The latest edition of Tales to Terrify contains a new “Tour of the Abattoir” column from me, in which I discuss why I’m not a Scott Sigler junkie. And I’ve been so swamped these past couple months that I completely neglected in this space to mention the previous column, in which Shalon Hurlbert and I examine Evil Dead. #SFWApro
Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
I’m still too busy for my own good — in other words, nothing new under the sun. The writing life isn’t the only reason why I’m busy … but it’s reason enough!
So all but a handful of the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter rewards have gone out, and that remaining handful is earmarked for folks to whom I’ll be handing their bounty to in person. So now it’s time to finally get this book published, right?
Well, yes, but it’s not quite so simple as that. The final stretch goal of the Kickstarter provided funding for a year of a new webzine for fiction and poetry, and afterward I decided to transform Mythic Delirium into that new zine. And it’s coming up on time for that new zine to launch, which means, as I’d suspected it would, a month-long scramble before July 1.
It also means that I’m getting ready to launch another Kickstarter. Those of you with Kickstarter fatigue, I can hear your groans from here. I believe though that this is the sensible thing to do — the new Mythic Delirium needs a subscription drive to last past next June, and Kickstarter has been proven again and again to be about the only effective tool a small press guy like me can turn to these days. So there’s that! More about this very soon, you betcha.
It’s been comforting as I’ve plunged into this to see Clockwork Phoenix 4 continue its accumulation of accolades. The self-described “snarky redhead” behind the Little Red Reviewer blog has penned a review of Clockwork Phoenix 4 that’s the opposite of snarky. She writes:
What kind of stories will you find in Clockwork Phoenix 4? Only those that are magical, imaginative, heart-wrenching, just plain bizarre, forward-looking, backward-looking, biological, romantic, hopeful, darkly funny and openly frightening. All the words that describe the best speculative fiction you’ve ever read apply. In fact, if this isn’t the epitome of speculative fiction, I don’t know what is.
The review goes on to highlight stories by Patricia Russo, Richard Parks, Ian McHugh, Gemma Files, Marie Brennan, Corinne Duyvis and Benjanun Sriduangkaew.
A little closer to (my) home, a Roanoke business journal, Valley Business Front, has printed (print!) a review of Clockwork Phoenix 4 by Heather Brush (another redhead, for what it’s worth) that’s much shorter but just about as enthusiastic.
This anthology defies genre, offering bits and pieces of sci-fi, horror, paranormal and more, while a vein of plain creepy runs throughout. … Eighteen times the anthology offers a drink to appease the thirst of wanton readers, succinctly and precisely.
This shorter review gives special props to A.C. Wise’s “Lesser Creek: A Love Story, a Ghost Story.”
In the meantime, the single special edition of Clockwork Phoenix 4 that’s supposed to be signed by all the authors has been traveling back and forth across the U.S.
Here it is when Anita and I first unveiled it to its owner back in April, in the special padded case Anita made for it to travel in.
And here it is at Alisa Alering’s pad a couple weeks ago. #SFWApro
If all goes according to plan, it will come back home to me after visiting one more author (five in all), and then Anita and I will bring it with us to ReaderCon, where seven more contributors will sign it. And then it gets to travel internationally. Good luck, little book.
Funny how when I haven’t blogged in a while, I get worried. Yet I’ve just been flat out too busy to do it. Reason #1 pictured below.
For two weeks straight (maybe longer?) I’ve been mailing out the rewards for the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter, most of which are simply copies of the book itself, which exists, as you can see. It’s been wild raising and then spending so much money and distributing 100s of copies of a book that technically isn’t published yet. The official launch still takes place at ReaderCon, where seven of the authors — Gemma Files, Barbara Krasnoff, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Shira Lipkin, Yves Meynard, Ken Schneyer and A.C. Wise — will join me (hopefully!) in christening ye book!
(BTW, if you can’t wait to get one, and want to give a beleagured publisher a little boost, there is a way. The preorder buttons at clockworkphoenix.com are still live and kicking.)
I’ve been sending out other rewards, too. Here’s the special Cherie Priest chapbook (all copies signed by Cherie herself) that was created exclusively for the Kickstarter.
It looks like I may end up with a few left over. I’m going to have to figure out what to do with them…
In the meantime, advance reviews of Clockwork Phoenix 4 continued to come out, but I’ve been too busy to post links.
The fantasy and fairy tale webzine Cabinet des Fées says:
What makes this fourth edition so special is that it belongs to an impassioned community of writers and readers who went above and beyond to make it happen. … All eighteen [stories] have the power to pull the reader out of his own reality and transport or transform them entirely.
Here in my hometown, blogger Dusty Wallace of Dusty on Movies gives the book a thorough-going over, story by story:
Clockwork Phoenix 4 takes the reader on a journey through the outer reaches of imagination.
And a briefer summation at the book’s entry at GoodReads.
The cover promises “tales of beauty and strangeness” and by god it delivers. This is a collection of stories to boggle the mind and exercise the imagination. A must read for fans of weird speculative fiction.
And to be fair, Publishers Weekly has also reviewed the book, though the reviewer apparently was not as enthusiastic as whomever reviewed the first three volumes for that publication. Though I suppose the odds of four raves in a row were pretty slim. On the other hand, the fact that PW acknowledged this Kickstarted and self-published book is a bit of a triumph in its own way.
And there’s material to work with:
Yves Meynard’s “Our Lady of the Thylacines” is a tale of a young woman embracing her adrenalin-filled destiny. Alisa Alering’s “The Wanderer King” depicts a society collapsed into mutual extermination, and Barbara Krasnoff’s “The History of Soul 2065” manages to find a happy face for encroaching mortality. Of particular note is Gemma Files’s “Trap-Weed”; in its way the mirror image of the Meynard, it follows a Selkie determined to reject both the ways of its people and those of the humans it encounters.
Writer and poet Francesca Forrest, who took on the daunting tasking of proofreading the soon-to-be-finalized (VERY soon!) manuscript of my Clockwork Phoenix 4 anthology, brazenly took to the Internet to share how much she liked what she had just read. I’m pleased to point people at her “partisan review” (click to read in full):
Clockwork Phoenix 4 is nearly out, and oh my goodness, the stories. There’s not a single bad one, and there are some amazing gems. I know whereof I speak; as the anthology’s proofreader, I read each one very carefully. (I apologize in advance if any typos got by me!) So, this is not a disinterested review, it’s a partisan recommendation.
And in the meantime, a delightful surprise — Starburst Magazine has published an extremely enthusiastic review of the Ian Whates anthology Solaris Rising 2 that highlights my contribution:
It’s difficult to pick out a ‘best’ story when all possess such quality, but there are two that leave the greatest impression. Of all the stories, Mike Allen’s Still Life with Skull is arguably the least human, yet it contains much emotion and some of the strangest — and therefore attention-grabbing — imagery I’ve ever read.
It’s always nice to be reminded that I’m a creator myself, not just someone who artfully showcases the creations of others. Though I try my best at both.
Pandora continues her publicist duties.
The newest preview/review of Clockwork Phoenix 4 popped up this week, this time from Tangent Online. (No one seems to want to wait till June — thank goodness the buzz is so good so far.)
Here’s the crux of it:
This 4th volume of Clockwork Phoenix contains an excellent diversity of speculative fiction ranging from cold and hopeless to harsh but victorious and warm and fulfilling. It was a pleasure to read.
Reviewer Louis West has kind words for almost all the stories — I’m not sure if there’s a system here, but I count three stories as “highly recommended,” four stories as “definitely recommended,” four stories as “recommended,” one “simple but profound,” one “thought-provoking” and one “poignant and compelling.” We’ll take it, yes we will.
Since reviewers aren’t waiting to share their opinions, I’ve made the book available for pre-order in e-book and trade paperback form for anyone who isn’t already getting a copy through Kickstarter. (The Kickstarter folks will get their copies first, of course.)
The official Clockwork Phoenix 4 publication date is still three months off — though I’ve made the anthology available for pre-order through my Mythic Delirium account, see below — and the second review just came in, from writer, poet and book blogger Bonnie Joe Stufflebeam.
At her Short Story Review blog, she has this to say:
This volume contains eighteen original stories which can only be classified as speculative; most of them blur or even reject genre lines altogether. The common thread which runs through these stories is a sense of unsettling strangeness. There were several moments when reading that I felt physically altered, only to realize that it was the story and not my body which was causing the queasy feeling in my gut.
That is not to say that these stories are not enjoyable; they are, in a discombobulating, shiver-inducing kind of way. And there were several of the tales which left me thinking on them long after I had finished reading.
I raise my glass in a toast and drink to that!
She highlights the short stories by Richard Parks, Yukimi Ogawa, A.C. Wise, Alisa Alering, Corrine Duyvis, Kenneth Schneyer, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Barbara Krasnoff. (Congrats to those writers!)
It’s fascinating to me to compare Bonnie’s take to Lois Tilton’s. (Click here to see the antho’s first review.) Both reviewers agreed on a handful of points, varied wildly on most everything else, but had nice things to say about the book overall.
I’m going to take this as a good sign.
And, in case this tempts you to reserve a copy:
My thanks to William D. “Dusty” Wallace (known here in Roanoke as the man behind the Dusty on Movies blog) who checked out my three short stories available on Amazon as e-books and wrote a review for each one. Generously, all are five-star.
I share snippets from each:
She Who Runs
For a short story this feels big. The main events are influenced by ages of cosmic unrest that came before and the story progresses eons into the future. In context it’s awe-inspiring and never seems like it’s cutting corners to maintain its status as a short story.
Sleepless, Burning Life
This story portrays a tangible creation myth that’s inhabited by headless men, mechanical objects and lesbian goddesses. Personally, I’m ready to attend mass at that cathedral … Beautifully written, erotic, imaginative and with a host of alternate endings built in.
This is really about a detective who can’t cope with the murder of his beloved and ends up flying off the rails in a selfish attempt to right the wrong. By the end of the story the author is working in a realm of pure imagination but it never gets confusing. This is a winner that you’ll read to the end in one sitting.
I’m still asking myself this.
In terms of writing, editing and publishing, this was easily my biggest year since 2009 (when I was up for the Nebula for “The Button Bin” and had released the 10th anniversary issue of Mythic Delirium and the second volume of Clockwork Phoenix.) But it’s such a big year for some pretty off-beat reasons.
My brain definitely divides 2012 into pre- and post-Kickstarter. I can barely remember what happened before I launched the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter in July — though a lot of things did.
But, might as well deal with the biggest thing first. After months of talking about it, I decided to use Kickstarter to revive the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. Anita helped come up with reward prizes; we asked for $5,000 and raised $10,000. So Clockwork Phoenix 4 will be coming out in time for ReaderCon 2013. I should be able to make an announcement really soon about the book’s table of contents. There’s a lot of moving parts to the Kickstarter; it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever tackled. I expect to be assembling a much more detailed update about where things stand with all those moving parts at the same time I announce the Table of Contents, so I’m going to save those particulars until then. I will say it’s exhilarating to have Clockwork Phoenix back by undeniable popular demand. Thanks again to all who supported this, whether you’re a backer, a behind-the-scenes brainstormer, or one of those who added to the 1,400-strong pile of stories I had to choose from to make this book reality (or all three!)
The other project that consumed huge chunks of my year is even more experimental. I wrote my second novel, The Black Fire Concerto, specifically to be published as an e-book by the folks behind Black Gate Magazine. There were plans to release it before Christmas, but I had suspicions that this was perhaps too optimistic a timetable, and that proved true. At present the plan is for the novel to launch under an imprint called Haunted Star; we’re now on a search for cover art. I’ve at least learned that I can write an entire novel (70,000 words in this case) and redraft it on short notice; I don’t recommend duplicating the pace I set for myself, but I hope to be reapplying this skill in moderation in the new year.
Short-fiction-wise, I had two new tales appear, the dark fantasy “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade” at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #93 and a bizarre sf piece, “Twa Sisters,” in Not One of Us #47. “Twa Sisters” made the June 2012 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List.
Something I’m about equally proud of is that I wrote a companion piece to “Twa Sisters,” its weirdness only slightly toned down, called “Still Life With Skull,” that’s going to appear this coming spring in Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates.
I’m not sure if this counts as a short story, but I had an odd little microfiction-thingie called “Coelcanzetl” appear on the Shared Worlds website as part of a marvelous text-and-visual ensemble piece.
I also had a few stories reprinted. My weird apocalyptic tale “Let There Be Darkness” was adapted to audio by Pseuedopod. Another odd apocalyptic story, “Strange Wisdoms of the Dead,” co-written with my buddy Charles M. Saplak, reappeared in Ocean Stories, edited by Angela Craig. And yet another offbeat sf story, “Dee-Dee and the Dumpy Dancers,” this one co-written with buddy Ian Watson, popped up in Ian’s new collection, Saving for a Sunny Day. The story was accurately described in The Guardian as as a “bizarre vision … featuring aerial ballet and alien turkeys.”
Last but hardly least I sold my first short fiction collection, The Button Bin and Other Stories, to Apex Books, then wound up parting ways with Apex, and resold the collection to upstart newcomers Dagan Books. I’m very hopeful, and very excited, about the upcoming release of this book, for a number of reasons — generally, I’m hopeful that the collection will help people perhaps at last grasp that there’s more to me than “editor and poet”; and specifically, the collection holds “The Quiltmaker,” the direct sequel to “The Button Bin” — and though at least some of the few and proud who’ve read “Quiltmaker” have told me it’s my best work, it has yet to see daylight. (Such is the novella curse.) It also holds “Condolences,” a really dark, very personal horror story written after my father’s death.
Though I would like it to stick in folks’ long-term memories that I write things besides poems … well, I wrote poems too! And had a number of them published, though not at the prolific pace of past, um, decades. Here’s that list:
• “Budding,” Phantasmagorium 2, Jan. 2012
• “Carrington’s Ferry,” Strange Horizons Jan. 23, 2012
• “A Prayer,” Fandom Forever 1, March 2012
• “Kandinsky’s Galaxy,” Strange Horizons, April 9, 2012
• “Surcease,” Inkscawl 3, April 2012
• “The Duelists,” Star*Line 35.3, July-Sept. 2012
• “The Vigil,” Goblin Fruit, Issue 27, Autumn 2012
• “Machine Guns Loaded with Pomegranate Seeds,” Strange Horizons, Nov. 19, 2012
I had a number of poems reprinted as well, though it feels excessive to list them all here.
As for the poetry journal I edit, Mythic Delirium, I’m proud to crow that this past summer Shira Lipkin’s prose poem “The Library, After” from Issue 24 won the 2012 Rhysling Award for short poem, becoming the fifth poem from our pages in the last 10 yeas to land a Rhysling Award. We published our usual two issues, #26 (which got a nice review at Tor.com) and the current one, #27, and our subscriber base got a boost thanks to the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter.
Because of the Kickstarter, there will be some big changes to Mythic Delirium in the coming months, but that’s also a topic for another post. So stay tuned on that front.
So a lot did happen in 2012, but what does it all mean? It means I still have a lot of work ahead of me in 2013, heh.
My “Tour of the Abattoir” audio column for Larry Santoro’s Tales to Terrify horror podcast skipped the month of September so that I could finish novel edits for The Black Fire Concerto, coming very soon as an e-book from the fine madmen at Black Gate.
But now “Tour” is back. In this installment I review Laird Barron’s slightly hard-to-find first novel The Light Is the Darkness as well as the recent theatrical release The Possession (with a little bit of snark tossed in for The Devil Inside, from earlier this year.) Then, in the “live” segment of the column, my buddy Shalon Hurlbert and I compare and contrast two films about zombie sieges at radio stations, Dead Air and Pontypool. It’s an “Abattoir” feast!
Let’s not forget the main fiction feature, “The Stuff of the Stars, Leaking” by Tim Lebbon. And if you’re a Laird Barron fan like I obviously am, last week TtT presented Laird’s new darkly funny novelette, “Frontier Death Song.”