ Music from The Screens (Glass says, from 1991), “French” (heard, “Friends”), “The Orchard,” & “The French Lieutenant Dreams” (heard, “…Lieutenant’s Dreams”) // the European piece / Kora \\ they tune up / my eldest melts

\\ feature / texture / on wave / [we] land // hollow sound [in] strings \\ hold hands / to bow // Hydrogen Jukebox (1990) \\ (Glass says, “the first time [Ginsberg’s performance] was perfect… / used [recording of Ginsberg reading “Wichita Vortex Sutra”] in the tour… \\ after he died / I didn’t / play it / for a long time // too painful / I didn’t want to hear it \\ one day I put it… / the only good thing / about this now / is a I know / how it goes”) \\ a hymn / (Glass says, “I’m an old man… \\ vortex is like / an energy system / sutra is / a prayer.”)

\\ ecstatic / lang. \\ who touches the breath / + says / om / stop for tea + gas [Ginsberg?] \\ “Evening Song” partita \\ a green / partita // played alone, / the violin at / times / becomes / more / isolated \\ smaller, maybe [my eldest / is on fire] / long / whisper \\ (2010) // (Glass says, “Actually / Tim plays his part / + the other part” \\ “Pendulum (for Violin & Piano)” \\ [goth] anniversary concert // tunes— / holds a note \\ [E.’s leg itches] / encircle particle open \\ Glass sits on the bench + listens. // “Closing” (1982), from Glassworks \\ tangled / keys / in closing.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

119. Readings } 8 Anthology.


Sandra Doller read “where did you get that hammer” and Oliver Strand asked if I was—“are you?”—Adam Golaski and we went to hear Forrest Gander read “…colorless bath mat with its frayed, dirty edge folded up.” I said, “Yes.”

Oliver Strand and Katy Mongeau, MFA candidates, co-host Anthology, a series that features “readings, performances and visual works,” mainly by Brown University and RISD graduate students. Last month I was most impressed by the work of Maggie Hazen.

Next week, I’m in Anthology 8.

Among the readers is Rachel May, author of “The Vermont Studio Center Experiments.” When last we spoke she told me about Quilting with a Modern Slant; I misunderstood everything she said. The book is an art anthology of 70+ modern quilters. What I heard, what I thot she told me, was that she wrote a book that hybridized her writing and her stitching, something like “The Vermont Studio Center Experiments,” but more extreme, with the text stitched, possibly into paper. I dunno. Clearly, I am not a good listener. I will try harder.  As for grad students, I’m interested to hear Leah Rafaela Ceriello. Her “Durational Performance” photographs I like.

Anthology 8: Bridget Brewer, Leah Rafaela Ceriello, Adam Golaski, Felix Green, Rachel May, Kristen Mueller, Kelsey Wakefield, & Kelly Walters. Wednesday, March 4th at 7pm. The Granoff Center (see photo above), Studio 1, 154 Angell St, Providence RI 02906. Wine, other refreshments provided.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

118. Re } introductions (pt. 2).


[ What follows is the Dream Coda of the introduction to New Genre #7. ]

At a conference, invited to speak on a panel about an essay I wrote, the subject—. The panel sat behind a table set on a raised platform. My boss, uninvited, sat beside me and opened the discussion. He told the audience that he never wrote horror fiction, in spite of successfully placing work in well-known horror magazines. He said, “To avoid writing horror, I take a close look at what is horrible and absorb the details so I can relay its character free of the limitations of the horror genre.”

I was about to respond when a member of the audience stood, joined us behind the table, and began to attack my boss’s statement. The audience member’s argument was completely undermined by his manner and his need to make the audience laugh. Meanwhile, I articulated a reply in my head: my boss, I thought, did write horror fiction—horror is a very broad category that freely bleeds into every other genre. “Even realism,” I said (in my mind), “gets weird, especially when realism writes death. See A Simple Heart. See The Death of Ivan Ilyich.”

The audience member’s blather was without cease. My boss exited via a series of ladders and by scrambling over a peaked roof. Still eager to make my point to him, I attempted to follow.

Without the transition typical of conscious narrative, I was in a brothel. The women there knew about horror fiction, but didn’t want to discuss horror fiction. They asked me if I planned to stay. From the brothel was a view of a dam, water high behind it.

[ Image: cover of New Genre #7, designed by Jeremy Withers. ]

Friday, February 6, 2015

117. Flac Draft } 7.30 humanity.



Listening thru Autechre’s late output. This morning quit Quaristice (2007) for Draft 7.30 (2003). At the start of the album (compact disk) is 20 seconds of what I remembered as silent lead-in before the beat and squelch of “Xylin Room.” Lamp off, sunrise, near-full moon visible behind clouds, snow and ice. An inexpensive Sony boombox CD / cassette combo—but I felt the sound, about 5 seconds in: to arrive.

Not the vent, not the snow on the sloped metal roof outside my window. I restarted the album and raised the volume. Within the first 20 seconds, a loop, it sparks, bright but wet static——

[ Click Autechre link under “My involvement varies.” & watch Little Stories undergo an L-Event. ]

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

116. Stars laid in the night sky } like so much particle board.


In spite of what the critics say, “Satellite’s Call”—the latest video from the Holy Komodo—is about eyes. Hideous! horrible! adorable! eyes. Ask the eyes: is it the heart’s beating that controls the mind?

Eyes never answer, but nonetheless ask—eyes will betray the truth, because eyes are duplicitous.

Let’s examine the evidence: cheap furniture (“I may have lost it this time”), blankets (“this planet’s not my home”), photographs of the electromagnetic spectrum (“the fire’s never ending”), oversized sport coats (“I can’t escape”), lamps (“I feel the fear receding touched by the light”), a wall socket (“I felt it shatter my mind”), raw lumber (“It fills my brain”), and cabinets (“I’ve been played for so damn long”).


Watch. Eyes are self-evident.

[ Photo of Holy Komodo: Kyle Gibson, Zak Hosmer-Dillard, Joel Skardahl, Nina Joly, & Justin Nijssen. ]

Saturday, January 17, 2015

115. 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.

House IV. Dir. Lewis Abernathy. Perf. Terri Treas, William Katt, Scott Burkholder, Melissa Clayton. Republic Pictures, 1993. Videocassette.

Abstract.

Roger Cobb fiddles with a film projector ostensibly to screen home movies, says, “A little twist here, a little tightening there…” —impatient stepbrother: “Great, Rog. You know they have a new invention it’s called video tape.”

The Great Spirit knows a) the house houses a portal to Hell and b) the car accident is no accident. Crispy Roger Cobb dies in a burn ward; his wife grieves and worries about their daughter’s ruined stems. Most unexpected: Mrs. Cobb inherits the house and won’t sell “You don’t want that it’s broken” Al the plumber’s weak heart: no foul ooze here—he washes his hands at the kitchen sink and

I long to use that sink myself, to be in that kitchen. I write in the fog on the mirror.

The Great Spirit orders pizza. “Don’t forget to eat your favorite pizza, man.” Mrs. Cobb don’t eat anything with a face on it, but grinds the pie in the disposal’s teeth after the pizza serenades and bites the hand it feeds.

Films about houses are home movies.

Two goons face off, faces transformed by The Great Spirit / Satan. Goon one faces a fly; goon two a lizard. This portal to hell is a manhole cover. The goons shoot, burdened by their oversized heads. Only The Great Spirit knows what’s so important about the house. The Cobb family yard sale slows time: two little girls with a jump rope skip so slow the rope goes.

Larry’s wife asks, “Larry, what are you fooling around with that piece of junk for?”
To which he replies, “Piece of junk? This is just like the one my dad used to have.”
His wife is not convinced. “It’s really ugly.”
Impatience shades Larry’s face. “Look, I’ve got all these home movies and I think it would be great if I could get this running.” He asks Mrs. Cobb “How much is it?”
Mrs. Cobb has home movies too. “You don’t want that. It’s broken.”
Larry wants to buy it, if only to annoy his wife. “No, I’m real good with my hands. I can fix it.”
“It’s not for sale,” Mrs. Cobb says, clutching the old projector.
He growls. You promised to solve my toxic waste problem. He says, “Fine. Fine. Fine.” Larry and his wife head for their car, and for an exasperating argument, resolved over an adequate meal. Later, they will watch a movie on Betamax.


While Mrs. Cobb will watch herself and her husband watch their daughter walk projected on a white sheet that haunts her house.