A couple of bits of news from opposite ends of the literary spectrum this week.
My poem “A Curtain of Stars” is being reprinted in Artemis Journal, a beautiful Southwest Virginia literary magazine that’s being revived after more than a decade of dormancy. Like many of my poems, “Curtain of Stars” is actually quite literal — it was inspired by the starchart-covered curtains Anita sewed for my office.
It’s one of the most wholesome poems I’ve written, and it’s one of those pieces that’s become something akin to an old friend. The only mainstream poetry review I’ve ever gotten reflected on it kindly, I’ve performed a version of it for The Best of No Shame Theatre here in Roanoke, and I included it in two of my poetry collections, Strange Wisdoms of the Dead and The Journey to Kailash (though it won’t be in the forthcoming Hungry Constellations.)
I’m tickled that this poem will reach a new audience inside a book of coffee table quality, and I’m especially thrilled to be sharing space with Nikki Giovanni — the issue’s featured poet.
On the dark side of the world, the third issue of weird horror zine [Nameless] has just been released, and it contains my short, extremely strange horror monologue “Monster,” perhaps one of the least wholesome things I’ve ever written. The story’s title refers to the phenomenon once known as mathematical “monsters”: curves of infinite length that exist within a finite space. We know them now as fractals, and they come into play in the course of a police interrogation gone horribly wrong. I’m grateful (and I confess somewhat astonished) that I actually found a pro-rate paying home for this hybrid monstrosity.
This monster isn’t done — at present Anita and I have planned for this piece to be the closer in my forthcoming short story collection Unseaming, which I’ll be hawking at World Fantasy in November. Brace yourself, as you’ll be hearing a lot more about that down the road. But I’m not quite ready to go into detail yet….
A couple of bits of news from opposite ends of the literary spectrum this week.
This is actually old news, but it’s taken me quite a while to get around to making a note of it, so please forgive. The Ian Whates-edited anthology Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, which contains my far future sf story “Still Life With Skull,” is one of seven finalists for the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award “for distinguished science fiction published in paperback.”
Though I’ll confess that I’ve lapsed into dirty-minded juvenile puns every time I’ve mentioned this award in conversation … it’s still an honor to be nominated (or to be 1/20th of a nominee, as Martin McGrath cleverly put it.) Wishing Ian all the luck when the winner is announced April 18.
Strange Horizons today released an all-poetry issue, complete with an extensive two part podcast, and I’m honored that my new poem “The Paper Boy” — the only new poem I produced last year — gets to be part of it. (You can read it here.)
Prompted by my buddy Dominik Parisien, this is a poem distilled from years covering the crime beat. I’ll share a secret: the epigraph is my own invention, and it has connections to a short story I’ve written that’s yet to be published and a new novel I’ve started. You can hear me read the poem in part two of the podcast.
The issue also contains a review of Mythic Delirium 30, the final bow of my zine in its old school print format. (The new school electronic version has been up and running for almost a year now.) It’s not a flattering review, though a few of the poems, especially those by Sonya Taaffe, Amal El-Mohtar and Jennifer Crow, receive high praise.
Obviously, I’m disappointed to see our joyful retrospective met with a sour note. (Anita’s response: “Phhtthb! We rock!” And we do.) However, there’s a really important, perhaps too-easily-missed silver lining to this that I want to shine a little light on (paraphrasing my own Facebook comment):
One of the biggest problems the speculative poetry field has is a dearth of real feedback. Either reviewers just ignore poems, or the reviews that appear, usually written by poets, are soft underhand pitches, because everybody knows everyone else. I’ve said more than once that sf poetry needs a Lois Tilton; someone willing to open fire with a critic’s full force. Well, here’s an example of what that would look like — and Strange Horizons thought Mythic Delirium‘s final bow worthy of that level of scrutiny. So if a step in the right direction means taking one for the team, then I can live with it.
Anita and I will be on all kinds of panels and workshops at the upcoming MystiCon convention right here in Roanoke. I’ll be reading from my novel The Black Fire Concerto and Anita and I together will be talking about Clockwork Phoenix and anthologies in general, and Anita, it seems, will be sharing her costuming know-how just about everywhere. Here’s what our schedules look like:
Friday, Feb. 21
4 p.m. Anita. Two hour costume workshop.
7 p.m. Anita. Panel: You Wear It Well: Owning the Costume.
9 p.m. Mike. Kaffeeklatch/reading from novel The Black Fire Concerto.
Saturday, Feb. 22
10 a.m. Mike. Writer’s workshop.
10 a.m. Anita. Panel: Costume fusion.
11 a.m. Anita. Editor’s panel: “If you spell ‘cheif’ like that one more time…”
1 p.m. Anita. Panel: Beyond The Paintbrush: Non Traditional Mediums of Artistic Expression
2 p.m. Mike (moderator.) Panel: Kickstarting your project.
3 p.m. Anita. Panel: Costuming: Form, Function, and Fantasy
3 p.m. Mike. Autograph signing.
Sunday, Feb. 23
10 a.m. Mike. Writer’s workshop.
10 a.m. Anita. Panel: Steampunk Costuming.
1 p.m. Anita. Panel: The Real Dr. Venkman
2 p.m. Anita & Mike (moderator.) Panel: The Role of Anthologies
The Tales to Terrify horror fiction podcast has returned after a two week hiatus (while host Larry Santoro took care of some pressing deadlines.) The new episode contains my first “Tour of the Abattoir” audio column of 2014, in which I talk about horror music, specifically Black Sabbath’s classic catalog and the most recent release by Ghost — which have so far provided the soundtrack to my drafting of The Ghoulmaker’s Aria, the sequel to The Black Fire Concerto. (And Larry offers his own, utterly erroneous, opinion on the value of metal, heh, heh.)
You can listen to the episode, which features fiction by Scott Nicholson, here.
My brief, strange short story “The Lead Between the Panes” has just appeared at the new online fiction and poetry zine Lakeside Circus. My story falls somewhere between an M.R. James pastiche, a dark meditation on life’s cruelties, and a tone poem. (EDIT LONG AFTER THE FACT: In hindsight, I was going for the sort of thing Robert Aickman did.)
I first got the idea for it after visiting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and noticing a curious trick of light and reflection that made a stained glass window appear to float disembodied above an atrium. A conversation with my wife about why the fat spiders clustered around our porch light kept disappearing also factored in.
The story also contains a Tuckerized shout out to our buddy Paul Muse. Luckily he doesn’t mind having his name associated with evil, heh, heh.
You can read the story here. Check out the rest of the issue too, there’s a lot of cool people involved.
Last year this time I was ill and bedridden. This year, I’m simply inconvenienced thanks to a kaput computer. I consider this a step up.
In fact I was so sick at this time in 2012 that my year-end summary didn’t turn up until mid-January. At least 2013 lets me be a bit more on the ball.
My 2013 writing, editing and publishing adventures amounted to a kind of small press triathlon, all intertwined, all the culmination of groundwork laid in 2012.
First — maybe biggest in the long run? — my first novel came out, a dark fantasy titled The Black Fire Concerto. This novel’s appearance resulted from some cool and sometimes nerve-wracking small press strangeness — after spending five years writing my first novel (which remains unpublished) I was among those solicited to contribute to a line of books from the folks behind Black Gate Magazine … and as it turned out, my book, written and rewritten in five months, was the only one to actually make it to print. No pillars shook at my novel’s arrival, but I had two fun launch parties, got some nice reviews, and also demands for a sequel, which I’m two thirds of the way through writing, because why not?
Part one of the novel, “The Red Empress,” was published in full at the Haunted Stars website and also as a podcast on Tales to Terrify read by C.S.E. Cooney. The beginning of part two, “Bone Mosaics,” has been a popular read at Black Gate.
Second, at more or less the same time as the novel, my newest anthology, Clockwork Phoenix 4, came out, published by … me! This was the culmination of last year’s giant Kickstarter, and it was refreshing, sobering, and incredibly demanding of my time, to be in charge of every aspect of the book’s fate. (Last year this time I was on the verge of picking the final lineup for the anthology when the flu or whatever the heck it was flattened me.) Clockwork Phoenix 4 has gotten a ton of laudatory reviews (with one sour note sounded by Publishers Weekly, heh) and I don’t think it’s done yet. There’ll be more good news to come.
Third, and heavily linked to item two, I launched the Mach 2 version of Mythic Delirium, funded in part by last year’s Kickstarter and the rest of the way by a second Kickstarter held this past summer. This new format is still finding its sea legs, but I’m ever grateful to the community support that’s made this possible.
By the way, never say never, but I’ve sworn off Kickstarter for at least the next year. Heck, I’ve still got rewards to produce for the first two (they had some overlapping prizes, natch) that won’t be out until at least late spring 2014.
I’d say that I didn’t have much of my own writing published this year … except, you know, novel. I had two new short stories appear, fairly par for the course in that department, both written in response to invitations.
“Still Life With Skull,” in Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, is a sideways sequel to last year’s “Twa Sisters,” set in the same far future world. Like the first story, it made Rich Horton’s monthly recommended reading list in Locus.
“The Helping Hand: A Ghost Story” was written for my employer, The Roanoke Times, and picked up by the McClatchy-Tribune wire service (!) — it’s a spooky little piece of Halloween entertainment that had readers calling me to tell me about their own ghostly encounters.
Now here’s a big difference from years past — only two poems of mine appeared in 2013.
“Darksein the Diabolic Plots His Comeback from Beyond the Grave” is a goofy bit of doggerel that I was delighted to contribute to Michael Damian Thomas and Shira Lipkin’s Flying Higher: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry.
“Hungry Constellations,” the longest poem I’ve ever written, and one I’m extremely proud of, had the honor of being the autumn feature presentation at Goblin Fruit. It will also be the title piece of my forthcoming poetry collection (which is one of those Kickstarter rewards I need to deliver.)
Last but not least, I managed to record nine “Tour of the Abattoir” columns for the Tales to Terrify podcast this past year, some with help from buddy in horror Shalon Hurlbert. (It’s supposed to be monthly. I was close!) At least I already know what my January column will be about.
Much unfinished business in the air. Onward to 2014!
The week before Christmas, a power surge took out my computer and our stove. The night of Christmas Eve, I learned that once again the excerpt from my novel The Black Fire Concerto was the most read story at Black Gate Magazine — Olyssa and Erzelle and their friends and enemies claimed the top spot back in October, and have held their ground through November.
Does the one counterbalance the other? Well, not really, but you take the small victories where you can get them, hee.
One way that the news was encouraging — while I wait for my replacement machine, I’ve been hogging Anita’s computer in order to make progress on the sequel to Black Fire Concerto, working title The Ghoulmaker’s Aria. As of this afternoon I’m 53,000 words into the new adventure. In another version of this reality I’ve had to spend my Christmas vacation retyping the first 25,000 words instead of adding 28,000 more — so we’ll call that a small victory too.
By the way, the release of Mythic Delirium 0.3 remains on schedule; or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s not yet off schedule, heh. Stay tuned.
I’m thrilled to be able to show off Paula Friedlander’s amazing cover art for my next poetry collection, Hungry Constellations.
This collection originates with the Mythic Delirium Kickstarter. None of my poetry collections are available in ebook form, so as incentive to make that happen I offered an omnibus poetry collection as one of the Kickstarter prizes…
…and in a fit of sobriety assessed that such a volume would not only be a nightmare to format, but be both massive and repetitive — and what I needed to be putting out was a good book, a fresh book, not an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink book.
So my thanks to Dominik Parisien as well for stepping in to serve as editor, whittling down almost 20 years of my work to a streamlined exhibition of 61 poems, old and new (one previously unpublished); beginning with “The Strip Search,” ending with “Hungry Constellations,” in between encapsulating a lot of the themes I keep coming back to, deliberately or not. (It was a really cool experience, seeing my work curated. Dom did a great job.)
Hungry Constellations will be available in trade paperback too. We’re shooting for March.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was delighted and pleasantly surprised to learn that the excerpt from my novel The Black Fire Concerto was October’s most read story at Black Gate Magazine.
Black Gate overlord John O’Neill told me the excerpt not only won the month among its peers, but achieved the highest ranking ever for a fiction post on the site (as far as he can recall.) Here in Small Press Land we celebrate the small victories, so I’m celebrating this one.
I’ve rather rashly begun work on a sequel — in no small part because those few and proud who’ve read the book and reported back to me all say they want one — working title The Ghoulmaker’s Aria. As of the end of November I’m over 15,000 words in and the path to the end is slowly coming into focus. We shall see what December holds.
I’ve also been working on putting together Mythic Delirium 0.3, though that’s a matter best reserved for the new Mythic Delirium site, where you can now read all the featured poems and stories from Mythic Delirium 0.2. Small Press Land is a busy place.