This weekend: Readercon. I’m so looking forward to seeing people there, as well as the folks we’ll visit as we’re on the way.
My schedule changed a little since I first posted it. (Post is updated to reflect that.) My autograph session now happens 8 p.m. Friday. I’ll also be taking part in the “Miscellany” variety show Saturday night, reciting a poem or two. (Imagine that!)
Anita and I will hold a two-book party Saturday night in our room, starting about 9-ish. It’s the official launch party for Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney, and we’ll also be celebrating my Shirley Jackson Award nomination for my lil collection of horror tales, Unseaming. (And then the winners get announced Sunday morning. No reason to be nervous at all! *g*) My reading takes place noon Sunday — um, right after the award ceremony! We’ll see how that works out…
Copies of Bone Swans and Unseaming will be available in the dealers room at the Small Beer Press table. (My thanks to Gavin Grant for allowing that to happen.)
If you’re gonna be there yourself, don’t be shy, come say Hi!
This weekend: Readercon. I’m so looking forward to seeing people there, as well as the folks we’ll visit as we’re on the way.
Last week I found out that my newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations, is a Suzette Haden Elgin Award nominee. This is a relatively new award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for best poetry collection, chosen by member vote.
I considered Suzette a friend and I’m glad SFPA took a step to honor her memory.
Hungry Constellations began as a reward offered through the Mythic Delirium Kickstarter in 2013. My gratitude goes out to Dominik Parisien, who sifted through 20 years of my verse to curate something extra special to present to the world. Thanks, too, to Amal El-Mohtar for an introduction that states pretty succinctly what my poetry is all about. And finally, thanks, to whichever SFPA member(s) nominated the book.
If you’re a SFPA member and you’d like an ebook copy to read (or heck, if you’re just someone who’d like a copy, it’s not like I’m going to perform a background check) feel free to email me a request at email@example.com. The book is available in PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats.
I want to note, too, that among the other nominees, John Philip Johnson’s comic-book-in-verse Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town is a truly amazing, original creation, and I would love to see it win in its category.
Editor Rhonda Parrish has shared the lovely and eerie cover for her forthcoming anthology Corvidae, which contains a new weird tale from yours truly, “The Cruelest Team Will Win.” (It’s a sequel, of sorts, to “The Hiker’s Tale” in Unseaming. The corvidae family, of course, encompasses crows, ravens and magpies, but I based my dark fantasy tale on bluejays. And spiders. Both comprise cruel teams.)
The anthology debuts July 7! The full list of contributors other than me: Jane Yolen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol.
My kooky career path has led me to a place where two major aspects of my life have overlapped unexpectedly: speculative poetry and Rammstein fandom.
Horror house Raw Dog Screaming Press has published an English translation of Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann’s second poetry collection, On Quiet Nights (now available everywhere). Raw Dog commander-in-chief Jennifer Barnes asked me if I’d consider writing a blurb for the collection, and I was more than happy to! (After all, my wife and I paid to see the man set his keyboardist on fire and ride a giant, um, pink cannon that spewed white foam (ahem!) all over the front rows…)
It’s a handsome volume, with more than a little bit of the twistedness contained inside evident at first glance. (The same could be said of Till himself.)
Here’s the full text of my take on the book:
“Wry and rude, disturbing and droll, schneidend und schonungslos, Till Lindemann’s On Quiet Nights is no tome of quiet reflections. Admirers of the Rammstein frontman’s cynically humorous and gleefully raunchy lyrics will find those qualities in concentrate in these verses drawn straight from his darkly playful id. Lindemann pours blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluids into these lines, his yarns of lust, abuse and heartbreak brought to life by Matthias Matthies’s equally twisted illustrations. And yet, ever the trickster, Lindemann sows moments of beauty through the flood of sins, surprise gems like ‘So beautiful’ and ‘Silhouettes’ ensuring readers will never be able to predict what the next page brings.”
—Mike Allen, author of Hungry Constellations, three-time Rhysling Award winner
(My thanks to Shveta Thakrar for assistance with the German phrasing.)
I believe in truth in advertising, so I can offer an even quicker way to evaluate Lindemann’s poetry. Watch the following video (N!S!F!W!), from Lindemann’s first solo project, Skills in Pills. If you savor its over-the-top gross-outs, deeply disturbing imagery and singularity-black humor, you should buy the book right now. If you find the video too repellant to watch all the way through … maybe Till’s poetry won’t be up your alley.
So I have my final Readercon schedule and it’s pretty awesome (I am going to be one busy, busy tiger) though it doesn’t cover things like the dual-book party Anita and I will throw to celebrate the launch of Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney and my Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Unseaming. And we’ll be doing even more stuff, I’m sure! But check it out, what’s there is already plenty enough to keep me on the go:
Friday July 11
4:00 PM CO Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney (leader), Eileen Gunn, Malinda Lo, Michael Swanwick. The speculative community is full of collaboration: writers who write a story together, musicians who work with writers to create incredible performances and multimedia experiences, artists who work with writers both to illustrate and to create original works. Our panelists will discuss their experiences with the benefits and challenges of collaboration. How many people can collaborate on a project before it becomes unwieldy? How do methods of communication, issues of dividing payment, and other practical considerations influence collaborative artistry?
8:00 PM E Autographs. Mike Allen, Cecilia Tan.
Saturday July 12
10:00 AM F Successfully Writing About Horrible Things. Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), Mary Rickert, Patty Templeton. If you’re not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who’s been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that’s lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters’ suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?
2:00 PM IN Speculative Poetry Open Mic. Mike Allen (leader). Speculative poetry covers a broad range of forms and topics. Creators and fans of speculative poetry are invited to come to this open mic and perform their favorite works. Sign up at the info desk.
3:00 PM ENL Interstitial Arts Foundation Town Hall. Mike Allen, Tempest Bradford, Sarah Smith, Emily Wagner. The IAF is a group of “Artists Without Borders” who celebrate art that is made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures. The IAF provides border-crossing artists and art scholars a forum and a focus for their efforts. Rather than creating a new genre with new borders, they support the free movement of artists across the borders of their choice. They support the development of a new vocabulary with which to view and critique border-crossing works, and they celebrate the large community of interstitial artists working in North America and around the world. The annual Interstitial Arts Foundation Town Meeting at Readercon is an exciting opportunity to catch up with the IAF and its many supporters, hear about what they’re doing to support the interstitial art community in 2015, offer ideas for future projects, and contribute your voice to the development of interstitial art.
Sunday July 13
10:00 AM CO Ghostbusting Lovecraft. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, John Langan, Adam Lipkin, James Morrow. In Max Gladstone’s blog post “Ghostbusting Lovecraft,” he writes: “Ghostbusters is obviously taking the piss out of horror in general. But while the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist–cum–art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian.” Unlike typical Lovecraftian protagonists, however, the Ghostbusters prevail over the eldritch horrors by exploiting the power structures and emotional connections that exist between people. Is the Ghostbusters story arc an alternative to the standard horror tropes, one that replaces fear with humor, defiance, and camaraderie? How else does it subvert our expectations of the conflict between humans and horrors?
11:00 AM F The Shirley Jackson Awards. Mike Allen, John Chu, Ellen Datlow, Daryl Gregory, Nicola Griffith, Gary K. Wolfe. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916–1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2014 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
12:00 PM EM Reading: Mike Allen. Mike Allen. Mike Allen reads selections from his Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story collection Unseaming.
I’ve got two promotions going on simultaneously to tell all y’all about:
Promotion one: My Shirley Jackson Award-nominated horror story collection Unseaming is the featured book today at Kindle Books and Tips. Coinciding with this, the ebook is available on Kindle, discounted from $5.99 to 99¢, till Tuesday. Check out the promotion here: http://wp.me/p2b82w-70x
Promotion two: There’s just six days left to sign up for a chance to win one of the remaining ARCs of C.S.E. Cooney’s debut fantasy collection Bone Swans. Check out the Goodreads giveaway here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/142353
We, as in Anita and I and Claire, will have paperback copies of both books to sell, sign and read from at Readercon, which is less than three weeks away now!
Even before the release of Unseaming last October, folks were expressing to me their enthusiasm for (or terror of, or repulsion by, or some combination thereof) horror photographer Danielle Tunstall’s arresting cover image. The buzz only grew once the book came out.
(Fact is, though I don’t think I could ever have dreamed up a better piece of art to match “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker,” the stories that form the core of my collection, once I knew Danielle’s piece would be the book’s cover I also knew that the original title, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, would never do. The title had to enhance, not undermine, that image. Thus came Unseaming.)
This is why the delightful shock that Danielle’s cover for Unseaming is a finalist for the 2015 Chesley Award for best paperback cover just goes to show that sometimes great work from someone outside the system does indeed get the recognition it deserves. The Chesley Awards are given each year at WorldCon by the members of the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists, making them the illustrators’ equivalent of the Nebula Awards. Danielle is not a member; frankly, was unfamiliar with the group and the award prior to the announcement yesterday.
I had the pleasure of breaking the news to her yesterday afternoon (evening where she lives.) She reports that her daughter Estelle (seen here on the cover of Mythic Delirium 0.1) is suitably impressed.
In celebration, Danielle is offering new prints of her award-nominated cover art for sale on eBay. Please do check that out here.
There’s a fascinating story behind this image. The model for the cover, Alexandra Johnson, was a fan of Danielle’s who won a free photo shoot. Their meeting evolved into a full-blown collaboration once they began to work together. You can see a number of the photographs Danielle has taken of Alex here.
Alexandra, a brave model, has scoliosis. She and Danielle worked together on a series of images depicting the condition’s psychological toll, which is where the photograph that became my book cover came from. I’m pleased that they’ve continued to work together, because there’s clearly a gleefully sinister synergy between them.
And I couldn’t be prouder that the series ends (at least in Danielle’s blog entry) with an image of the Unseaming cover.
Finally, my thanks, once again, to Elizabeth Campbell of Antimatter Press, who made all of this possible.
Erzebet YellowBoy Carr of Papaveria Press has taken my most relentless horror story and shaped it into something beautiful. The Quiltmaker is available now in a very limited edition, a hand-bound hardcover with stunning cover art from Paula Arwen Owen.
I’ve long admired Erzebet’s beautiful handmade books, and I’m supremely honored to at last have one of my own. Only 18 of these were made, and only 13 are still available. (One copy is going to lucky Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter backer Tricia Murray as a giveaway prize.)
They’re $25 plus shipping, which is an absolute steal. You can buy them directly from Erzebet here.
Here’s a shot from Erzebet of the books when they were in progress:
And here’s a much less accomplished photograph of the book here in Roanoke:
But how big are they, really?
As an added bit of fun, the poetic blurb we came up with for the book:
A troubled son returned, consumed by an evil beyond human ken.
That will seek what his neighbors keep concealed, not just behind their doors, but inside their skins.
A force that will peel them open, and stitch them all together again.
A nice surprise at the end of an arduous if triumphant May: my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated horror story collection Unseaming earned some kind words in the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction from reviewer Paul di Filippo:
“Representing sixteen years of prose output from a fellow better known for his poetry and editing skills, these stories nonetheless show a writer with a natural facility for offbeat, gruesome conceits and expert delivery. Take a story like ‘The Blessed Days,’ which shows a future Earth where everyone exhibits copious bloody stigmata while they sleep. Such a notion is hard to reify plausibly, much less explain, but Allen does both. Then there’s ‘The Music of Bremen Farm,’ which takes a familiar folk tale and puts a creepy modern spin on it. Finally, ‘The Quiltmaker’ picks up where Allen’s Nebula-nominated ‘The Button Bin’ left off, giving us familial horrors encapsulated in unforgettable visuals.”
My thanks to Simon Strantzas for tipping me off. Paul also had kind words for his new collection Burnt Black Suns, also a Shirley Jackson finalist, also featuring an introduction by Laird Barron!
No rest for the wicked here. Anita and I are gearing up for Readercon, where we’ll be celebrating my Shirley Jackson nomination (and finding out who actually wins), and launching Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney, the first single-author story collection from Mythic Delirium. Plus, the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter made it goal (Yes! Whew!) and the book is now open to submissions.
So this was always the plan—
Well, the idea that my short story collection Unseaming would be one of the rewards in a Kickstarter campaign for Clockwork Phoenix 5, that has been my plan for quite some time. Most every publishing project I tackled in 2014, I had in the back of my mind (or even the front of my mind) the notion that it would double as a Kickstarter prize.
What I didn’t plan for: the way Unseaming picked up a momentum all its own. Selling over 3,000 copies so far (mostly on Kindle, where, by the way, it’s still available at 99 cents through the end of the day, that wasn’t planned either), picking up starred reviews, and now, my Creepy Book That Could is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
Talk about an honor. Especially when I look at the fellow finalists in my category: Helen Marshall, Simon Strantzas, Robert Shearman, Stephen Graham Jones. I’ve read or am reading three of the four books, and they’re all terrific. It’s fortuitous that Anita and I were already planning to go to Readercon in July, where the winners get announced. I’ll be in great company.
I want to thank the judges for liking the book enough to include it on that wonderful list; my publisher, Elizabeth Campbell, for making all of this possible; and all the folks who’ve helped along the way.
Something I did plan: the Clockwork Phoenix 5 campaign is floating toward the $3,500 mark (there’s quite a ways to go still, with 20 days to go as of this writing). When we hit that mark I plan to give away at least one (likely more) signed trade paperback copies of Unseaming (via names drawn from a hat) to my Kickstarter backers. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them!
What a week, what a month, what a year.