CthulhuCon This Weekend

I’m looking forward to CthulhuCon this weekend, here in Portland. In previous years, CthulhuCon and the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival have been a combined event. This year, due to a schedule shift to accommodate the HPLFF’s anniversary in October, the organizers set up CthulhuCon as its own event in a new location to tide people over between April 2014 and October 2015 (the date of the next HPLFF).

cthulhuconframe_forsite_frame0217

I’ll be part of a reading on Saturday at 2PM with Wilum Pugmire and David Barker.

On Sunday at 1PM I’ll be moderating the Mythos and Music panel with Nathan Carson, Mike Dalager, K.L. Young, Dan Clore and Edward Morris.

The overall schedule is HERE.

Lena and I will be hosting a couple of out-of-town friends, so extra supplies have been brought in.

BEERS

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.

The Shirley Jackson Awards

This past weekend I attended ReaderCon in Burlington, an outlying suburb of Boston, MA. One of the highlights of the weekend, and really the last major event on Sunday, the final day, was the ceremony for the Shirley Jackson Awards.

readercon

All kinds of genre fiction awards exist, such as the Bram Stoker Awards, the Hugos, the Nebulas, the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Awards, among many others. In many cases, the awards are controversial, surrounded by accusations of vote-trading, log-rolling or other manipulations via insider influence. The Shirley Jackson Awards are relatively newer, and appear to exist free from the negative accusations that plague the others.

This was my first time attending ReaderCon, so of course I hadn’t attended SJAs before. Not only did several of my friends and associates have their own work nominated, but Joe Pulver was nominated for editing The Grimscribe’s Puppets, a Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology published by Miskatonic River Press, in which my story “Diamond Dust” appeared. Because Joe lives in Berlin, he wasn’t able to attend the awards, and asked me to accept on his behalf should he win.

grimbscribes

I’d made the same promise at the Stoker awards, for which Grimscribe’s was also nominated, but it didn’t win. I felt a superstitious certainty that I had ruined Joe’s chance of winning the Stoker by thinking too much in advance of what I’d say if I had to go up and accept on Joe’s behalf.

So this time, even though Joe emailed me a short statement to read, I didn’t look at it carefully, didn’t print it out, and certainly didn’t memorize it. As I sat in the audience of 100+, I concentrated on texting absent friends the results of winners in earlier categories such as short story, novella and collection. At the same time, I was flipping over to Facebook and posting updates about the category winners. I posted “Next is anthology” and never had a chance to follow-up by posting the winner, because I heard Andrea Hairston say, “The winner is Grimscribe’s Puppets by Joseph S Pulver Sr, who is not present, so the award will be accepted by Mike Griffin.”

That’s me!

I stopped posting updates, stood and switched my phone from Facebook to the app where I’d stored Joe’s acceptance speech. For some reason, the app displayed the lines of text much wider than the screen, so that only the center of each line was onscreen, and other text extended well off to the left and right edges. As I started up the aisle toward the stage, I tried to resize the text but it didn’t work. At that moment, I thought I would be unable to read Joe’s acceptance speech, and have to improvise. “He said something about thanking the awards committee, and the writers with stories in the book, and the publisher…” and slink offstage.

I was able to swipe left and scroll right repeatedly and read each line of the acceptance speech. At the time, it felt very awkward and I kept thinking: It doesn’t matter if I’m doing a terrible job reading this. What matters is that Joe won! Just get through it, grab the award, and get offstage.

There’s official video of the event, and as it turns out, my reading of the acceptance wasn’t as awful as I imagined. Here’s the portion of the ceremony where awards are given out. About 6:45 into the video is where we get to “Best Anthology.” You can see me pause on the way up the aisle, messing with my phone. At that point, I’m thinking “Oh, shit! I’m about to make a fool of myself in front of Peter Straub and Ellen Datlow and a hundred other VIPs in the field of horror.”

It was a wonderful treat to participate in the ceremony during the first Shirley Jackson Awards I attended. I’m so happy for Joe, for the rest of the writers in The Grimscribe’s Puppets, for Miskatonic River Press, and for those who wanted to see Thomas Ligotti get a bit more recognition as the great influence that he is. Here’s a picture of the award, gripped in my sweaty palm, as soon as I sat back down.

sja-award

I’ll say again, the Shirley Jackson Awards a great event, a wonderful award, and a swell bunch of people. The people giving out the other genre awards ought to take notes. This is how it should be done.

sja-card

World Horror Convention 2014 – Rock & Roll and Horror Panel

I never got around to documenting much of the 2014 World Horror Convention, which took place here in Portland, and was the first time Lena and I had attended WHC.

One noteworthy event in which I participated was the “Rock & Roll and Horror” panel, moderated by Anya Martin and also including John Skipp, John Shirley and Scott Nicolay.

rr-horror-panel1

In this first photo, we’re still waiting for the panel to begin. Scott Nicolay has not yet shown up. While the audience settled in, we played music from Anya’s surf-horror compilation CD on a little boombox to set the mood.

rr-horror-panel4

Here we’ve gotten underway. From left to right, that’s John Skipp, John Shirley, Anya Martin, Scott Nicolay and me.

rr-horror-panel3

Here we are after the panel, getting ready to pose in front of some cool World Horror Con room decor. We brought the head of Joe Pulver, because he belongs!

rr-horror-panel2

And this one captures the fun atmosphere of the event. John Skipp is pure rock and roll. We all had a blast!

Many subjects were discussed, including the earliest examples of rock and roll music appearing as a subject in horror stories or films, and ways in which we as writers use music as a story element, or as background while we write.

Here are a few short videos my wife Lena took during the panel. She didn’t want to record anybody else this way, because she didn’t have permission, so the videos are mostly limited to the three times I spoke at length.

In the first video we’re introducing ourselves, explaining our own background with music and horror. You can see the end of Scott’s introduction, then my introduction, then Anya getting the panel started.

In the second, we’re talking about our first recollections of where we first encountered rock and roll connected with horror books or films. Scott is talking about a crazy rock and roll book, and I mention a couple things that came to mind: Stephen King and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The third video is nearer the end, where we’re talking about how we use music as writers, what we listen to, and what music contributes to what and how we write.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground and other mutual favorites. I was content to speak less than the others, as this was my first panel appearance of any kind.

The last time I spoke at greatest length, there’s no video, but we had moved on to talking about similarities and differences between making music and writing. I tried to explain how much alike my approaches are between the two — how most often I start with a very simple, almost uninteresting overall pattern, and try to add new layers and complications to it until it becomes interesting. Often then as it becomes more complex and many layers have been added, some of the earliest layers added might be removed. Very often by the time I’m finished, not only is the flavor different from what it was when I started, but even the general shape has completely changed.

I wish there was video of what I said, because some of these thoughts were things I hadn’t really realized until I was asked the question, and tried to answer it on the fly in front of an audience.

Overall, the panel experience was a lot of fun, and I’m fortunate to have been a part of this fun and interesting discussion at 2014 World Horror along with other great people like John Skipp, John Shirley, Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay.

WHC 2014 Day One Summary

Thursday, the first day of World Horror Convention 2014, was an enjoyable start. As I expected, a lot of people haven’t arrived yet, others have arrived but are so exhausted from travel and jet-lagged that they’re either heading straight up to bed, or wandering around dazed and confused. But there were plenty of us having fun, exploring and making new friends.

Lena and I arrived early, checked in, bought a parking pass, checked out our “swag bag” contents, and grabbed something to eat and drink at the hotel’s bar/restaurant, which was packed.

lenabar

Just as we were almost done eating, I started receiving frantic texts and emails from my workplace – an extended power outage, and the technology problems that follow downstream from that. I spent the next 60-90 minutes emailing, texting and calling work, trying to do what I could to get things back online once power was restored. It didn’t exactly ruin the evening, but it did take my attention away from the art opening, and completely wiped-out my cell phone battery, hence the limited number of pictures I posted from day 1.

We met up with Scott Nicolay and Anya Martin, and though my phone was dead, Scott informed me of the news that The Grimscribe’s Puppets, the Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. to which both Scott and I contributed stories, had been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for best anthology. On top of the nomination of the same book for the Bram Stoker Award in the same category, this has been a great year for that anthology and for editor Joe Pulver.

grimbscribes

If you haven’t purchased this book yet, well, maybe you should!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Grimscribes-Puppets-Joseph-Pulver/dp/1937408019

The last event of the evening was a reading block by Anya and Yvonne Navarro. Both readings were emotionally powerful and went over very well. After, a few of us posed for photos with the creepy stuffed monsters in the corner, and Yvonne’s husband Weston Ochse (sure-thing winner of the Best Shoes award for the 2014 con) was good enough to snap photos of our group. Left to right, that’s me, Lena, Dominique Lamssies, Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay.

day1group

2013 Apex Magazine “Story of the Year” Voting

My story “The Lure of Devouring Light” appeared in Apex Magazine in April 2013, so it’s among those you can vote for in Apex’s “2013 Story of the Year” poll if you’re so inclined. It just takes a click or two!

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2014/01/apex-magazine-2013-story-of-the-year-readers-poll/

There’s a lot of great stuff to read for free on Apex’s web site. If you’re interested in my story but haven’t see it before, here’s a direct link:

The Lure of Devouring Light

New Story “Her Very Shape…” Now Online

I’m pleased to report that my story “Her Very Shape and the Way She Says My Words” is featured in the September 2013 issue, number 24, of newmyths.com.

This is actually a very short flash piece, by far the shortest thing I’ve ever published. It’s just 800 words, for those who keep track of such things.

Here’s the site: newmyths.com

Click on the “Issue 24” link (at present that’s at the top, though if you see this link later, it will be under “Past Issues”) and scroll down for the Table of Contents.

NecronomiCon Dinner With Lovecraftians

The first event that really let us know NecronomiCon Providence was getting into full swing was the dinner at McCormack and Schmick’s restaurant on the ground floor of the Biltmore Hotel, where most of us were staying. A few of us casually clowned-around in the hotel lobby, and Tom Lynch started murmuring about dinner.

In the first photo, Tom Lynch(L) and Mike Davis (R) get ready to rassle in the foreground, while behind them Peter Rawlik and Joe Pulver enter into a tender embrace.

ms-dinner-before

If you were within range of my camera at this moment, that meant you were cool enough to be invited to McCormack and Schmick’s by Tom Lynch of Miskatonic River Press, fine publisher of such tomes as The Grimscribe’s Puppets, A Season in Carcosa, and more. Tom’s treat!

Let the following image serve as proof of the deep silliness on display among this crowd. Lady Lovecraft appears in the background here.

ms-dinner-sillytom

We managed to persuade this nice restaurant to give a large table to a bunch of roughnecks and buffoons. They even treated us like normal patrons.

In the next picture, Sam Cowan (L) displays his copy of The Grimscribe’s Puppets, opposite me, uploading photos from my phone, while in the background Boss Tom Lynch and bEast Pulver tell Sam “what’s what” as far as that Grimscribe’s book. Sitting between Sam and Tom is David Rankus.

ms-dinner-ladylovecraft

At this stage, Sam is talking about possibly getting some writers to sign the book.

I mentioned I’d never signed a book before, which provoked a bit of discussion, mockery, amazement, etc. I ended up signing many books over the weekend (not sure how many — a few dozen at least) but Sam Cowan received the first. See inscription below.

I joked with him that if — when! — I’m hugely famous, the book will be worth $8 million, and he’ll be especially glad he attended this dinner!

ms-dinner-samcowan

Lady Lovecraft took this photo across the table — so you can’t see her, but that’s Blair Leggett and Sam Cowan.

ms-dinner-ladylovecraft2

Also present… Cthulhu himself!

This video, provided by Mike Davis of Lovecraft eZine, gives a good idea of the zany atmosphere. They’re trying to convince Cthulhu to eat one of his own distant relatives.

Mike also took this picture from his end of the table, primarily focusing on the back of Peter Rawlik’s head, and Mike’s own empty seat.

On the left, that’s Vince LaRosa and Blair Leggett. Behind Blair you can almost see Sam’s red shirt.

At the head of the table is the Boss, the Man, the Honcho… Tom Lynch.

On the right, Lady Lovecraft has her head turned, then Lena, then me, then Jeffrey Thomas.

ms-dinner-mikedavis

Dinner was very good, if a bit excessive. Tom told the waiter which appetizers interested us, and allowed said waiter to decide what quantity of appetizers was appropriate for a table of our size. I think we ended up with 15 or more appetizers… a bit much! The bacon-wrapped shrimp were damn good, though, and I’m always fond of crab cakes and calamari.

Very fine company, a tons of fun. Our sincere thanks to Tom Lynch and Miskatonic River Press for making this happen, bringing us all together, and footing the sizable bill!

Super Concise Writing Tip

Today’s super concise writing tip:

Don’t just tell the reader what happened.

Convey to the reader the sensory experience or emotional impact of what happened.

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
― E.L. Doctorow