Update on Surreal World Anthology

A few months back I mentioned an upcoming anthology Surreal Worlds which will include my story “Jewels and False Memories: The Origins of a Lunatic.”

The publisher has just shared an updated cover image, a design by Matthew Revert. I think it looks fantastic!

SurrealWorlds

Here’s the table of contents, maybe not in the final order. This should be out fairly soon from Bizarro Pulp Press.

Steve Rasnic Tem – Paula Breaks
John Palisano – The BiPolar Express
Gabino Iglesias – aaaaaaaaa
Robin Wyatt Dunn – A Shadow of a Princess’s Dream
Bruce Boston – Surreal Chess
Rhys Hughes – Bones of Jones
R.A. Harris – The Noise that Stains
Seb Doubinsky – Goodbye Babylon (excerpt)
Thomas Logan – The Continued Instances of George Marthis within the Singularity, wherein the Instance Knows No Rules (George is Old When Our Story Starts)
Daniel Vlasaty – Everything is Colors, All of Them
Michael Griffin – Jewels and False Memories: The Origins of a Lunatic
Max Booth III – One Day I’ll Quit this Job and Rule the World
Dustin Reade – House Party
Adrian Ludens – I Can Do What I Need to in the Dark
Andrew Wayne Adams – Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
Wol-vriey – The End of the World Pie
Allen Griffin – I, Autocorrect
Tom Bradley – Mr. Fuck You, Okay?
Chantal Noordeloos – Labels
Don Webb – The Last God
Bob Ritchie – The Mahler Stream
Eli Wilde – Snowflakes Falling, Pages Turning
Antonio Magogoli – The Inmost Plague Bell Swims
Chris Kelso – The Statement of Tom Tryout
Carter Rydr – Pain Pig’s Pilgrimage

2014 Year End

It always seems the case that when I go longer than usual without a blog update, it’s during a stretch of especially hard work.

I just finished writing a 38k word novella, which I hope will occupy the final slot in my planned story collection. I’ve assembled that collection manuscript and begun the submission process, and I hope before too long I’ll have some idea when, how and where my collection may appear.

I had a good year writing and publishing in 2014, though it included a share of disappointments and frustrations.

Story publications included:

“No Mask to Conceal Her Voice” in the King in Yellow themed issue of Lovecraft eZine

“May Dawn Redeem What Night Destroys” in the Current 93 tribute anthology Mighty In Sorrow edited by Jordan Krall

“Firedancing” in The Children of Old Leech, the Laird Barron tribute anthology from Word Horde.

Most significantly, I published the standalone novella Far From Streets with Dunhams Manor Press. Though that was published in a small edition of only 50 copies, which quickly sold out, that publication has received an excellent response from those who have seen it. That novella should reappear in my collection, for those who missed the standalone.

These acceptances for publication should appear in 2015:

“Apprentice, Muse and Mancer” in A Mythos Grimmly

“Jewels and False Memories: The Origins of a Lunatic” in Surreal Worlds

“Miles and Kathrine at the Crimson” in Leaves of Necronomicon.

I still have several other pieces under consideration at various venues, so may soon be able to add to the list of acceptances pending publications.

Of course the biggest thing I have going is the story collection, which is now in the submission process. While that’s underway, I’m beginning work on a novel, and sorting ideas for the next few things.

A Triple-Good Day For a Writer

A few things happen today, each of which counts as a quantum of “writer success.”

A new interview with Laird Barron by the guys at Miskatonic Musings was posted today,
HERE. I listened through about the 30 minute mark, but then had to depart for the day job, where I can’t listen to podcasts with naughty words and discussions of naughty bits freezing up. My wife informs me that Laird mentions me near the end, so that makes me pretty happy, since Laird is a towering, city-stomping monster of a weird fiction writer, and a very wise fella when it comes to recommending new talent.

Item number two, in other Laird Barron related news, is Laird’s latest blog post, New Blood, in which he lists a number of emerging writers who are constitute a sort of new generation “helping reshape the contours of modern horror.” My name is on the list, so I’m double-happy.

Third thing, I just received an acceptance email and contract and payment, all within a few minutes of each other, for a story to appear in A Mythos Grimmly. The anthology is a sort of crossover between Lovecraftiana and traditional fables. My story, “The Apprentice, the Muse and the Mancer,” is a bit of a departure. Also, though I don’t do this writing thing for the money, I did receive the largest-ever single paycheck for a story. Here’s to bigger and bigger checks, and more publications!

Recent Reads: Oct 2014 Edition

Generally it seems that the more reviews I’m writing, the less reading I’m doing. Lately I’ve focused on reading a lot, and left reviewing as a secondary consideration. Time to catch up a bit, and if not write reviews, then at least summarize recent reads. I’ll have to break this into three or four parts.

nocountry

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Even lesser work by Cormac McCarthy exhibits numerous moments of greatness. No Country for Old Men seems to be the story of Llewelyn Moss finding millions of dollars in cash at the scene of a drug deal gone bad in the desert, but it’s really the story of Ed Tom Bell, a sheriff approaching retirement and watching his county disintegrate into madness and violence. Anton Chigurgh, the psychopathic hitman memorably portrayed by Javier Bardem in the film version of the book, is reminiscent at times of the Judge in Blood Meridian, in seeming to represent a deeper, wider-ranging force than mere human malevolence.

The title hints at an almost reactionary conservative outlook on the part of Sheriff Bell, as the book ends with Bell’s observations that society has deteriorated in many irreparable ways, starting from the loss of manners and civility and culminating in a near-complete breakdown of respect for life and law. Most of McCarthy’s work feels less narrowly focused on a given time period and locale, more timeless and universal. In comparison, this book is tied-down in a way that is very specific and contemporary (though not quite present-day), and in that sense No Country for Old Men feels smaller, less consequential. Still it’s powerful work, well worth reading, especially for those who can’t get enough Cormac McCarthy

suttree

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

Halfway through this book, I mentioned to friends that contrary to what I’d been told, “Suttree is not lesser Cormac McCarthy.” Having finished the book, I’d call it a profound achievement, maybe only half a step beneath the level of Blood Meridian, though of an entirely different flavor. The biggest difference is that Suttree is funnier and often more absurd, full of self-defeat and futility, along with with the usual McCarthy obsession on death and the hostility of humankind to itself. I’ll come back to Suttree again and again, and highly recommend it

goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It’s long, and might be exhausting for some readers, but I loved this book’s intimate point of view and lush detail. The Goldfinch is much more interesting at length than in summary, but basically it’s the life of a teenage boy Theo after he finds himself in the middle of a terrorist bombing. My favorite aspect of The Goldfinch is the vividly rendered, slightly strange cast of characters. Every person in this story seems quirky and interesting, even relatively minor ones like Xandra, and I loved Theo’s friends Andy and especially Boris.

mobydick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

An amazing achievement of creative invention, full of philosophy and adventure and encyclopedia detail. You can find a thousand essays or analyses if you want to know what it’s about, or what Melville was trying to do, so I won’t bother going into that. I’ll just say, I loved this book so much, and I look forward to reading it again.

***

Aside from The Goldfinch, a new book which I believe will stand the test of time, this has been a great year for catching up for major novels of the past.

Far From Streets on Goodreads

I’ve added Far From Streets (my out of print novella from Dunhams Manor Press) to Goodreads.com — it’s sold out, so you can’t buy a copy, but if anybody’s interested in rating or reviewing it, they can find it here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23358058-far-from-streets

"Far From Streets," a standalone novella from Dunhams Manor Press

“Far From Streets,” a standalone novella from Dunhams Manor Press

Writing Lately, Oct 2014 Edition

It’s been a while since I updated about my writing.

First, as to recent publications, I’ve continued to receive generally very positive responses to Far From Streets (my standalone novella, now out of print, published by Dunhams Manor Press) and “Firedancing,” my story which appeared in The Children of Old Leech.

Most of my time in the past few months has been spent finishing the last two length pieces intended for my planned collection. In June I finished a novelette code-named JEWEL, then took a break of about six weeks to work on two stories for anthology invitations. When those were done in mid-August, I started on the big novella, code-named BLACK VEIN, intended to be the last piece in the collection. This novella is giant and showing no signs of becoming anything but larger, so I won’t meet my original self-imposed deadline of finishing it by the end of September. I’ve given myself an extra month, but I figure three months (almost) to write a 30,000 novella isn’t too bad.

I’ll need to take another break soon to write two new stories, as I’ve received a couple more exciting invitations this summer. It’s wonderful to be have editors asking for my work, especially new editors with whom I haven’t published before. This means a lot of extra work, but it gives me hope that next year will not only see the publication of my first collection, but also a substantial number of stories in anthologies by a variety of editors and publishers.

Certainly I’ll give more specifics about these pending works as soon as possible. For now, though, I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, and excited about the coming year.

Uses and Abuses of Social Networking

A lot of people are talking about the downfall of Facebook and the need for newer, better social networks. This talk, roughly coincident with the rise of a new social net called ello, has me thinking a lot about how these social networks operate, what we can hope to derive from them, and why so often things go wrong.

Everyone seems to assume that because social networks start out small, and there’s not a lot of money to be made, the founders tend to be idealistic and focused on human-scale goals, such as creating a solid user experience and giving people a compelling virtual environment in which to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

Then the story goes, with the growth of a user base and monetization of the attention of millions (eventually tens or hundreds of millions) of members, focus shifts from optimizing user experience to maximizing revenue growth. I agree this is true. Part of what went wrong with MySpace and what’s going wrong with Facebook has to do with what I perceive to be management seeing their user base increasingly as a very large data set, rather than human beings.

The more I think about this and look at how things work on Facebook and Twitter and others, though, the more I become convinced that the biggest problem, the greatest factor which causes the deterioration of the user experience on a social network, is us.

You might imagine that we would primarily “follow” or “friend” a person on a social network because we want to interact with that person, be entertained by them, or get to know them. Increasingly, though, people send out friend/follow requests on a wholesale, indiscriminate basis, not looking for what interaction might be had, but instead seeking what they can gain by receiving that person’s attention in return.

On Twitter, the “follow-back” seems to be almost a given for most people. They follow you, not because they want to see what you post in their Twitter feed, but because they expect you will follow them back, and they can then impose their promotional efforts upon you in spam-like fashion.

At the very least, even if they don’t think you’ll see or notice their posts, you’re increasing their “followers” number, which actually seems to be important to many people. I’ve seen self-published writers, or “indie” bands, whose work clearly is not widely-known or “bestselling,” yet they have a number of followers in the tens or hundreds of thousands. There is simply no way to achieve that number of followers, if you’re not a famous person, except by gaming the system. These people either “buy” sham followers from services who sell them, or they mass-follow huge numbers of people with the expectation of receiving an automatic “follow-back.”

On Facebook, the problem is different, because the “one-way” connection is almost unknown. If you send me a friend request and I accept it, then we are BOTH friends. So if someone reaches out to you and sends you what seems like a friendly gesture, seems to say “I want to know you,” the friendly thing would seem to be acceptance. Then you’re friends. The problem is, most people are not sending you friend requests because they want to get to know you. In many cases they’re doing it because they want to promote themselves and want a large audience to receive their message.

The problem of accumulating numbers of followers as on Twitter is less of an issue on Facebook, because personal accounts can’t have more than 5,000 friends. What happens a lot, though, is total strangers sending out lots of friend requests, then as soon as the request is accepted, firing off a request to “like” their page. Again, the transaction feels very much like spam or junk mail, nothing like what a true social interaction is supposed to feel like.

The newest thing is ello, a new, comparatively small and minimal social network. I was an early member there, and during the first week, it felt like such a breath of fresh air. I only had a few “friends” there, but everything that I saw posted in my friends feed was interesting, relevant, funny, or something. Generally, it felt like socializing. We goofed around with ello, posted things, talked about the interface and features. It was so refreshing, I felt tempted to believe that the problem was the system itself, and not the users.

But with the initial success of ello, much publicity has followed. Suddenly there’s an influx of spam type accounts, mass-following everyone in sight. If someone has an account just 8 hours old and is already following 3,000+ people, that’s a fairly good clue that the person didn’t create an account to socialize. They’re finding random lists of people and clicking “friend, friend, friend, friend” all the way down the list, for hours on end.

These people are operating completely in bad faith, hoping the tricks that allowed them to game the system with Twitter and Facebook will apply with ello. In fact, it could be worse, as there’s no 5,000 friend limit. It’s my intention not to follow anybody who can’t approach ello like a true social network, trying to get to know people and communicate with them one on one, rather than just harvesting a huge mailing list to spam their self-promotional bullshit.

This lesson learned through ello is something I’m taking back to Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been going through Twitter and unfollowing several dozen people every day. On Facebook, I’m doing some unfriending, some un-liking, and some un-following. It’s partly my own fault that the experience on these networks has become so unpleasant. My news feed is full of garbage and spam because I have allowed people like that to hook me into their “I’ll follow you, so you follow me” game. That’s a recipe that ends up ruining the whole thing for everyone. From now on, I opt out.

Another Reaction to Far From Streets

Recently I mentioned a few initial reactions to Far From Streets, my novella published this summer by Dunhams Manor Press.

I don’t intend to make another new blog post every single time someone says anything about it, but comments recently made by Christopher Slatsky on Facebook [HERE] delighted me sufficiently that I want to mention them. Follow the link if you want to read what he said, which ends with: “Fantastic accomplishment here. Very highly recommended.”

Thanks, Christopher!