This fifth installment concludes my H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival convention report. It covers the aftermath of the event itself, and is mostly intended for people who know me, Lena and Joe, or those who enjoy looking of pictures of beach vacations, or reading recaps of excessive seafood and pizza consumption.
Early Monday morning, I dropped Mike Davis at PDX. I had to work a half-day, after which I hurried home to pick up Joe and Lena and we drove to Lincoln City. On arrival, I found a missed call (no cell phone coverage in the coast range) and voicemail from Gwen Callahan saying Mike Davis's flight was cancelled, and he was stuck at airport!
Panic! We scrambled around, calling and texting and emailing people, trying to figure out what happened. I thought most likely we'd need to go back to Portland and pick up Mike. To our relief, an updated Facebook post informed us that American Airlines had given Mike a hotel, and a ticket on an early flight home the next morning.
So, back to relaxation mode. We took Joe for a walk down to the beach, specifically the main Roads End access point at the extreme north end of Lincoln City.
This was Joe's first time ever seeing the Pacific Ocean. It was great to see him acting like an excited kid.
Lena and I go to the beach all the time, but it had been many years since we'd taken off our shoes and gone out into the water. Joe inspired us to give it a try.
We were lucky to get a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day.
I caught crabs. You've got to watch out -- these things will creep up on you.
Back at the house, we decided to order pizza. I've been eating pizza from Gallucci's Pizzeria in Lincoln City since I was a wee lad. It's fantastic! This pizza, just a medium, weighed as much as three normal pizzas.
We all ate Gallucci's Combo, Lena and I drank tiny bottles of Red Stripe, and Joe drank one of his gallon jugs of iced tea. While we ate, we watched Under the Sand. François Ozon is solid. Charlotte Rampling is amazing!
This being post-convention vacation mode, we all crashed pretty early.
Tuesday morning was gray and cool. That's not uncommon at the Oregon coast, even in July or August, but it was still a let-down after yesterday. We scrounged some cold pizza for breakfast. That Gallucci's pizza was HUGE. Joe's like me, always eating whatever's left of last night's dinner first thing. Anyway, we weren't focused on breakfast today. We were ready to knock seafood off Joe's "must eat" list.
Lena and I go to Kyllo's, right on Highway 101 where it crosses D River, every time we visit Lincoln City.
We wanted to get as many kinds of seafood as we could. Joe was excited to find they had a Cajun shrimp and cod lunch special.
To that, we added two appetizers: oysters and calimari. Four kinds of seafood!
Even after all that, Joe was unable to resist the offer of key lime pie.
On the way out, we showed Joe "D River," which is (used to be?) the world's shortest river, which runs right under the restaurant. It's a tiny little outlet from D lake, right under Highway 101 and the restaurant, to the ocean. The Wikipedia page for D River includes an exterior shot of Kyllo's, and tells me the river is no longer the world's shortest.
After lunch we drove about twenty miles south, down to Depoe Bay, trying to give Joe a sense of a different kind of beach. Most Lincoln City beaches are flat and sandy. Down in Depoe Bay, you get to see cliffs and rocks.
Depoe Bay is known as a hot spot for whale watching. Unfortunately, during Joe's visit the only whale visible was this very small non-aquatic variety, which seemed to be in some kind of stupor. This Miniature Gray Whale sat there long enough to let Joe pose for a picture.
On the way back through town, stopped at Robert's Books, a great used and antiquarian book shop in the Nelscott part of town. I recommend this place if you ever visit LC. Here Lena is ready about something spooky!
We had to make sure to show Joe the King in Yellow first editions (both British and American) locked away in the glass case. Too expensive to buy, but fun to check out. Also, there were two whole shelves of Arkham House hardcovers. It's fun to browse a bookstore with another writer, make suggestions and compare notes. Joe and I talked a lot about Jack o"connell and Andrew Vachss. Then Joe asked to take a look at my "to buy" pile, as well as Lena's, and sneakily went up front and paid for them.
Here's my Cthulhu t-shirt with a design from a woodcut by Liv Rainey-Smith. I love this, and I need to buy more of her art.
All fun things -- conventions, visits from friends, vacations -- must come to an end. Goodbye, beach!
Back to Portland. All of us were starting to run on fumes, feeling happy from all the fun times, yet exhausted. There was still time to make Joe one more special USA-ian dinner -- grilled steaks, with baked potatoes and Caesar salads. After that, we were all starting to think we might need a week or two break from food.
Wednesday morning, we dropped Joe at PDX and said goodbye. All three of us kept reminding each other that soon we'd see each other again. August in Providence... August in Providence. Not just the three of us, but many of the new friends we met and the old friends we'd seen again, this past wonderful week.
Earlier installments of this con report include Part I – Before, Part II – Friday, and Part III – Saturday. Part V is forthcoming. My apologies for the gap between part III and this one. Illness interrupted my "one installment per day" intentions.
No early events were scheduled Sunday, the third and final day of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. We were able to sleep in a bit, and stop for a Mexican brunch buffet. Mmmmm, all you can eat bacon and eggs, beans and rice and enchiladas, with a half-dozen different kinds of salsa! All kinds of variety in endless quantity, which is perfect for this crew.
Despite the short Sunday program, our group had a busy day planned. Joe had a panel, Mike was planning on doing a live Lovecraft eZine webcast from the festival hall, the webcast including visits from Joe and many other guests. Also, Sunday I would be reading my work to an audience for the first time.
Waiting for the theater to open, I had a chance to meet the eminent Lovecraft scholar and editor S.T. Joshi, here in his Lovecraft eZine t-shirt beside Mike Davis.
S.T. told us about the huge number of books he has pending with Centipede Press (he actually tried to list them all from memory, and couldn't quite), and further mentioned that he had roughly two dozen books pending release with his various publishers! Speaking of Centipede, that's a press you need to check out if you enjoy finely crafted hardcover editions of weird, horror or noir fiction.
I also met writer, editor and filmmaker Jason V. Brock, who joined the group and told hilarious anecdotes about meeting and interviewing Harlan Ellison (for Jason's Charles Beaumont documentary), complete with a pretty good imitation of Ellison's amusingly gruff way of speaking and cantankerous manner.
Our group of casually chatting writers and editors and readers continued to grow, as more and more people drifted over. It was like sitting at the cool kids' table, being at a Lovecraft-related event, and standing there in a circle with S.T. Joshi, Mike Davis, Ross Lockhart, Joe Pulver, Jason V. Brock and too many others to list.
My 4PM reading, listed on the schedule board.
Once inside, as had happened all weekend, we managed to spend hours bumping into people and talking, without seeing much of the scheduled programming. Finally Joe's panel was coming up, and though I knew I'd have to leave early to make my reading, we watched most of that. This was Writing Supernatural Fiction, with Nick Mamatas, Camille Alexa, Amanda Downum and Cody Goodfellow).
While this panel was going on, Mike Davis set up his laptop in the downstairs hallway, next to Nick Gucker's vendor table outside the main theater. In that incredibly loud and distracting environment, Mike commenced the every-Sunday Lovecraft eZine web chat or "hangout" on Google+. You can watch the full recording on YouTube below.
(Ross Lockhart appears at about 4:30)
(Nick Gucker appears at about 25 minutes)
(I appear briefly at about 45 minutes)
(Neils Hobbs appears at about 48 minutes)
(Wilum H. Pugmire appears at about 53 minutes)
(Alicia Graves at 63 minute mark)
(Joe Pulver at 64 minute mark)
(Kelly Young at 70 minutes)
The webcast software did a great job filtering out background noise, so the video doesn't convey how noisy the theater hallway was. When I briefly appeared, I mentioned I couldn't hear anything at all being said by the others on the webcast. One of them, I think Pete Rawlik, asked someone on his end to be quiet as if we couldn't hear over them, but the "too much chatter" I mentioned was entirely in the theater hallway.
Above, Ross Lockhart guests early in the webcast. Below, Niels Hobbs and Wilum Pugmire are interviewed near the webcasts's midpoint -- or possibly checking out something 3D on Mike's computer. I only stopped by briefly to explain that I couldn't participate in the webcast, because I had to hurry to my reading.
Lena (my wife, for those of you just joining this recap) intended to take video of my reading, but her camera's memory card filled up just after my self-introduction. I may post that video later, in case it's of any interest, but these photos give an idea of the scene.
Bizarro author Bradley Sands read several short pieces from his book, Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy, all of which were funny and very (intentionally) strange. Jim Smiley read a portion of an early chapter of a novel-in-progress, which also went over well.
I went last. All three of us had selected something short to read -- I read my story "The Need to Desire" which you can find on my blog, free to read here -- so the reading portion was over in less than a half hour. I bullied the audience into asking questions. We all talked a bit about our own work, and how we got started. Overall, a successful first reading. I thought with so many other events happening at the same time, the audience might be just a few people, but a respectable number turned out.
The reading finished up at about the same time as the Lovecraft eZine webcast, so we all met up for one last Columbia River Brewing meal.
Lena and I and Joe and Mike were joined by Dominique Lamssies -- and another guy we thought was with Dominique, but it turned out none of us knew. (EDIT: In comments to this post, HPLFF co-boss Gwen Callahan reports the gentleman at our table is Todd Ellner. Hi, Todd!) Also, Niels Hobbs, prime mover of the NecronomiCon Providence convention. That's Niels seated to my right, talking with Mike Davis.
Above, Joe displays Dominique's miniature Cthulhu plushy. Not only was Dominique very organized about getting her books signed (see Saturday entry) but she also managed to get a lot of pictures of people holding her tiny Cthulhu.
Some super-fabulous-folk hang out on Wilum's bench. That's Alicia Graves with him.
Artist Nick Gucker and trouble-maker Joe Pulver, starting to face up to the looming end of the convention.
Below, Joe and Niels discuss exciting possibilities upcoming in Providence. What's the best antidote for sadness about one event ending? Excited anticipation of another event upcoming!
Back inside, Lena and I talked with Nick Gucker, then spent some more time talking with Molly Tanzer, who was in fine form. With her was writer, editor and provocateur Nick Mamatas. I re-introduced myself to Nick. We'd previously been acquainted through some editing work Nick did on a few of my stories maybe eighteen months ago. I also spoke with Orrin Gray, a truly nice fellow, and one of several I wish I'd spent more time with.
Outside, there were some goodbyes, but nothing too formal. Events like this don't end all at once. People drift off, some leave early, some linger upstairs. Again and again, I heard people reminding themselves and each other, "Providence will be soon. See you in Providence!"
The upcoming Part V will conclude this con report, and will cover events after the HPLFF itself, mainly our trip to Lincoln City with Joe Pulver.
Saturday morning we left the house before 8AM so we could get down to the Hollywood district by 8:30. Robert Price, who in addition to being one of two performers at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast is also a very close personal friend of Joe Pulver, warned us these events always fill up, and we shouldn't arrive late.
The problem with arriving at 8:30 is that Columbia River Brewing (yes, the same place we'd been eating most of our lunches and dinners so far) didn't even open until 9AM, a minute or two before the event was supposed to start. So a bunch of Lovecraftian weirdos gathered out on the sidewalk, waiting, scaring the neighbors, and causing a general decline in property values.
I checked my phone, thinking I'd answer the text messages Alicia Graves left last night. I found there were also missed calls from Scott Nicolay, a writer friend of ours from New Mexico who had really hoped to be able to attend this year's event, but hadn't been able to come. Scott knows Alicia, and had been texting back and forth with her all along. I figured maybe when she'd been unable to reach us last night, she might have asked him to try to reach us. Hmm... the mystery deepens? Still too early to call Scott back.
Finally, we got inside, and snagged a table. We guessed where Robert Price and Cody Goodfellow would be setting up, and sat nearby. We guessed wrong! Their "pulpit" was actually the hostess station at the front of the restaurant. We ended up sitting behind the action, hence the weird angle on some of the photos I posted.
The breakfast aspect of the event was straightforward -- eggs and potatoes and bacon and little pancakes served banquet style.
Above, Joe explains something to me and Lena, while Robert Price chats with Mike Davis.
Below, Lena and I were dressed for a funeral we needed to attend later in the day, while Ross Lockhart, seated behind Lena, signs a copy of his kick-ass book Chick Bassist for Dominique Lamssies, who was at our table. Dominique was constantly getting books signed by everybody. I was nowhere so organized, so all my books authored by HPLFF guests remain at home, still unsigned, except for the copies bEast Pulver stealthily signed like the tooth fairy while we were sleeping.
Ross Lockhart and I both take a lot of iPhone photos, and constantly quick-post them to Facebook while the event is still happening, to a degree that either delights or infuriates everyone around us, depending on whether or not they're cool. Ross and I joked that we could both view the same events from a very slightly different angle, in very nearly real time, by checking in with each other's photo feeds.
On the next table, woodcut artist Liv Rainey-Smith. You can see an example of Liv's woodcut art on her t-shirt here. I ended up buying myself one of these shirts, but not until the future. See, at the time I'm writing this blog post, I'm looking back on the past event of the shirt purchase, but as of the morning here depicted, Liv had a shirt like this, but I didn't yet. I realize this is complicated, like trying to unravel Primer or Memento or something. Just trust me. You'll see the shirt -- my shirt -- in Part IV.
Cody Goodfellow kicked off the ceremony with a shout. For the following video, everyone thank Mike Davis of Lovecraft eZine, because I have stolen this from him.
Here's a photo for those of you disinclined to watch moving pictures, or may be reading this in a workplace that can't deal with crazy, pseudo-religious shouting. After Cody's portion, writer and editor Robert M. Price came on like a Cthulhu-flavored Southern Baptist preacher. This event really was a lot of fun, and had the restaurant full of about 140 people rocking.
The breakfast ended at 11. Afterward, we goofed around in the restaurant until we were the last people there. Mike Davis posted some photos, and maybe even the above video. The rest of us went outside, where cool weirdos were hanging out. Lena and I were entertained by Cody and Joe and Nick Gucker, among others, during the hour break between the prayer breakfast and the beginning of events in the main theater at noon.
The first event we wanted to see was Pickman's Apprentice, which is the contest in which artists try to create a piece of art in real time based on key words provided by the audience. Last year, we watched Nick Gucker, Lee Moyer and Mike Dubisch spend two hours rendering a shoggoth in a circus. This year, the same three artists, plus Liv Rainey-Smith (see above, woodcut artist, t-shirt, et cetera) tackled the challenge of depicting the King in Yellow (guess which audience member shouted that out?) in a sushi bar.
I didn't get any good photos of the challenge this year. Lena and I needed to leave before 1PM for the funeral. Before that, I went out to the main upstairs landing, aka the "Mall of Cthulhu" where vendors sell their Lovecraftian wares. I was trying to find Joe, who had two packages I needed to mail while we were out. When I found Joe and Mike Davis, they pointed at the opposite end of the upstairs, and asked, "Did you see Scott yet?"
I turned and looked where they were pointing. There was a guy over there who looked like Scott Nicolay, sort of. I figured they were kidding, because an ongoing joke all weekend had been how badly Scott wanted to be here, and couldn't make it. We kept teasing Scott, who wanted to meet Alicia in person, that we were hanging around with her, and too bad he couldn't be here!
Turned out, it really was Scott. He really had shown up, surprised everyone. In fact, that was the surprise that was supposed to happen the night before. Scott had arrived late, and Alicia had brought him down to shock everybody... but we were already heading toward sleep.
Better late than never, with something like this. We were all overjoyed to see Scott, finally meet him in person. Alicia let us know that was the reason she had been repeatedly calling and texting last night. We took a few pictures with Scott in the theater, then Lena and I had to leave for a couple of hours.
We came back and changed into more comfortable clothes in the car. Nearby, we found a pair of dentist's offices with giant metal toothbrush sculptures embedded into the sidewalk out front, so Lena took a moment to freshen up her dental hygeine.
We had to miss Joe's reading, but arrived in the middle of Ed Morris's, then saw Cody Goodfellow's. Ed and Cody both read well, with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Here's Ed reading his piece. (thanks to Thérèse Elaine for the photo)
I was glad to see the room in which my own Sunday reading would take place, off-site in a place called "EOD Center" a block from the theater, next door to Columbia River Brewing. The room, essentially a mid-sized classroom with room for plenty of chairs, was walled on one side by a sliding vinyl partition. On the other side of that was an open area full of vocal, enthusiastic gamers. The amount of chatter audible through the partition wasn't really a problem, at least it wasn't loud enough to prevent the audience from enjoying the reading, but I was glad to know in advance that I'd need to speak up, and could expect distractions from the next room.
After the Pulver-Goodfellow-Morris reading, we returned to the theater. We were too late to watch Nightbreed: Cabal Cut, which had started an hour earlier. This is a restored version of Clive Barker's poorly-received 1990 horror/fantasy film. The restoration was accomplished utilizing material from VHS rough cuts, and while my understanding is that the Cabal Cut greatly improves the story's impact and coherence, the quality of the restored materials does not match that of the original. It's been suggested that eventually a fully-restored Cabal Cut, going back to original camera negatives or at least first-quality optical materials, may be released on DVD or BluRay. I hope so, as we had to miss this screening.
Someone had adorned the theatrical posters outside with googly eyes, creating an amusing spectacle many people wanted to photograph.
Here's the official H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival poster, featuring artwork by the great and wonderful Nick "The Hat" Gucker. For a while, this had googly eyes all over it, but by the time I took my picture, the poster had been de-googly-ed.
Because all events were mid-stream, we went back upstairs, to the vendor area. Lena and I bought t-shirts, then talked for a while with Nikki Guerlain, a Portland area writer. I asked about Nikki's son, as she had mentioned on Facebook the possibility of bringing him to the festival. This led to Lena and I mentioning not having kids, which led to Nikki freaking out about how much younger Lena looks than her age, and this led finally to Nikki revealing her age and both Lena and I freaking out about how much younger she looks.
Nikki and Lena compared notes about many subjects relating to diet, health and nutrition, the various keys to looking 10-15 years younger than their actual ages. Then Nikki and I spent a while talking about writing and publishing, about moving from one genre to another, about the benefits and drawbacks of critique groups. We both had stories appear in Phantasmagorium weekly, and both have stories upcoming in Mighty in Sorrow, the Current 93 tribute edited by Jordan Krall. In fact, several others present at the HPLFF will be included as well, such as Ross Lockhart and Joe Pulver -- possibly others I'm forgetting. That book will be released at NecronomiCon, another Lovecraft festival happening in Providence, Rhode Island (Lovecraft's home town) in August.
Nikki is fun, super-energized, and overflowing with ideas. She talks as fast as anyone I've ever known! Here's Nikki (r) with Alicia Graves (l).
Nikki gave me a copy of Imperial Youth Review, a new literary zine in which she had a story, as did Edward Morris and Nick Mamatas -- and Nick Gucker had an illustration and Jess Gulbranson a review -- to name only HPLFF guests. The second issue will have a Joe Pulver story.
Sam McCanna, the kindly mad genius behind Skurvy Ink (a t-shirt company that makes rock-and-roll style t-shirts, but instead of band logos and names, the shirts feature books, authors, and publishers, particularly in the weird, horror and bizarro genres) showed up with Imperial Youth Review t-shirts for me and Lena. The shirts bear the illustration from the first issue cover.
Sam also debuted a W.H. Pugmire t-shirt design, with art by Nick Gucker, in honor of Wilum's birthday. Wilum seemed very excited and proud of the shirt, and everybody seemed to want one. Pretty fabulous! In the above picture, that's Sam sitting next to Wilum Pugmire (both of them wearing the new W.H. Pugmire t-shirt, and Mike Davis, with Joe Pulver behind.
In the following picture, here's Mike Davis showing off the artwork for the Pugmire t-shirt, with Wilum himself.
We met Dennis Weiler of publisher Fedogan & Bremer. They're best known for Lovecraftian anthologies, but soon will publish Scott Nicolay's debut collection Tuckahoe. I got my hands on the catalog Dennis is holding in the picture, and it looks like F&B has some interesting things coming up.
After the dinner break (we ate again at Columbia River Brewing -- where else?). On our return to the theater, we considered watching the "At the Mountains of Madness Live on Stage" performance. We later heard this was really good, and wished we hadn't missed it.
Instead, we Went upstairs for Shorts Block 2, and found it standing room only. In past years at the festival, Lena and I just went from theater to theater, always watching movies or panels or readings. This year, we found it easy to get into conversations in the halls and common areas, and barely watched any of the scheduled events..
Because we had skipped the after-party the night before, and didn't need to get up early Sunday morning, we all planned to go to the after-party Saturday night. We also thought if we waited until 11, Tony Starlight's would be packed, so we had what we considered a clever idea to skip the 9-11PM movie block and go to Tony Starlight's at 9PM. Mike Davis had told Molly Tanzer we'd see her there, and Joe had said the same to Kelly Young and Brandi Jording (who were off having another nap). We tried calling and texting everyone to let them know we were headed over early. The problem was, the door person at Tony Starlight's told us there was a $16 cover, and anyway they didn't want any Lovecraftians in the place until 11PM.
We neaded back nearer the theater, to the Moon and Sixpence, a nice English-style pub where the after-party had been held in previous years. We found a table on the patio outside in the back, and discovered Molly Tanzer was already there with a bunch of people, including Nick Mamatas, Ross Lockhart, Cameron Pierce and his wife.
Joe had been claiming all weekend he'd drink a Scotch if somebody would buy him a good one -- it had to be at least a 12-year-old single malt -- which was noteworthy because, despite the bEast behaving in a way that might make some guess he's intoxicated, he hadn't actually had a drink in something like 15 years. I bought a 12-year Glenlivet for him, and one for myself.
While we sipped, I was lucky enough to listen in while Joe discussed a couple of anthology ideas with Ross Lockhart for Ross's new publishing venture, Word Horde. It was interesting to listen to their back-and-forth, weighing possibilities and trying to determine which angles might be compelling. Overall, it sounded very much like the kind of discussion I've had many times, considering projects for my Hypnos record label. There seems so much overlap between music and literature, and I never stop being surprised how many of the lessons I learned running a label, and dealing with recording artists, translate directly to situations in the writing and publishing world.
Joe finished his Glenlivet, and claimed to enjoy it!
Before we left, Alicia mentioned that Scott Nicolay would be leaving early the next morning, and this was the last we'd see him. It was great to meet this good friend in the flesh. Too soon, he had to return home. The one thing that made it easier for everyone, saying goodbye, was that so many of us are planning to attend NecronomiCon in Providence, this coming August.
For most of us, though, HPLFF still had one more day yet to come.
Part I of this con report can be found here. If you don't know who Mike, Joe, Lena and I are, read that first. Parts III through V are forthcoming.
Friday morning, we slept in a bit, and actually experienced a few hours of down time. We lounged around the house and enjoyed some great weather in the back yard.
When it was time to head down to the Hollywood district for events, we left a bit early to give us time to check Mike Davis into his con-provided hotel room at the Banfield, where most of the guests were booked. There was yet another SNAFU at the hotel, and no room available for Mike. We said "no thanks!" to the Banfield, and told Mike it was better all around if he just continued staying with us instead.
The first truly "official" event of the HPL Film Fest was the VIP Party, Friday afternoon at 3PM. Admission was restricted to festival guests, and a few non-guest ticket-holders who pledged at higher levels on the festival Kickstarter. The VIP party started things off across the street from the theater, at a little wine bar and bistro called Magnolia's Corner.
When I snapped the above picture, the guy (whom I don't know) in the Cthulhu mask started moving out of the picture, and taking off his mask. I told him, "Dude, you're in a Cthulhu mask -- you don't have to get out of the picture!" So he pulled the mask back on, and moved back into the frame. Also in the picture, Joe Pulver talking to Edward Morris, and on the bench behind, Wilum Pugmire.
Here's Portland's historic Hollywood Theater, site of the HP Lovecraft Film Festival, before activities begin.
We waited outside briefly, which gave us a chance to figure out who's who, and shake a few hands. I briefly met writer and editor Orrin Grey, whom I didn't recognize at first despite being Facebook and Livejournal friends. He's one of those sneaky people who doesn't post a lot of pictures of himself! He edited the Fungi anthology I recently reviewed here, and has a recent story collection Never Bet the Devil I really want to check out.
I also spoke with filmmaker and musician Mars Homeworld. He's best known for scoring a number of Lovecraftian films, including the excellent and apparently out-of-print documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. Mars also directed Transcendent, scheduled to show at this year's fest.
Here Joe Pulver, Wilum Pugmire and Mike Davis wait to get into VIP party. Between Mike and Wilum's heads, you can see the pink hair of Rose O'Keefe of Eraserhead Press, and over Mike's other shoulder, that's illustrator Mike Dubisch, who is often but not exclusively seen in Strange Aeons Magazine. Behind Mike Dubisch, that's writer Camille Alexa.
Here's a Dubsisch cover for Strange Aeons issue #10 (which I picked up at the con, signed by Mike) to give you a taste of the awesome!
Inside the VIP party was a great chance to get everyone together in proximity, without distractions or obligations like panels, readings and film screenings. We had a chance to reconnect with people we knew, go up and shake hands with people we hadn't previously met, and introduce each other around.
I was able to enjoy a few minutes with artist Lee Moyer, who is not only insanely talented, but also very knowledgable and informative on a thousand art-related topics (read his blog if you don't believe me), and a super-nice guy as well. I teased him a little about losing to Nick Gucker in last year's Pickman's Apprentice art challenge, figuring a guy as accomplished as Lee could take a bit of needling. His credits are far too numerous to list or link here, but Lee's art can be found on book covers (Kiernan!), calendars, video covers and games.
Lena and I had a great time with the fantastic writer and renowned tippler Molly Tanzer. Molly lives in Boulder, Colorado, an area known for its mountainous landscape, and the prevalence of an active, outdoorsy lifestyle among its residents. Lena and I are very much into hiking, running and mountain exploration, so we told Molly if she stuck around in Portland an extra day at next year's HPLFF, we'd take her up to Mt. Hood. We had in mind something like hiking and sightseeing.
"No, not hiking!" Molly said. Molly doesn't want to walk on trails. Molly wants to climb to the very top. Molly wants to conquer! "It's only, what, 11,000 feet?" By Boulder standards, barely a tiny hill.
A trip to the mountain sounds fun. A climb to the TOP of the mountain? Not so sure...
We also spent a few minutes with yet another super-talented and unbelievably nice artist, Nick Gucker. Nick has always been an excellent fellow, but since he recently illustrated my story "Nectar of Strange Lips" for Lovecraft eZine's April 2013 issue, I've raised Nick a further notch in my estimation. Truly among the all-time great, friendly and cool guys!
I feel like a broken record, describing people over and over as "wonderfully nice, friendly, also insanely talented," but it happens to be true in so many cases, with such a large segment of people one encounters at this event.
Interestingly, the writers, artists and editors mostly seem to all know each other, because they come back year after year. Some filmmakers attend often, but many seem to show up for just one year when their film screens, and don't know anybody outside their immediate group.
Here, the VIP party crowd sings Happy Birthday to Wilum Pugmire. Wilum was presented with a Cthulhu-themed green cake. Pictures exist all over Facebook, but I didn't see it until it was mostly eaten.
Drinks and snacks were provided. Even after snacks, we were still hungry, so went to Columbia River Brewing. It's a very good local brewpub, conveniently located a block from the theater, with lots of seating and a diverse menu. We ate here five times in three days.
After this, the actual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival itself was underway. No more preamble! Mike Davis and Lena and I sat near the back of the main theater, while Joe remained outside, dealing with (and clearly enjoying) the many demands on his time and attention. Here are writers Cody Goodfellow, Edward Morris and Joe Pulver talking outside before things got underway. (photo by Thérèse Elaine)
In the lead-up to the opening ceremony, as well as between events in the theater, the projectors displayed a digital slide show of book covers, magazine covers and other art pertaining to festival guests. It was fun to see a few items relevant to us, projected large: the cover of Mike's magazine Lovecraft eZine, the issue with my story in it, plus a story by Joe and Edward Morris, as well as writer Wendy Wagner who was also in attendance, with all our names on the cover. Lovecraft eZine cover artist and logo designer Leslie Herzfeld was also at the fest... so fully a half-dozen of us, all located in different places in the theater, must have said "Hey, cool, look!" when that cover image flashed on the screen.
There was a second promo for Lovecraft eZine, and also the cover of Joe's book Portraits of Ruin, which includes a photo of Lena (taken by me) integrated into the collage art piece by Joe's friend, artist J. Karl Bogartte.
In the brief video Mike Davis shot, Lena can be heard saying (when the Portraits of Ruin cover flashed on the screen) something like, "Look how big my face is!" That comes about midway through this clip. Before that, you can see my cool red pants as Mike follows us up the ramp.
After this brief introduction, we watched Shorts Block One. The short films are collected into blocks of less than 2 hours. Usually Block One is kind of a featured event, taking place after opening ceremonies in the big main theater.
The first film in this block, a Swedish-made short called Reset, was my favorite, and seemed to be the favorite of everyone I spoke to. In it, a little girl who lived on a remote farm listens to her mother read letters that arrive from her absent father. The opening and reading of the letters is an important, eagerly-awaited event for the girl, until she finds that the letters do not actually contain the words her mother has been reading to her.
We stuck around in the main theater for Prince of Darkness, a late 80s horror film by John Carpenter. It's not one of his best, containing many awkward attempts at hipness or humor. Some of the occult content is really creepy and interesting, and I felt this was a film ripe for a remake.
After the film ended at 11 PM we drifted outside to find Joe, who had been schmoozing for the past four hours, and also Mike Davis who had vacated the theater during Price of Darkness. We briefly debated going to the after party at Tony Starlight's Supper Club a few blocks down Sandy Boulevard, which had been the tentative plan. Everyone was tired, and Joe warned we should get an early start so as to snare a good table at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast the next morning. We headed home.
Almost there (way out in outer SE Portland, so there was no way we were heading back into town again), I received a text from Alicia Graves (see activity at Lovecraft Bar Thursday night in previous entry.) saying she couldn't find us at Tony Starlight's -- where were we?!
Everyone in our group was ready to sleep, so I resolved to text Alicia back in the morning. Before I actually fell asleep, Alicia texted again, and called twice in rapid succession. Why was she so insistent? Maybe she was stranded down there, and didn't have anyone to hang around with? Still, no way were we going back out. Sometimes the need for sleep refuses to be ignored.
We wouldn't discover until the next day the reason for Alicia's insistence. She was part of a surprise someone was trying to spring on us, which we'd unwittingly thwarted by heading home.
I'm breaking my convention report into several blog entries. The first is "Part I - Before," the name of which should make clear that it covers everything up to the actual beginning of the Film Festival on Friday afternoon.
Though the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon didn't officially start until Friday, "con weekend" started Tuesday for me and my wife Lena. Tuesday evening we went to PDX (that's the airport -- I'm philosophically opposed to calling Portland by that abbreviation) to pick up author, convention guest and noted weirdo Joe Pulver. Joe writes under his full name Joseph S. Pulver Sr. and you can read about him here.
Joe had been a good online and long-distance friend for a bit less than two years, but this was our first time meeting Joe face to face. In this internet age, many of us have experienced the shock or disorientation of meeting an online friend and finding little similarity between the expectation and the flesh-and-blood person. Probably because of so many Skype video chats, Joe looked, moved and spoke exactly like we expected he would. No weird surprises at all, just familiarity. My theory is that when it comes to meeting online friends, this potential shock can be diminished by speaking to them on the phone, at least. Even more helpful in matching one's preconceptions to a semblance of the actual individual is the video chat, such as Facetime or Skype.
Joe had warned us that the 26 hour flight from Berlin to London to Dallas/Fort Worth to Portland would probably leave him sore and tired, but he arrived buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. While we waited in baggage claim, I emailed an important friend of Joe's back in Berlin to let her know he'd arrived.
My clever wife had left a beef stew dinner simmering at home, so when the ravenous bEast (Joe's nickname) arrived, there was food to be had. After dinner, Lena and I thought, "Surely now he'll crash and sleep for 16 hours," but he was still buzzing almost until midnight. Neither she nor I had traveled 26 hours that day, but we finally had to surrender and say, "OK, time to sleep."
Wednesday I had to work the first half of the day, and after that I picked up our second guest, Mike Davis, editor of Lovecraft eZine. Also a guest at the convention, Mike had been offered a hotel room by the con organizers, but wanted to come a day earlier than the room was available. We offered to pick Mike up, let him stay with us Wednesday night, then take him down to the Hollywood district to get his room at the Banfield.
Back home, we dropped off Mike's luggage and picked up Joe and Lena for a Mexican food lunch -- not Portland's best, but a place nearby with a huge menu offering something for everyone.
As with Joe the night before, Mike seemed instantly familiar to the rest of us. Further proof of my theory that if you don't want your internet buddies to seem unfamiliar as aliens when you finally meet up, you ought to Skype or Facetime first!
After lunch, Joe wanted to take a trip to WalMart to pick up a few mundane essentials not readily available in Berlin. We ended up browsing slowly, ranging all over the entire store. Lena and Mike chatted, getting to know each other a little better. I tried to get Joe to buy a tiny outfit of Iron Man "top and bottom" underwear, but he wouldn't do it. Possibly they would have been too small, anyway.
We also picked up a few items needed for dinner. As an American resident of Berlin for the past few years, Joe had a list of favorite foods he wanted to experience while stateside. Tonight it was grilled bratwurst (it only occurred to me later than Joe probably had no problem finding German sausage in Germany), plus corn on the cob and cole slaw.
After, we watched Berberian Sound Studio (see my earlier review here), at least until Joe started falling asleep sitting up on the couch. That night, nobody had to be convinced we could use some sleep.
Thursday morning I made a giant frittata and 2 pounds of thick-cut bacon. The enormous vat of eggs and cheese and shredded potatoes took an eternity to bake, but the end result, combined with the mountain of bacon, kicked off a nice week-long stretch of overeating. Grub!
Our plan for the early part of the day was to take a scenic drive out the Columbia River Historic Highway. Mike wasn't feeling well, and decided to stay at the house and rest up. We made it as far as the Women's Forum Overlook before we found the highway was closed for construction.
We sidetracked to the main highway, and reconnected with the scenic route past the construction, near Latourell Falls. This drive, when it's open, is one of my favorite outings on which to take visitors.
The drive gives a great overview of the gorge from several perspectives, and passes by a half-dozen very different waterfalls, including the king of them all, Multnomah Falls.
After the detour, we had to cut the drive a bit short so we'd have time to make scratch chili (the next item on Joe's "must eat American foods while I'm here" list) and finish dinner before the evening's pre-party.
On our way to the party, we tried to check Mike into his hotel. The festival organizers planned to provide him with a room for Thursday through Sunday nights, and he was only planning to stay with us Wednesday night until his room was ready. There was a problem with the reservation, so we decided Mike would stay with us Thursday night as well, and take another crack at the hotel on Friday.
While at the Banfield Hotel, we met Wilum Pugmire, who needed a ride, so he hitched along. What group of Lovecraftians wouldn't want to add the fabulous Wilum to the fold?
The pre-party was an optional, open-admission event which took place before many HPLFF guests had arrived in town. Outside the Lovecraft Bar, waiting to get in, we met a few other attendees, like Cameron Pierce, Rose O'Keefe and Jeff Burk, for whose book Shatnerquest the pre-party doubled as a book release party.
Inside, Lena and I sat with Wilum, and Joe drifted around the room with Alicia Graves, another Facebook friend who had just arrived.
After an introduction mentioning Jeff Burk and his new book Shatnerquest, Ross Lockhart read a section from his excellent debut, Chick Bassist. There was too much echo on the public address for a reading, but the general idea off Ross's book came across.
There was a wild and bizarro-appropriate musical performance by Effword, followed by a crazy circus sideshow performance by a sister trio. Nails hammered into faces, holes power-drilled into sinuses, and so on.
Eventually they built a many-layered construct of beds of nails and scantily dressed sisters, on top of which stood the third sister spinning a hula hoop.
(video by Mike Davis, Lovecraft eZine)
Throughout the evening, Jeff Burk offered a series of raffle giveaways. I won a raffle prize -- both of Jeff's Shatner books, Shatner Quake and Shatnerquest -- and Joe Pulver won another prize, a Lovecraft Bar t-shirt. Our group dominated the raffle winnings!
Apart from this once-yearly event related to the HPL fest, the Lovecraft Bar is worthy of mention in its own right. It's on the small side (and was totally packed for this event) with a suitably goth/horror decor, and walls so packed with photos and art, I wish I'd had time to look more closely. Portland is fortunate to have such a cool Lovecraft-themed bar, to go along with the film festival a few miles away. I was surprised how many Lovecraftians present, many of whom were Portland residents, or many-time attendees of the HPLFF con, had never been to Lovecraft Bar before.
This relatively late Thursday night marked the end of our pre-festival activities. The next day, Friday, the real action would begin!
I've been preparing my blog report on the recent H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and have had to break it into several parts. So much happened. It's hard to keep everything straight, to remember the sequence of events, which people I met on which days.
Here's the statement I made on the event's Facebook page:
Two primary impressions remain in the aftermath of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival:
1. Wow, I got to have fun with SO MANY cool and amazing people!
2. There were SO MANY other interesting and cool folks I barely spoke with, or didn't even get to meet!
All weekend, such a great whirlwind of stuff going on. Such abundance of opportunities for friendship and learning and amusement and exchange of ideas. Seriously, if you're at all interested in this kind of stuff and don't attend next year, you're missing out on something great.
While I get my memories and words organized, here are a few other HPLFF con reports by people I met along the way.
You can also scroll through the event's Facebook page for all kinds of pictures, observations and reminiscences about the con.
My own report will begin soon...
I've been way too busy during this year's H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon to blog, but I've posted lots of pictures and comments on Facebook so you can follow me there.
My wife Lena and I have had Joe Pulver aka notorious author and provocateur Joseph S. Pulver Sr., as well as Mike Davis of Lovecraft eZine staying at our house since the middle of last week. Not only has it been fun having them around, but taking part in the festival as part of the "posse" of two guys as well-known and beloved in the Lovecraft scene as Mike and Joe has been especially entertaining.
I'll recap events and gather photos here soon.
This afternoon, I'll be reading in the EOD Center a block or two from the main theater. I'm reading something very short, about 10 minutes long. It's in the "Reading 5" block from 4PM to 5PM, an hour block shared with two other writers. INFO HERE. Hope to see a few of you there!
No, I have not written three entire book reviews in under 24 hours.
I've been way behind on posting reviews of some of the books I've read, including some I finished reading months ago. This backlog was stressing me out! Some of the reviews were mostly written and just needed to be assembled. In other cases, handwritten notes just needed to be typed up.
It feels good to clear the decks a bit.
I will probably cut down on the number of reviews I'll write for a while... after I get through a few things like At Fear's Altar and Jagannath and Staring Into the Abyss and Hair Side, Flesh Side.
I do love to talk about books and writers, and possibly help in some small way to boost those that deserve it. I also think it's helpful, in a selfish way, for writers to think carefully and critically about other people's writing. What works, what doesn't, and why. It's always seemed to me that writers derive more benefit from giving critiques than receiving them.
Despite my enjoyment of this book review thang, I need to scale back, at least for a while, the self-imposed sense of obligation. I'll still talk about the books I've read, probably more briefly and off-the-cuff.
Usually I keep my Wordpress and Livejournal and Dreamwidth blogs synchronized, so everybody can see everything I post, even if they prefer to just follow one blog platform. My reasons for doing this seem to be diminishing, as the number of people following Livejournal seems to be dwindling to almost nothing... but still, I don't want to tell people they can follow my blog in any of the three channels and not miss anything, unless it's true.
My last half dozen or so blog posts ended up being posted only to Wordpress, so I'm going to post those to Livejournal and Dreamwidth now.
During the period in question, I posted my multi-part "con report" for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. These posts were by far the most widely-shared and heavily-viewed of anything I've ever posted.
Maybe some of you missed these and will enjoy them, even though they cover events from the beginning of May.
Many of the 22 short stories in Every House is Haunted, the debut collection by Ian Rogers, feel connected. As the title suggests, this is a book about hauntings, though the stories Rogers tells venture beyond the well-worn template of the haunted house tale. On top of this unifying theme, several stories also feature paranormal investigators, something like agents Mulder and Scully of the X-Files, or hint at a shadowy group overseeing such intrusions. Rogers seeks to establish a common world in which paranormal events and entities are controlled, studied and policed by a broad and shadowy organization devoted to these functions.
Rogers starts off strong with "Aces," on its surface a routine family drama in which Toby's sister has trouble in school and exhibits weird behavior, like many adolescents. This seeming normalcy masks the extreme strangeness of what's really going on with the sister, who is obsessed with finding "aces," playing cards which she discovers in strange places, such has hovering in mid-air. Toby only comes to understand his sister's unusual nature when paranormal investigators arrive and explain.
Another strange and surreal piece early in the book, "A Night at the Library With the Gods" again displays Rogers' skill for creating a familiar, mostly normal world, then gradually increasing the strangeness until the reader recognizes they're in something more akin to nightmare. In "The Dark and the Young," linguist Wendy takes a mysterious job, translating an occult "black book." Some of the rituals described in this bizarre text make Wendy and some of her coworkers hesitant to participate.
A few less mature stories are sprinkled throughout, and in my opinion Rogers could have made a stronger debut impression by omitting these. I understand the desire to include early work, and indeed this flaw is so common in first collections I'm hesitant to mention it. At any rate, the few less-compelling pieces are more than offset by a high overall quality. The more recent stories seem generally darker, more macabre or surreal.Rogers closes the collection with a powerful series of tales, deftly and confidently told.
In "The Inheritor," Daniel Ramis unexpectedly inherits a house from his father, with whom he had a terrible relationship. He visits the childhood home, a place evoking the terrible memory of his sister's early death. Daniel always thought his father had sold the house when he moved, and can't understand why he'd held onto it. Along with the house, Daniel is also left contents of safe deposit box: a gun, and a note from his father hinting at explanation. All that remains is for Daniel to discover what responsibility comprises the most horrible aspect of his father's legacy.
A husband in "The Candle" gives his wife a guilt trip about possibly forgetting to blow out a candle before coming to bed. Time passes, and feeling guilty, he goes downstairs and finds something weird and disquieting in the dark. Here's another story that starts off realistic, then takes a weird disconnect, making a subtle and eerie observation of the ways we open gaps in relationships through small acts of selfishness or distrust.
The last tale, "The Secret Door" makes a powerful ending to the book. Sarah and husband move into an old country house, and find a secret door bricked up on back side. She sleeps, and wakes again to find her husband's not there. Other details, such as the bed and their car, inexplicably have changed. The story veers more deeply into surrealism. Sarah envisions a boy yelling from the bottom of a well, telling her she's the one who put him there, hinting at connection to her earlier decision never to have kids. Her experience swerves between alternating realities, now alone and sick, then with her husband telling her she's not well. It depicts increasing detachment from reality, a creepy back-and-forth between the real and the surreal.
Every House is Haunted is an above-average short fiction collection, especially noteworthy as a debut. The writing is both transparent enough for mainstream readers, and artful enough for those who like their prose with an edge. At his best, Rogers is very compelling, and the growth demonstrated within these pages suggest he's one to watch.
Die, You Donut Bastards is the latest collection of short fiction and prose poetry by Cameron Pierce. The whimsical title and cover art may suggest a mostly humorous approach to Bizarro, a genre which can range from arty surrealism to shock-focused extremity, and also at times encompassing more conventional storytelling with a subtler twinge of the surreal. While many authors focus on a single approach, Pierce here shows himself capable of covering all the bases.
Most of the pieces are just a page or two, and focus on wild invention and playful absurdity. I detect in these shorter works the influence of Russell Edson, the master of surrealist prose poetry, though Pierce is less oblique, less blatantly symbolic, and more confrontational. Readers approaching this book from outside the Bizarro realm can expect a lot of zany humor and intentional absurdity, but will also discover a great degree of subtlety and sensitivity. In fact, those seeking a full-on Bizarro blast may be surprised by the restraint and emotional honesty present in the longer stories.
The lengthiest of these, "Lantern Jaws," is a lovely tale of wonder and emotion, both subtle and graceful, reminiscent of something Kelly Link might create. In it, a teenage boy falls in love with a girl schoolmate who carries a vaguely Lovecraftian doom or curse. It's a gentle, touching story, characteristics which may seem at odds with some of the extremes on display elsewhere in the book, yet it's also quite dreamlike and surreal.
Another longer story, "Death Card" shows a couple, Tristan and Emily, shifting from youthful, carefree obsessions, such as Tristan's comics and his collection of vinyl figures, to more adult concerns now that Emily is pregnant. Tristan goes along, half-reluctantly boxing up his collection to make a room for the baby. The story focuses the feelings of impending loss and disconnection from self, arising from Tristan's recognition that life's simple freedoms and youthful pleasures are soon to change.
In "Pablo Riviera, Depressed, Overweight, Age 31, Goes to the Mall," an odd outsider catalogs an endless stream of pleasures, mostly fast food, during a trip to a shopping mall. This litany of cheeseburgers, taco corn dogs, and other excessive treats could be seen as Pablo's attempt to numb the pain of his solitude and isolation, or perhaps simply exhibits the weirdly alienating effect of our obsession on grotesque, commercialized pleasures.
"Disappear" is the weird story of a pregnant woman's baby disappearing right out of her belly. It turns out the fetus was stolen by horror author Stephen King, who apparently steals unborn babies and installs them into his typewriter as fuel or grist for new stories.
In "Mitchell Farnsworth," one of the more transgressive pieces, Katie recollects once having sex with her boyfriend, the Mitchell Farnsworth of the title, while watching the movie Alien. After Mitchell moves on, the story recounts Katie's long string of boyfriends, forming a detailed catalog of explicit sex acts, foods and drinks consumed, and the movies she watched with each -- often Alien, sometimes The Exorcist or other horror films. Katie is increasingly stuck, unable to stop and reflect on this pattern, until she hears news about Mitchell Farnsworth.
In Die, You Donut Bastards, the shorter, weirder stories are greatest in number, and seem more geared toward a Bizarro audience. The longer stories, comprising about half the collection's page count, exhibit greater emotional realism and even a bit more seriousness mixed in with the strange pop surrealism. I enjoyed the provocative range of styles, moods and approaches on display in Die, You Donut Bastards. It makes me eager to check out more Pierce's work.
Chick Bassist is Ross Lockhart's debut as a writer of fiction, after establishing himself as a fantasy and horror editor best known for two successful Lovecraftian "Book of Cthulhu" anthologies. Despite Lockhart's genre editing background, the only fantasy in Chick Bassist is of the rock-and-roll variety.
This book is crazy fun, often funny, but it also has a serious feel, as troubling and difficult as real life. It tracks the passions and conflicts of an enjoyably grungy cast of dysfunctional characters, every one of them f**ked up in a charmingly rock-and-roll sort of way. Lockhart realistically captures the fun and filth of the garage music scene, the transitory existences of bands, the passionate creativity and train-wreck lifestyles. The characters and their scene are clearly personally known to the author, and will seem familiar to anyone who has played in bands or at least been part of that milieu.
Told from multiple viewpoints, the story not only switching character perspectives, but also juggling first, second and third person points of view. The title refers to Erin Locke, "the Queen of Rock," who leads the band Heroes for Goats until things implode, and she takes off to play bass for a more successful band. Other points of view follow Robbie Snow, the bassist kicked out of Heroes for Goats for acting all mental after Erin had sex with him, and Christian, who ends up getting a severe beating by Robbie after Erin makes Christian kick him out of the band.
At its best, rock and roll is about ambition and failure, about lessons learned too late, about love, and also death. Chick Bassist is crammed full of these things. If you think you might enjoy a punk/grunge flavored book about underground bands and musicians, you'll love this Chick Bassist. I browsed the first pages of this book when I was already in the middle of reading something else, and this one immediately sucked me in.
As for the "Would you read a sequel?" test, Chick Bassist easily passes. I'd gladly read the further adventures of Lockhart's rock and roll characters. Bring it on!
If you're more interested in my fiction writing, you should follow @griffinwords
My blog (mirrored on Dreamwidth and Livejournal) is griffinwords.wordpress.com
Of course for all my Hypnos (ambient music) stuff just go to hypnos.com
For more personal goofing around, I'm on Twitter @mgsoundvisions and on Facebook
Several things happening on the fiction writing front.
My story "The Lure of Devouring Light" in the latest Apex Magazine received a very favorable review in Locus Magazine (the SF/Fantasy trade journal) this week.
If you haven't read "Lure of Devouring Light" yet, and are intrigued enough by the mini-review to give it a look, it's available to read for free online. Again, I'd like to thank everyone at Apex for making this happen!
Some other things coming soon...
The next issue of Black Static magazine (#34, May 2013) will contain my story "Arches and Pillars." I'll have more information about this as May approaches.
The next issue of Lovecraft eZine (#23, April 2013) will include my story "Nectar of Strange Lips." The issue is not yet available to read, but you can purchase the podcast/audio version now, for just 99 cents!
That's not 99 cents for just my story, but 99 cents for the entire issue, all the stories and Robert Price's new nonfiction feature... almost 3 1/2 hours of great stuff!
Fungi, edited by Orrin Gray and Silvia Garcia-Moreno, collects about two dozen weird and fantastic stories focused on the theme of fungus, including mushrooms, molds and a whole related class of bizarre life forms.
I expected mostly dark tales of decay and derangement, but many of the tales here turn out to be lighthearted, whimsical, even silly. Whatever one's preference in terms of tone, Fungi undeniably contains a healthy measure of strong genre fiction. Whether due to my own predisposition toward more serious horror and dark fantasy, or because the more playful efforts are not as strong, I consider the most successful stories here to be those darkest or most surreal in tone. The work of John Langan, Laird Barron, and E. Catherine Tobler stood apart in my estimation.
Langan's lead-off "Hyphae" is a concentrated dose of nastiness. I dare anyone to read this without at least once letting out a disgusted, shuddering moan. I haven't seen Langan write something so viscerally gruesome until this. So awful, yet wonderful. I loved it.
Laird Barron never disappoints, and his "Gamma," a cynical yet emotionally powerful survey of childhood, adulthood, entropy and decay, balances a boy's recollection of his father killing a lame horse named Gamma against a present-day, adult contemplation of his wife leaving him for another man. The story looks outward to embrace death and human existence more generally, and finally broadens to face horror on a truly cosmic scale.
It's worth noting that E. Catherine Tobler's "New Feet Within My Garden Go," which may well be my favorite piece in the book, is a bonus story present in the hardcover but not the paperback version of Fungi. It's a shame many readers will miss Tobler's tale, which is complex, detail-rich, and overflowing with delicious, poetic weirdness. Beautifully and artfully told.
Another handful of stories deserve mention. Nick Mamatas describes in "The Shaft Through the Middle of It All" an apartment building where fungus growing in a ventilation shaft can bring harm to residents, though another use of fungus brings a kind of retributive power. J.T. Glover's "The Flaming Exodus of the Greifswald Grimoire" tells of two brother sorcerers, adventuring grimoire hunters who find trouble when they try to snatch a tempting tome in a house they assume is empty. Paul Tremblay's "Our Stories Will Live Forever" has the feel of straight realism, until a character dealing with terror of flying undergoes a transformation. Lastly, "The Pilgrims of Parthen," by a writer new to me, Kristopher Reisz, suggests a society taken over by the visionary trips brought on by newly discovered mushrooms, which seem to transport the user into a distinct and transcendent separate reality.
Several more, despite falling short of total success in my judgement, possess strengths of expression or concept sufficient to at least partly recommend them. These include works by W.H. Pugmire, Ian Rogers, Daniel Mills, Jeff VanderMeer and A.C. Wise. Also, one humorous story in Fungi that I think works (by virtue of going way over the top) is Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington's "Tubby McMungus, Fat From Fungus," which describes a showdown between rival merkin-makers for fashion-conscious society felines.
Where other stories fell short, lapsing into slightness or forgettability, was often in making a story's entire point nothing more than someone being consumed by mold, or surprised by the druggy effects of mushrooms. Of course, some that miss the mark for one reader may please others looking for different approaches to the subject. Whatever tone the reader prefers, Fungi contains a more than sufficient number of challenging and artful takes on the theme. Readers receptive to the fungal theme, and familiar with at least some of the authors contained here, should find in Fungi a successful weird fiction anthology and an overall satisfying read.
"The Day and the Hour & Drone" is a short book (roughly novella length) containing two stories by Ennis Drake, whose debut novel 28 Teeth of Rage I reviewed previously. As in his debut, Drake's strength is his artful, powerful prose, as well as the confidence with which he evokes perceptual distortion, hallucination or possibly insanity on the narrator's part.
The longer and more ambitious of the two, "The Day and the Hour," features Jason Grae, a man tormented by his gift of sight and prophecy. Aware in advance of a series of seemingly connected catastrophies, yet unable to stop their cascade, Jason posesses the vision of a divine being along with the seemingly powerlessness of an ordinary man.
"Drone" tells of another tormented soul, in this case the "pilot" or remote operator of a drone aircraft, a fighter in the long-distance conflict modern warfare has become.
Both stories show Drake's improvement as a writer, and demonstrate ample proof of the confident, poetic style with which he's capable of drawing a narrative. This writing is full of unrestrained feeling, packed with visual detail and psychological resonance. Ennis Drake shows a dexterity of language and command of narrative that indicate he's on the verge of even greater things. This is a name to watch.
I've seen a few writers link to this article about professional jealousy. It's just as applicable to aspiring musicians, artists, ballet dancers, astronauts, athletes and actors. Many of them (us) have lots of friends who are also "the competition," at least from a certain point of view.
Go read the post, then come back... I'll wait!
Reflexive envy or jealousy occurs commonly when someone we know, chasing similar goals, finds success that at least momentarily exceeds our own. This sense of "Why not me?" is something everyone must feel at some point.
More than a year ago, I decided to try to stop wallowing in feelings of unfairness or futility related to the struggle against rejection. I'd seen many writers suggest something along the lines of "Forget trying to get published -- focus on writing better." This may seem like the sort of platitude to which the writer replies, "Well, yeah, but..." then returns to obsessing over factors outside their control. But it's important.
Energy and time spent this way are wasted. Not only are energy and time finite resources, they're the very stuff out of which our work is built.
To overcome this reflex, to defeat the mindset that someone else's success means you are now less likely to succeed, is a crucial step toward achieving the resolve, perspective and inward-directedness we need in order to improve.
Imagine if all the energy spent worrying about rejections, fellow writers, unpredictable editors, failing markets, or any other factors outside your control, could be freed-up, reallocated toward fixing plots, strengthening characters, improving voice, refining and improving your writing in every aspect. Not only is this possible, it's what we all must do.
Next, consider accepting the notion that if we write good enough stories, we will no longer need to worry much about finding places that want to publish them.
For my part, I realized that I was not the best judge of my work's suitability for publication. That's something editors get to decide. They don't have to tell me what they're looking for, how I fell short, or what to do differently next time. But if I write a story that grabs them and won't let go, that's enough. That's all I have to do.
The "Why not me?" attitude shields the writer from facing the need to improve. Tell yourself the deck is stacked, that it's all cronyism, and you can't get published because of race or sex or age or whatever. This absolves you of facing the responsibility to WRITE BETTER STORIES.
I finally let all that go, or at least endeavored to do so, sought that clarity of mind as an ideal, and kept reminding myself whenever backsliding occurred. This allowed me to focus on what really mattered. I improved my writing. I'm still trying to make better stories, all the time, even now that I've started finding outlets for my fiction. I work to make myself stronger, rather than worrying about "competition."
Let go of jealousy. Stop focusing on someone else who got something you wanted. Instead, work harder. You're not good enough yet to give up trying, put your hands on your hips, and whine about "Why not me?" Really, are you good enough? I know I'm not. We all need to write better stories.
That's hard enough without worrying about things outside our control.
I'll have more to say about this magazine and this story, but for now, here's a link. It's available to read for free, and you can also purchase a PDF or a (Kindle) MOBI or (iPad/Nook) EPUB file.
My thanks to Editor Lynne Thomas and Publisher Jason Sizemore for featuring my work!