PW's report on Night Shade's proposed sale of assets.
Jeremy Lassen's Open Letter in Locus Online.
Michael Stackpole's analysis of the terms of the deal, and why he won't be signing.
Justin Landon of Staffer's Book Review offers some perspective on how Night Shade went awry.
I'm very interested to see what happens here, as I am friends with a number of Night Shade authors, and I want them done right by. So far from my reading (both in these links and in various Facebook discussions), this deal doesn't seem to be in their best interests.
A copy of the letter sent to Night Shade Books' authors.
Analysis of the letter, deal, and everything else from a literary agent.
Response from Night Shade authors Phil and Kaja Foglio.
Response from Night Shade author Kameron Hurley.
Skyhorse and Start (who are attempting to acquire Night Shade's assets) give their side.
Literary agent Andrew Zack on the deal.
Friday July 13
Proposed by Nicholas Kaufmann.
Saturday July 14
Proposed by Gregory A. Wilson.
Naming the Animals
Having commanded Adam to bestow
Names upon all the creatures, God withdrew
To empyrean palaces of blue
That warm and windless morning long ago,
And seemed to take no notice of the vexed
Look on the young man's face as he took thought
Of all the miracles the Lord had wrought,
Now to be labelled, dubbed, yclept, indexed.
Before an addled mind and puddled brow,
The feathered nation and the finny prey
Passed by; there went biped and quadruped.
Adam looked forth with bottomless dismay
Into the tragic eyes of his first cow,
And shyly ventured, "Thou shalt be called 'Fred.'"
Professor Stanley Sultan introduced me to this poem in the first class I took at the graduate level. It remains one of favorites, and it can be hard to find. I think it ought to be anthologized as often as his better-known "The Dover Bitch."
I think imago1 was scheduled to be on that last panel with me, but he's got to stay home to take care of his dog. We'll miss you this weekend, Laird!
1. The End of Everything (2011) by Megan Abbott: probably my favorite novel of the year, and definitely my favorite new book on the list. Abbott is best known for her neo-noir work, but this lyrical, suspenseful story of a girl's disappearance, narrated by her best friend and neighbor, defies categorization. The prose is stunning and in places reminiscent of Bradbury, while the exploration of the adolescent mind and the secrets of suburbia is authentic and illuminating. I can't recommend this one enough.
2. A Handbook of American Prayer (2006) by Lucius Shepard runs neck and neck with the Abbott book for my favorite novel read in 2011. Shepard can always be relied upon to deliver beautifully written and compelling work, but Handbook is extraordinary, an indictment of religious fervor and the self-delusions it encourages as well as an examination of American greed and celebrity culture. It's also violent, sexy, and very darkly funny by turns (and sometimes simultaneously). A new edition of the novel is on the horizon, but the original paperback is currently available as a bargain book.
3. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2005) by Umberto Eco is a love letter to books (and comics) from the highest brow to the most common. Eco explores the definitions of identity, the uses of memory, the power of relationships, and idea of beauty in this story of an amnesiac's attempt to regain his sense of self through revisiting what he has read, heard, and seen in his formative years. The book is beautifully constructed with full color reproductions of pages and covers from Yambo's reading, images of toys and collectors' items, and collages built from the narrator's encounters with images and objects from his past. Eco's novel is slow and deliberate and sad, and it's worth your time.
4. Every Shallow Cut (2011) by Tom Piccirilli: a novella with all the punch and despair of James M. Cain and all the violent immediacy of Chuck Palahniuk. Spare, raw, insightful, and heartbreaking, this little book reveals a man unravelling in the face of a cruelly indifferent and increasingly chaotic America--something that should speak to a wide audience. Tom Piccirilli has long been a fine stylist working in the mystery, suspense, and horror genres, and this book should bring him not just more accolades but more readers.
5. In the Mean Time (2010) by Paul Tremblay is the author's third collection of short stories and for my money his best. The tales collected here deal with apocalypses personal and global, all of them defined by Tremblay's penchant for the surreal and the ambiguous. Those looking for traditional stories with all the ends tied up neatly should look elsewhere; these pieces are meant to make you think, and stories like "The Teacher" and "We Will Never Live in the Castle" will haunt you for weeks after you put the book down.
6. Picking the Bones (2011) by Brian Hodge: my second short story collection on the list, entirely different in tone, style, and substance from Paul Tremblay's book but equally effective in disturbing the reader. Hodge is a seasoned pro in the horror genre, but his work draws from many categories. Favorite stories in this collection include "The Firebrand Symphony," "Hate the Sinner, Love the Sin," and "A Good Dead Man Is Hard to Find." Like Piccirilli, Hodge should be better known to a wide audience, and I hope a bigger publisher picks this up for a trade edition.
7. All-Star Superman (2009) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly finally offers a new Superman story (and a new representation of Superman and Clark Kent) that I find engaging as opposed to boring. At the same time, they manage to draw from decades of continuity to involve secondary and tertiary characters in new and interesting ways. After reading the execrable All-Star Batman and Robin by Frank Miller, Morrison and Quietly's version of Supes renewed my faith in auteur reinventions of iconic characters.
8. The Woman (2011) by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee: written at the same time as the screenplay for the film of the same title, this novel offers further insight into the characters emotions and motivations than the movie while losing none of the visceral impact. The book is an extension of the stories told in Ketchum's first novel Off Season and its sequel Offspring, though the opening for such a sequel was provided for more in the film version of that second book. Ketchum continues to explore the depths to which humans can sink and also the ways in which they can rise to survive their fellow men. This novel also stares down the ugly barrel of American misogyny and all its painful outcomes.
9. I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster (both 2010) by Dan Wells are the first two books in the John Wayne Cleaver series. The third book, I Don't Want to Kill You, came out in 2011. The novels straddle the line between adult and young adult fiction; the narrator is fifteen year old John Wayne Cleaver, who recognizes that he has the potential to become a serial killer and suffers from "conduct disorder"--the diagnosis psychologists give to adolescent sociopaths. But before you dismiss these books as Dexter-lite, note that John and the serial killers by whom he is fascinated aren't the worst horrors here; there is another level of evil at work in the city of Clayton. Wells, like Abbott above, authentically captures much of the adolescent experience in his narrator's voice, intensifying that age's natural feelings of isolation through the device of the serial killer psychopathology.
10. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America (2008) by David Hadju told me things I didn't already know about the history of comics, the people who created them, and the causes and impact of the attacks on the form in the '40s and '50s. Hadju connects personal reminiscences with hard facts and trial transcripts, building not just a traditional history of the art form and not just a procedural about the scare but a very human story about the importance of comics, their power, influence, and foibles.
There are many other terrific books worth mentioning from this year's list--I guess I'm getting better at picking what I read, or at maybe I just got lucky. The whole list can be accessed here, in alphabetical order.
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 tablespoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter
1 egg3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Place butter in a large, heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat brown sugar, molasses and spices just to boiling point. Add baking soda and stir in. (Note: the mixture will expand to a foamy consistency very quickly; be ready to move fast.) Pour this mixture over the butter and stir until it melts.
Beat egg and mix in; add flour, a cup at a time, and blend thoroughly. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 1-2 minutes. Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm (about an hour).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).
Roll out dough in parts, keeping unused portion chilled until ready, on lightly floured board to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
Place on greased or non-stick cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Decorate while warm with colored sugar, piped icing, raisins, or whatever you like.
It looks like there were 14 entries in total. Check them all out if you have a chance. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, and they range from funny to scary, played for camp or played straight, plausible to absurd. It was great fun. Also, I've edited mine for typos, which it was riddled with. It may have a few more still, but I got some of the ones that were keeping me awake at night.
- Current Mood: pleased
That World, and the Fireworks
They threw him off the mail boat around noon.
He’d slipped aboard at Kona in the pre-dawn murk, crawled under a tarp near the bow, and used his rucksack for a pillow. The bags of mail smelled better than the trawler he’d worked from Honolulu and the tar-coated telephone poles he’d loaded on the tramp from San Fran. Sleep came quick, and so did the hands that yanked him out of darkness.
He was glad he’d slid an arm through the strap of his sack so it dropped with him into the water. The men on the boat had swung reasonably close to the rocky South Point, and he didn’t have too far to swim. The current was with him though the tide was going out. It pushed him west of Naalehu, their next stop, and he made for a cinder cone that dominated the shore each time a swell brought it into view.
Barron was a good swimmer and the water was warm. Still, he kept his strokes shallow to avoid the rip and ended tired and on his back on coarse sand. The cinder cone rose around him. The earth shook or he shook, he couldn’t tell which, but the sun was hot. He heard voices.
He rolled over to see a couple, younger than he and pretty, hopping down the cliff from boulder to pumice. They had backpacks and camera bags and brought with them, too, the scent of sunscreen when the wind whirled around the sandy cove. He noticed the sand then, too, and knew just where he was. It was dark green and up close looked like millions of tiny gems, which it was.
He stood up and felt another tremor. The tourists sat on a rock and took out their cameras, oohing and jabbering, then clicking away. Barron picked up his rucksack meaning to stagger out of the way of their lenses, but they called out to him.
“Excuse? Excuse me?” The young man’s teeth were very white against his tan.
Barron looked up. There was nowhere else to look because there was no one else he could be talking to.
“Would you mind taking a picture? Of us on the sand? My wife and me?”
“Sure.” What else could he say.
They moved closer to the water and Barron moved up the beach until their trajectories intersected. They were sleek, and under the coconut oil smelled of money. The camera they handed him would have paid the rent on his apartment for three months.
The ground shook a little as Barron waived them back toward the sea and the wife joked, “Pele must be angry.”
He took a couple pictures, tempted at first to cut their heads out of frame or lose focus because of the woman’s crack. But he shot them straight then moved to hand the camera back.
“One more? In the water?”
The man stepped into the foam and lifted his wife in his arms. She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. Barron looked down at the camera for a different setting. When he looked up, half of the couple was gone.
Not the wife. And not the husband. The top half.
Their legs and pelvises bubbled a little blood, but it didn’t really start to pour out until they toppled into the waves. Out in the water something, maybe a few things, was moving. He couldn’t get a clear look at it. If he moved his head there was a shape in the corner of his eye, but it was a different shape each time he swung his vision across the cove. But the water was moving in a way that made it clear there were more forces than waves at work on it.
He ran. What else was there to do but run. Behind him was the sound of a long and heavy dragging on the sand, but he wasn’t going to look.
He jumped the first boulder, then the second, and then he was scrabbling with hands and knees up the cliff face. The pumice tore at his skin and the blood made the climbing harder. His rucksack banged at his back, the camera at his hip. Why did he still have the camera. He wasn’t going to stop to take it off his shoulder.
A hot wind chased him up the side of the cinder cone. He didn’t know if it was natural, but he knew it smelled wrong. It could have been the trade winds or the breath of whatever dragged itself across the beach. He knew it was behind him and that was enough.
At the top he wanted to rest but the ground shook again and he could smell burning and something else, something rotten, and the wind spun dust into his eye and he heard a sound like the inhalation of the very sea itself. His senses wanted to shut down, to deny these things, but he wouldn’t let them. He did not want to hear what voice or roar or cry would follow that great gulping of atmosphere nor to see what could make such a sound. But he had to hear and see if he wanted to live.
Ahead on a trail no more than two dirt ruts sat a Jeep, clean if a little dusty, top open. He knew it would not have the keys in it. The keys were in a backpack at the bottom of the cliff, or they were in a pocket on a pair of legs in the surf. He didn’t need keys.
Barron hit the side of the Jeep with his hands splayed, the only way to stop after his full-tilt sprint from the cliff’s edge. He pulled his knife from his rucksack, dropped it in the foot well, took it up again. The column was tough to crack, but he’d learned more than how to load telephone poles on the San Fran waterfront. He was losing time, he wasn’t that good with wires, but if he could get the car started it would be better than running.
It was. Over the roar of the motor he made out the cracking of rocks, as if some terrible pressure were squeezing the very heart of the shoreline. He spun the Jeep around and accelerated up the trail, ignoring all but the worst dips and stones. He heard the ground scrape the undercarriage over and over as he clung to the wheel to keep from being launched out of the seat. He crossed pasture empty of all livestock, then on to a black sand road. As he crested a rise he saw macadam ahead that lead to an intersection with a highway. He cut wide and right but there was nothing coming, nothing on the road at all. But not nothing.
The sun was gone. Ash floated across his vision and at first he thought he was passing out. But flakes landed on his arm, his lap, and he turned to see fire on the hillside to his left. To his right was the ocean, coming into view as the highway swung southeast. There were great ripples in the water, counter-current oddities. Queer motions shook the sea and temblors shook the land. He was on the Belt Road, the road that would take him up to the volcano, and the volcano was erupting. Had people already evacuated? If they hadn’t, they should, and not just because of the lava. At least the lava was something you could believe in, something you could see and understand and name. It was the unnamed thing that scared him more.
Flaming cinders passed overhead. In front of him was a sign for a village, Kapaahuu, just off the highway. The road ahead was burning and he braked and turned right. Fingers of lava coursed over the fields and into the little town. Vents had ruptured in the hillside, bringing the spouts of fire and rock and ash closer to the sea.
Barron slammed to a stop at a filling station whose office had been abandoned not long ago, maybe just after the mail boat had passed by. The door hung open and he ran in, turned on the pumps. In the garage he found two flares, a Zippo, a tow cable. He wished they’d left the tow truck, too. He took the flares. Outside he laid the pump handles on the ground and jammed broken pieces of asphalt under their triggers. Gasoline spewed across the pavement and into the grass.
He roared out of the lot looking for roads and trails that would get him closer to the water. His knife rattled on the floor. He picked it up and had another thought. Just north of him a village blazed and smoked under the onslaught of the lava and spumes leapt from vents no more than a mile away. The Jeep skidded across a sandy patch between dirt roads and came to rest against a guardrail. On the other side was a blowhole where the sea roared in to hollow the land. This was a place where the land fought back.
Barron moved to the passenger seat and leaned over the edge. He could stretch his hand over the rail from here. The knife was sharp though not too clean but he drew it across his palm anyway. Blood pooled in his cupped hand and he squeezed it onto the wet rocks at the edge of the blowhole. A plume of salt spray drove some of it back at him. The sea surged toward the pumice outcropping, driven faster than the tide. He squeezed his hand again and heard or felt or smelled, he would never be able to say which, a response from below that drove him scrambling back to the wheel and racing uphill. In the rearview mirror he saw the guardrail crumple along a thirty-foot length.
He followed his own tracks back to the village, drove until he could smell gasoline. Each glance back showed the hill caving, bending, reduced to rubble. His hand hurt and he held it to the slipstream whenever he could afford to take it off the wheel.
The first flare went wide, lighting some grass that just smoldered as it rolled into a sandy rut. He kept driving but slower now despite the scent that flowed at his back and vied with the gasoline to make him dizzy.
Barron steered the Jeep straight across the blacktop of the filling station, gas spraying from his rear tires. He was afraid to light the flare until he got across, afraid too to wait. When his wheels struck the road he ignited the flare and threw it straight back and accelerated again.
The flame unfolded behind him like a liquid rose in bloom, petal after petal of red and orange and yellow, each edged with black, blossoming it seemed endlessly against the ash sky. Hot winds carried cinders and coals over the town, and from the heart of the flame something dark and salted and deep at the last exhaled.
For more stories about Laird Barron, check out a list at jplangan 's livejournal.
- Current Mood: accomplished
I manned the New England Horror Writers' table on and off all three days, alongside comics creators T.J. May and Bob Heske, and fellow fiction writers Paul Tremblay, Paul McMahon, Seamus Cooper (whose novel, The Mall of Cthulhu, sold well and is available from Night Shade Books and fine bookstores everywhere), LL Soares, Jennifer Palmatier, Morven Westfield, and many more. The booth was right next to artist Ken Kelly--painter of iconic album covers such as Destroyer and Love Gun from KISS and loads of great Conan and comics arts--and behind us through the curtain was the celebrity room where Jack Ketchum had his own booth next to Malcolm McDowell and Tiffany Shepis.
The highlight of my weekend, however, was spending about 15-20 minutes talking about Into the Night with John Landis. It's one of his own favorites, but virtually no one brings it up at conventions to him. I know the film inside and out, since I wore my VHS tape of it out back in high school (and not just for Michelle Pfeiffer's only nude scene, either). I had a much shorter chat with McDowell about his playing Reggie Wanker in Get Crazy (another high school fave) and Jimmy Porter in the BBC production of Look Back in Anger (sadly, neither of them are available on DVD).
And speaking of DVDs, I did end up buying a few from a table that had used discs for $5 a pop. Here's the lineup:
The Burrowers (directed by JT Petty, and starring William Mapother and Clancy Brown)
One Eyed Monster, a horror comedy featuring Amber Benson and...Ron Jeremy!?
Rampo Noir (out of print in the US already), an anthology film from Japan adapting four stories by Edogawa Rampo
Dorm, the much-touted Thai horror film
Gemini, a film from Shinya Tsukamoto of Tetuso: Iron Man fame
Kirei, another Japanese horror film that just looks deeply disturbing
Arang, a South Korean supernatural/procedural
The horror! Good fun overall, though I'm thoroughly exhausted.
I'll be manning the New England Horror Writers' table alongside folks like Paul Tremblay, Brendan Halpin, Don D'Ammassa, Kurt Newton, and many more. Also at the table will be some pretty snazzy comics writers and illustrators like Tom Moran and Bob Heske.
The con's major author guest is Jack Ketchum, who will be selling and signing all weekend. He's also doing a guest lecture spot for my Gothic Literature course, but you can't come to that. You can, however, pick up Offspring, based on Ketchum's novel of the same name, which came out just last week. That makes the fourth film adaptation from Ketchum's novels. The trailer is creepy as hell, and I'm looking forward to seeing the full film.
We'll all have books for sale--I've got copies of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Writers Workshop of Horror, and Dead Reckonings, and there may even be a couple stray copies of Jack Haringa Must Die hiding in the wings.