Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Should Be At Livejournal

...but LJ's down, and may be down some time. I suppose there's always the option of switching the Dreamwidth, but...yeah, I dunno. Still not really feeling that place, considering its cast of proselytizing backbone inhabitants. So, instead: Have the entry I would've put up there, if that option was open to me.

At the moment, I'm still behind as hell on A Tree of Bones, still unimpressed by my own work ethic, still wrestling intermittently with a new outline bent on pruning both the one I began with (two years ago) and the one I came up with last year (when I thought A Rope of Thorns would be the end of the haul) down to their best bits and then knitting it all together. At the moment, it looks lumpy to say the least, and I'm frankly scared. Can only hope that my "Deadlines are our friend!" genes will eventually kick in, before things really go to shit.

In the meantime, I've been trying to catch up on various books, including some stuff I got out of the library. Dean Koontz's What the Night Knows was a welcome return to form, crammed with crazy gothic freakery--a serial killer/ghost/possession/body ride thriller full of fairly smart characters who nevertheless make dumb decisions because A) they're young and inexperienced or B) don't know they're in a horror narrative. I was very amused by the scene in which our hero spills his woes to a local priest, only to have the priest recommend a psychiatrist. OTOH, the clear implication that liking Harry Potter/Narnia-type stories opens you up to Satanically-influenced manipulation rings a bit dicey, but YMMV.

Odder and potentially more useful is a collection from Skyhorse called Vintage Vampire Stories, which has the dubious distinction of being the worst copy-edited book I've read in years (one tale has five separate errors in the same paragraph), yet fills a need I never really knew I had: Images of the vampire from well before the "rules" of mainstream vampirism were completely established. Granted, it contains Bram Stoker's original 1890 notes for the novel he was then going to call Count Wampyr (good save, my man), but the rest of the tales--which range in date from 1679 to 1909--are incredibly free-ranging: We've got medical "vampirism" (actually more a combination of berserker rage and cannibalistic hunger), a haunted mirror that sucks the life out of those who live adjacent to it, something which seems like the myth of Tithonus combined with psychic youth-vampirism, little-known localized variants like the Portugese bruxsa, the Chinese "blood-drinking corpse" and the Moldavian "Children of Judas", an African "blood fetish" that's a mummified hand which strangles people in their sleep, and the astral projection of a dead psychic which is finally "laid" by an equally astral-projected Tibetan lama.

At least five of the stories also very specifically recall the archaic connection between vampire and "vamp", or femme fatale: Stuff like Dick Donovan's "The Woman with the Oily Eyes", in which our titular creature might be anything from a con artist/poisoner to a witch or genetic vampire, born with a full set of teeth and her hypnotically mesmerizing eyes sealed together, or Phil Robinson's "Medusa", who keeps her face constantly covered for fear of attracting men whose life-force she'll suck out without even really wanting to. Or Hugh McCrae's "The Vampire", which is basically just a two-page sketch about some sap getting taken for everything he's worth by a turn-of-the-century golddigga with "stuffed busks and stuffed hair". (His brief biography notes that he lived a Bohemian life and belonged to an artists' club called "The Prehistoric Order of Cannibals"; somebody should write a story about that.)

I can't say any of these stories are good per se, but many are quite fascinating...and at least one, Mary Fortune's "The White Maniac: A Doctor's Tale", is unintentionally hilarious. Our hero, a dashing Victorian physician, is brought in to consult on the case of a French "princess" who's been confined by her uncle in an all-white house--he says she has to be kept segregated from all colour (especially red, get it?) in order to stave off murderous attacks of monomania. But she claims it's her uncle who's crazy, and naturally--because she's cute ad uncle isn't--Dr Moron takes her word for it; he decides to marry her, and shows up at the house with a bouquet of red roses. I spoke I uncovered my scarlet bouquet and shook out its blossoms. The sight of it made a terrible impression upon my companion; his knees trembled as if he were about to fall, and his face grew whiter than his garments.

"In the name of heaven, what are you going to do?" he gasped.

"I am simply going to present my bride with a bouquet," I said, and as I said so I laughed, an empty, hollow laugh. I cannot describe my strange state of mind at that moment; I felt as if myself under the influence of some terrible mania.

"By all you hold sacred, Charles Elveston, I charge you to desist! Who or what are you, that you should set your youth and ignorance of this woman against my age and bitter experience?"

"Ha ha!" was my only response, as I made towards the door.

As one might assume, this doesn't turn out well. In Simpsons voices:

"I told you she was crazy and would try to bite your throat out!"

"I said 'ha ha'!"

Okay, I see it's begun to rain outside, which explains my headache. More Tylenol Sinus, and back to the grind...

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Reviews: A Rope of Thorns/A Book of Tongues

I'm consistently amazed by how long the recognition tail on A Book of Tongues has been, thus far, and--given the initial distribution/release problems with A Rope of Thorns--can only hope this state of affairs will continue with the other two (especially once I'm actually done with A Tree of Bones).

But I've been really negligent in terms of linking to new reviews of either, so here we go:

A Book of Tongues
KV Taylor at Goodreads (
Cory Redekop's Shelf-Monkey (
Andrea Blythe (
Inside the Reader's Studio (
CSI:Librarian (
A Rope of Thorns
Sonar4 Landing Dock Reviews (
Library Journal [be prepared to scroll down] (
Jene Moore's The (Hopeful) Librarian (
Cory Redekop's Shelf-Monkey (

Thanks to's amazing.;)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Readercon Schedule

So--I'm off to Readercon as of Thursday, and here's my schedule:

Thursday July 14

8:00 PM G We All Produce, We All Consume. Paul Di Filippo, Gemma Files, Robert Killheffer, K.A. Laity (leader), Jamie Todd Rubin. In a 2008 blog post, Leah Bobet connected the dots of increasing media interactivity and increasing independent authorship. Both trends have only escalated in the years since. When every blogger is an author, every commenter is a reviewer, and every work is assumed to be the start of a conversation, how does that change the experience and culture of reading? Was it ever possible to be a passive reader, or are we simply bringing our marginalia and book-flinging out into the light?

Friday July 15

11:00 AM VT Reading. Gemma Files. Files reads from a work not yet selected.
12:00 PM ME The Readercon Classic Fiction Book Club: Howl's Moving Castle. C.S.E. Cooney, Gemma Files, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link (leader), Sonya Taaffe. Diana Wynne Jones's death earlier this year gave rise to a seemingly endless series of blog posts extolling her many books. Howl's Moving Castle, first published in 1986, was one of the most frequently mentioned titles. This powerful story of magic, riddles, and romance is packed with allegory, clever subversions of common fantasy tropes, metafictional humor, and meditations on the nature of change. Such a work is necessarily slippery, but perhaps 25 years of analysis will help us get a grip on it.
2:00 PM Vin. Kaffeeklatsch. Gemma Files, Terry McGarry.
3:00 PM F Whatever Remains, No Matter How Improbable: Horror and the Scientific Method. Gemma Files, Jack M. Haringa, Caitlin R. Kiernan (leader), John Langan, Sarah Langan. What makes The Exorcist (book only) especially terrifying to a science fiction fan is the slow, laborious exhaustion of all rational explanations for the observed phenomenon, leaving demonic possession as the only alternative. The irrationality of horror becomes much more effective when its natural opponent, the scientific worldview and method, is neither dismissed a priori nor treated as a strawman. Beginning with the presumption that science is wrong and that there is inexplicable evil in the world might well provoke these readers' unconscious skepticism; playing by science's rules and reaching that conclusion is thrillingly convincing. What other works have exploited this dynamic? Are there advantages lost when the demonic worldview is not taken for granted but is instead painstakingly established? How do works that do this read to the naturally horror-minded?
7:00 PM F "I'm (No Longer) Shocked, Shocked!". Gemma Files, Jim Freund (leader), Charles Platt, Joan Slonczewski, Paul Tremblay. There are many good reasons for writers to try to shock readers: to make them reconsider ideas, to evoke or heighten strong emotions, to add to the atmosphere of a horror novel or dystopia. The drawback is that the daring and transgressive can almost overnight turn into the boring or bewildering. When writers actively try to shock contemporary readers, are they also putting an expiration date on their work? Or are there shocks that can transcend the trends of the moment?

Saturday July 16

3:00 PM G Matrilineal Heritage. Gemma Files, Eileen Gunn, Victoria Janssen, Ellen Kushner (leader), Chris Moriarty. Diana Wynne Jones and Joanna Russ were two of the women who greatly inspired other women to write speculative fiction. Who are their heirs? And who are their heirs inspiring?

Sunday July 17

10:00 AM E Autographs. Debra Doyle, Gemma Files, James D. Macdonald.
11:00 AM G The Shirley Jackson Awards. F. Brett Cox, Ellen Datlow, Peter Dube, Scott Edelman, Gemma Files, Caitlin R. Kiernan, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Victor LaValle (moderator). 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 such classic novels 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 2010 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
1:00 PM RI How I Wrote the Hexslinger Series. Gemma Files. Gemma Files discusses the researching and writing of her queer western apocalyptic trilogy.
This last will be particularly interesting, given how effing blocked I've been lately on A Tree of Bones. But I'm sure we'll find stuff to talk about!