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This weekend I’ll be in Atlanta at the World Horror Convention. Vermilion and A Pretty Mouth will both be for sale; Vermilion, at the con bookseller, Eagle Eye Books, and A Pretty Mouth at the Eraserhead/Lazy Fascist/Deadite Press table. I’ll be a part of the mass signing event on Friday night, dressed as Herbert West: Re-Animator, so if you would like a copy of Vermilion signed in the option of reagent-green pen, please come by. Rufus will be there, as well, and he just loves being petted, I assure you.

Here’s my full schedule:

Friday, 3-4 PM: TERRIFYING TROPES: H.P. Lovecraft in the 21st Century: The Problematic Legacy of the Great Old One of Horror and the Weird – SARNATH

Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s legacy in modern horror fiction has been cemented for more than half a century in his Cthulhu Mythos and exploration of cosmic, existential horror. More recently, the tentacles of Lovecraft’s more troubling legacy – as a voice for some of the last century’s most vile expressions of racism and xenophobia – have found their way into the center of the discussion of his work. Is it possible to untangle the two sides of Lovecraft’s work? Should we?

Moderator: David Nickle. Panelists: Jesse Bullington, Leslie Klinger, Usman T. Malik, Charles Rutledge, Molly Tanzer

Friday, 6-8 PM: MASS SIGNING – THE BARRENS

Saturday, 10 AM: DEAD IN THE MORNING (Room 710 unless you hear otherwise): If you would like to attend this event, I suggest you follow the Facebook Group for announcements. This is an unofficial/guerilla reading featuring myself, J.T. Glover, Selena Chambers, Orrin Grey, and Jesse Bullington. I will be reading from my forthcoming novel, The Pleasure Merchant.

Saturday, 3-4 PM: DEADLY DEFINITIONS: When the Weird Go Pro: Exploring the Parameters and Considering the Directions of a Literary Renaissance – SARNATH

Some would call it a Renaissance. Not your daddy’s Lovecraft mythos pastiche, the Weird in the hands of today’s writers owes as much or more to literary titans such as Melville, Borges, McCarthy and Carter. Others talk about the New Weird and consider it a global movement. What is Weird fiction? Does defining the Weird focus or limit its growth? Why now, why is this literary movement so exciting, and what does the future hold for the Weird?

Moderator: Anya Martin. Panelists: Nathan Ballingrud, Lois Gresh, Scott Nicolay, Molly Tanzer, Michael Wehunt

Saturday, 4-4:30 PM: Reading in INNSMOUTH (Vermilion)

So that’s where I’ll definitely be. I will probably put in an appearance at the Costume Ball (also as Herbert West, natch), and it’s a good bet that I’ll be in the bar at some point. Those of you who have met me in the past, my hair is a giant curly mop now, so don’t look for a Phryne Fisher bob or that bleach blonde buzz cut I was rocking for a while. Those of you who haven’t met me, I’d love for you to say hi!

Mr VampireYikes! I wasn’t expecting this so soon in 2015, but Vermilion is… imminent here in ARC form,out in the world, digital and hard copy.

If you are a book reviewer, and would like to receive an uncorrected ARC for review, please contact Ross Lockhart at publicity[at]wordhorde.com. ARC!Also, if you know any book reviewers into some or all of the following, maybe send them this way, or at least spread the word: gender fluidity, weird westerns, steampunk-y things, sickness, death, and dying, sea lions, vampires, San Francisco, hiking, the Rocky Mountains, trains, bears, the Mr. Vampire franchise from the 1980s, ghosts, punching things, Big Trouble in Little China, friendship, sanatorium culture a la The Road to Wellville, hysteria, adventures, snow, mountains, sexual tension, mysteries, and… uh… I guess that’s enough to go on.

Thanks, and happy reading!

The end of the year is fast approaching, and as usual it has inspired me to make a fruitcake and do fruitcake 2a little housekeeping, taking stock of what this year has meant for me as a writer, a reader, and just a person, too.

I confess that 2014 has been a difficult year for me. Sort of like Longfellow’s little girl with a curl right in the center of her forehead, when this year was good, it was very good indeed, and when it was bad it was horrid.

I struggled with personal relationships this year, with both friends and with my family, but I also reconnected with several old friends, and was privileged to witness a truly amazing event in my immediate family—my uncle surviving a bone marrow transplant from my mother.

After enjoying performing lion dance over Chinese New Year I decided to take a leave of absence from my kung fu studio for personal reasons both physical and mental. And while I felt less fit overall this year since 2011 (the year I committed myself to taking time for fitness) I ran my first triathlon and achieved the times I wanted.

I wrote a novel that is a total mess, that I may trunk forever, but I also wrote one that I believe may be my best yet.

As is apparent from that last point, I struggled with my writing this year, aesthetically and emotionally, but I also sold a handful more short stories than usual, ones that I like more than usual, even, and I also sold my first novel, my second novel, and a novella.

Though I struggled with feelings of career stagnation, I achieved some other firsts this year. I edited my first ever magazine edition (in spite of being Managing Editor/Assistant Editor of several magazines over the years, I was never invited to take part in actual fiction-selection), and was invited to edit two more projects, an issue of another magazine, due out next year, and another project which has not yet been announced.

Though I did not have a book come out this year, I saw seven short stories published, one of which earned me my first-ever mention in Publishers Weekly, and I sold seven more. I also began (and completed, more impressively for me) a blog series for Pornokitsch, where I am now a regular contributor.

For the first time since 2009 I did not attend a single con, but I was invited to be a guest—an actual guest, not just a participant—at a con next year, a first for me. I turned down cons for good and bad reasons this year, a learning experience, but I also traveled to Japan, which was an amazing experience.

I read more this year than I have in many, many years, in part due to a concerted effort to do so. I kept track of my adventures on Goodreads, which was enlightening. After beginning the year at a good clip I had hoped to read 75 books this year. I’m currently at 65 and I’m not sure I’ll be able to squeeze in ten before the new year, but I’ll try–and whatever I achieve will be extremely rewarding, I’m sure.

I also played video games for the first time in years—Dragon Age 2, and I just started Dragon Age: Origins. As this was also a rewarding experience, I hope to play more games in future, as I am woefully ignorant of the state of gaming, having never owned a video game system that wasn’t Nintendo. Onward to Skyrim, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect, and more!

2015 should be an exiting year. Having my first novel come out, and my second, is already a thrilling but intimidating prospect. I’ll be doing two other blog series for Pornokitch, which I hope to complete with the same or greater level of success as the last. I’m enthusiastic to do more races, to have new adventures (didn’t get to my annual 14er this year), and to begin new writing projects with more confidence and self-assuredness in what I do best, rather in what I wished I did better.

I hope you all had wonderful years, and if you didn’t I hope your 2015 is better. Cheers!

I’ve only once ever followed a print comic during its actual run (The Maxx, back in the day) until sometime last year my friend Oliver put me on to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. They’re… super-great. Gene Luen Yang is an amazingly talented writer (and artist; his American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints are both awesome). So when I saw that Dark Horse was releasing an Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day I figured I’d check it out and have my first ever Free Comic Book Day experience.

Well… my experience was that Free Comic Book Day involves a lot of waiting on lines for free comic books. I kind of knew that going in, though. Even so, it was fun. I saw some cute kids in costumes, and I picked up the free Avatar short, and some stuff I paid for.

Anyways, as I said, I really like Gene Yang’s writing, so I figured I’d enjoy the short—when I learned about the release, I looked up last year’s free Avatar comic by him and it was great. This year’s was, as well, but man… it was also an awesome call-out of some biz that’s been going on in geek/comics culture for way too long.

From the tiresome handwringing within the nerdosphere over the perceived threat of Fake Geek Girls, to the much darker, recent othering-plus-horrifying-rape-threats debacle surrounding Janelle Asselin’s reasonable remarks about Wonder Girl’s representation on the cover of the Teen Titans #1, fandom—be it comics, literature, cartoons/anime, films, shows, whatever—is a often a troubling and difficult space to negotiate if you’re a woman. Which is why it’s so awesome that this was Gene Yang’s chosen subject of the Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day:

photo-2Omg. Right?

So yeah, the whole thing is fairly transparently about the bogusness of snooty exclusivity in fan culture, done Avatar-style, and the solution is… okay, spoiler alert…

It’s solidarity. And sisterhood. And allies being fine with taking a back seat while those with the actual experience drive, so to speak.

Also kung fu. Shockingly enough, I really liked it!

The original Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite shows because it is sweet and thoughtful and very, very sincere. It also improved via adaptation in response to critique—after the first season where Katara was more or less The Girl Main Character, they introduced a bunch of super-interesting main female characters. I’m all about content creators hearing “you did an awesome job—now do better!” and instead of doubling down and saying “eh, whatever,” striving to improve… by listening. The Avatar creators could easily have become part of the “eh, whatever” culture that makes comic/geek culture so frustrating. But they didn’t.

It’s awesome that Gene Yang is continuing that tradition not only by writing engrossing, fun scripts for the Avatar comics, but actively making the point that comics, and fandom in general, is for everyone. While I don’t need my artistic heroes to also be nice people, it’s pretty wonderful when that actually happens.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured I’d post a spoiler-heavy review of this forgotten book:

2014-03-17 09.42.48The Girls of Banshee Castle, by Rosa Mullholland

I picked this book up from a vintage bookseller on a whim. It’s inscribed as such:

Wishing Laura a Very Merry Xmas, Aunt Edith, 1909

It is definitely a book an Aunt Edith would give you for Christmas. On one hand, it’s sort of Austen for Tots… you know, all the recognizable bits from classic Austen novels but with all the sexual subtext, arch commentary, and interesting stuff removed. It’s basically about Nice Girls Acting Nicely for 300+ pages. But it falls flat, because the author’s imagination of what makes a Nice Girl is actually terrible, including unexamined laziness, oddly-placed racism and absurd classism. But it was kind of a wild ride…

Patricia, Dympna, and Finola, three realistically-named sisters, are the daughters of the  last Lord Tyrconnell. The Tyrconnells are historically profligate Irish noblemen who have spent the family fortune on parties and hunts and whatever, and left these unfortunate girls with so little they’ve spent their whole life in poverty, just barely scraping by with only their nursemaid to look after them. “Granny” does what she can, however, such as taking Dympna to learn painting in Italy, and assuring Patricia is able to study the pianoforte in France. With such a barren, terrible existence, you can imagine the trials endured by these brave, unfortunate lasses.

Whilst living in London they hear that the girls’ last living relation has passed away, leaving their absentee brother the bulk of what remains, but for them, little beyond a few pounds to live on, and a mysterious, run-down castle in Ireland. They decide to save on rent by going to live in the castle, of course, and there their adventures begin.

Luckily for the lasses, Ireland is full of semi-mystical, half-wild, but still highly deferential poor folk who believe in fairies and bog-witches and whatever, but still know to tip their fucking hats to the quality. Perhaps most jaw-dropping of these side characters is “Lanty,” some local boy that comes to the castle eager to serve them. He is a quaint country lad full of notions, and at one point when the girls are staying over with some rustic country Irish because of a storm, he runs out into the lightning to tell their nurse where they are. He is wiling because:

“Why thin, many’s the time I go out in it just for the fun of it. I do be always longin’ to see the fairies caravandherin’ about in the lightnin’, for they do go off o’ their heads in it intirely, and it’s the greatest luck in the world to the mortial that catches them at it. People do say that wherever the lightnin’ shafts down into the ground there does grow gold-mines, and the fairies mark the places, and if ye seen them at it ye could be richer than Creosote!”

In case you can't read it, the caption is "Give us the baby, for it's wake ye are for want of a cup o' tay"

In case you can’t read it, the caption is “Give us the baby, for it’s wake ye are for want of a cup o’ tay”

All the poor Irish are written like this.

Anyways, for about a thousand pages the girls alternate between working nicely together to make Banshee Castle a sweet dwelling for all (how sweet!) and paying calls on their impoverished neighbors, who, without a hint of resentment, stuff the quality ladies full of “potaties” and tea and other hard-earned foodstuffs.

Then there’s some biz where next to Banshee Castle some rich Americans who are of Irish descent have settled in to their estate, “Alabama,” to like, distribute largesse via a true Rich White Person Novel Scheme. Basically they’ve bought some godforsaken windblown island and built a town from scratch there, in order to terrorize their transplanted tenants to the tune of “we’ll rent you fishing boats and whatever at a good rate so you can live in not-as-abject poverty, but if you get drunk, carouse, or act in any way not like Worthy Poor, we’ll kick you off the island.” Patricia, who is the most affected by this move to the obscure country, makes sure to fall in love with the young man of the family with the quickness, of course.

Oh, I should note that after Patricia returns from Alabama to relate all this, the sisters have the following exchange:

“Have they a banjo?” asked Fin. “Americans always play the banjo, don’t they?”

“You don’t suppose they are niggers,” said Dympna.

“How can I tell? I haven’t seen them yet,” said Finola. “There are lots of free negroes now, going about the world, are there not, Granny?”

Dympna is the novel’s sweetheart Mary Sue, by the way. Such a nice girl, don’t you think?

Well. As all this is happening, Finola just does her thing, being an Extra Young Sister in the fashion of Margaret Dashwood, and Dympna, the middle child, tries to get her rotten poetry published in awful magazines of the day. As I mentioned, Dympna is more or less the focus of the novel; Ms. Mullholland clearly loves her best, and lavishes upon her writerly schemes, romantic nations, and “lively” personality. Dympna like… I dunno, dresses as a maid to fool some guests, ha ha, and gets to make herself a studio out of the perhaps-haunted tower where some former Lady Tyrconnell whose tragic tale I have already forgotten once also painted and wrote awful poetry. (The locals believe she still walks these moors, etc.)

The novel finally takes a turn for the slightly more interesting when it turns out that the actual Lord Tyrconnell, the Girls’ brother Hugh, has been found in America, and is coming to Banshee Castle to meet them. Some things about him are mysterious, of course. Anyways, he arrives, and is handsome and kind, and lives with them for months. He particularly enjoys Dympna’s company, not at all creepily, and spends hours with her in her tower, listening to her read her wretched poems and compose terrible stories based on the locals’ folk tales.

But when Christmastime comes, Hugh decides to put on a play, and invites over the Americans. Mansfield Park-style, it is a play that actually represents the characters’ relationships, and he plays some sort of mysterious stranger who claims to be someone he is not, for Reasons. Dympna is appalled by this element, and tells Hugh she could never forgive someone who pretended to be someone he wasn’t, for any reason, so of course that is what is actually happening. As revealed dramatically later in the novel, Hugh turns out to be not their brother at all, but their distant cousin who pretended to be their brother because of Reasons that make little sense except inside of novels like this.

He has also fallen in love with Dympna, and before leaving in disgrace, asks the 16 year old girl to be his wife:

Dympna sobbed and sobbed, and shook her head.

“What is the good of loving me when you are not my brother any longer?” she said. “Why need you have told? We could have gone on being happy. If our brother is dead, and you took our brother’s place, why need you have ever undeceived us?”

“Things could not have continued so for ever, Dympna, even if there had never been anything wrong in the deception.’

“Why; if it is true that you loved us?”

“Because I have been hoping for some time past that you would one day consent to be my wife,” said Hugh.

“Wife!” echoed Dympna with a start, and looking up with a bewildered glance in his face. “Have I not often told you that I should never marry, that I would always stick to my brother Hugh. And now I no longer have a brother.”

She declines, rather understandably creeped out, as apparently for months now he’s been hanging in her room with her, letching on her whilst pretending to be her loving brother. She and the rest of the family turn him out for being a dishonest cad, and he leaves, a defeated wretch.

So yeah, she declines, but years later—after she’s matured into a woman, barf—she decides she was harsh on him for being a creep and a liar. Hugh is rich, after all, so she marries him. A happy ending for young Dympna. And all the Girls of Banshee Castle, who deserve it, I’m sure. THE END!

Woof! So yeah, this book was incredibly idiotic. The worst part was how these girls were presented as worthy poor, helped to greatness by worthy poorer, but really they are all just loathsome creations of a mind untouched by reality. They  just demand butter and folktales of working class people who live in peat huts and can’t read and whatever, and go back to their nice house and lament their poverty while taking it in stride, putting on a brave face, whatever. Never do they  feel the need to work beyond painting and possibly light gardening, so others provide for them. Ughhhh.

Sorry, Laura. Your Christmas present kind of sucked.

This month I read Roald Dahl’s Going Solo, his sort-of followup to Boy:

As someone who writes Lovecraftian horror, I am familiar with the go-to excuse when a modern person wants to divert criticism away from his or her literary heroes: “He was a man of his time.” This doesn’t work well with Lovecraft, who was far more racist than his colleagues… but I’m also uncomfortable applying it to Dahl, though he might actually fit that description. There’s simply a weirdness in being a white person saying, “he was just a man of his time!” about another white person who obvously takes pleasure in describing his boy’s “superb black body… literally dripping with sweat” and his “beautiful pure white absolutely even teeth.” It excuses attitudes or behaviors that were never excusable, and so I don’t feel I can just leave off discussing this tension in Going Solo by typing “Dahl was a man of his time” and washing my hands of the matter.

Fun times! TL;DR summary: Going Solo was super-good, but also very uncomfortable reading at times. Thanks again to Jared and Anne at Pornokitch for hosting my musings!

 

As I am a Denver-area spec fic writer, I’ll be at MileHiCon this weekend! Huzzah.

Please do say hello if you see me  in the hallways. I’ll also be in Mesa Verde B, Saturday at 11 AM in on the panel “Strong Women in Fiction and Film.” (Of course, right?)

I also have a reading on Sunday. I’ll be reading with Carrie Vaughn, who is awesome, and we’ll be in Mesa Verde C at 1 PM. Likely I will read something from my imminently pre-orderable Rumbullion and other Liminal Libations and/or my story in the currently pre-orderable The Book of the Dead. Oh, and I’ll also be doing that Autograph Alley thing, so if you have something you want me to sign, like my book, or someone else’s book, then come on by! I’ll have my own pen, even. Um, probably.

See you there! Oh, and my hair is long(er) now, so don’t look for the fuzzhead anymore.

Tomorrow evening from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, I’ll be doing a reading with Stephen Graham Jones at Folsom St. Coffee, at the corner of Folsom and Canyon in Boulder, CO. So, if you’re around/in the area, please come on by! And maybe don’t bring your kids, I’ll be reading something with, inevitably, potty-language.

Also! If you’re in Denver or Boulder, Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu will be performing our dragon (nine or eleven-person, depending on how many people come!) this Friday and Saturday at the Parades of Lights. Denver is Friday night; Boulder, Saturday. I’ll be playing cymbals! So that’s awesome. Our new dragon is a real beauty, as you can see, and I’m proud to be part of the performance. I don’t have any info for Boulder but we’ll be, I think, 9th in line for Denver.

I usually don’t leave the house after sundown (except for kung fu class, of course) so this is serious business.

Whee! Today, Alan M. Clark and I are doing a blog-exchange to co-promote our new titles, both out through Lazy Fascist Press! Alan’s here, and I’m over on his blog, “The Imagination Fully Dilated.” Pop on over there afterwards, why don’t you?

***

I met Molly Tanzer online after she read and commented on my historical fiction novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Jack the Ripper Victim. This year Molly and I discovered that we were both writing within historical settings, and we agreed to serve as readers for each others’ developing work. Both Molly’s book, A Pretty Mouth, and my novel, A Parliament of Crows, are historical fiction, both inspired by real events within history. Both books tell dark, disturbing tales, hers an erotic horror, mine a southern gothic. A Pretty Mouth is sort of a novel in short and long fiction set in England during several different periods, much of it in the 1600s, and A Parliament of Crows is set in various locations within the United States between the time of the American Civil War and the end of the first decade of the twentieth century.

The fun of writing within historical settings is that it’s a bit like time travel. The period a writer chooses for a story will define the characters in it to some extent. Obviously, some experiences we have today are not possible for characters set within a time, say, 100 or 500 years ago. This can present real limitations unless the writer is willing to learn about the period and really open up the character’s world, discover the possibilities, and share that with the reading audience. That’s the time travel I’m talking about. No matter the period, the emotional characteristics of human beings are just as subtle and complex as those of human beings today. The everyday realities and events that shape their feelings and motivations can be very different, however. In creating characters, I try to take advantage of the similarities and the differences, setting up parallels and contrasts with what we know today to express something about human experience. If done right, a reader gets to time-travel too, experiencing a long lost world through the eyes of a character they can understand emotionally, even if the character’s feelings and outlook are shaped by a different time.

A Pretty Mouth was so well realized that it sent me back in time, and allowed me to view a bizarre and terrifying world through the eyes of fascinating, very human characters.

Another thing Molly and I discovered about our writing this year was that both of us were writing about twins.  A Pretty Mouth has a supernatural genetic line of evil twins. My novel, A Parliament of Crows, has one set of evil twins whose connection to one another has a supernatural aspect. I thought my twins could use a hint of long, dark genetic history, and suggested to Molly that we might create a connection. Adding more evil twins to her character’s lineage was desirable to her, so she agreed to creating a tiny link between the projects with one or two sentences in each. To get there, we traded messages via facebook “chat,” looking for a solution that was both minimal, but undeniable. I had fun, and I think she did as well. [I did indeed! –Molly] I could almost hear her laughing in her messages. The lines we added had to be of a sort that would not confuse and would not distract a reader from the story at hand, but would be an Easter egg for those who read both books. I’m curious to see who will be the first to notice.

—Alan M. Clark

MileHiCon! It’s that time of the year again, when nerds of all sorts descend upon Denver to wear costumes, go to panels on steampunk, Star Wars, and—looking at the schedule—“Name that Sci Fi Tune.” I had a great time last year, so I’m looking forward to the craziness. I might even dress up, since last year my Han Solo produced many satisfactory interactions, such as two Klingons buying me a beer and teaching me about honor.

But I’ll be doing stuff other than wandering the halls admiring cosplay! Here’s my schedule of events:

Friday, 7 PM in Wind River B: My reading. I’m paired up with Travis Heermann. I’ll probably do some selections from, unsurprisingly, A Pretty Mouth. Oh, and bring 10 bucks if you want to buy a copy! I’ll have ’em.

Friday, 10 PM in Mesa Verde B: The Love and Sex Lives of the Victorians. I’m moderating this. Maybe don’t bring your kids? I personally feel awkward talking about Victorian hand-wringing over childhood masturbation when there are wee ones present.

Sunday, 1 PM in Wind River B: Comedic Elements in Horror. Jesse Bullington’s moderating and Stephen Graham Jones is on the panel, too. Should be a good time!

Sunday, 3 PM in Mesa Verde B: Strong Women in SF. Cheri Priest will be on this panel, too, along with many fine folks.

 I’ll probably be in the bar, otherwise? Please say hi if you see me! I’m looking forward most to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Aww.

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