Mentioned in the Washington Post!

It’s not everyday that a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic drops your name in a newspaper article. But Michael Dirda, one of the attendees at Necronomicon a couple of weekends ago, apparently was in the audience for the Tanith Lee panel, and wrote a piece about the convention.

Below is an excerpt:

You can read the rest of the Washington Post article here. Now, back to toiling in obscurity!

A follow up to the DARK MATTERS: WEIRD FICTION IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA panel at #Necronomicon

The one consistent thing that came out of the Dark Matters: Weird Fiction from the African Diaspora panel at Necronomicon was that weird fiction in black imagination isn’t really concerned much with Cosmic Horror. The idea of a vast, indifferent universe isn’t terrifying when you are consistently othered and in the Eurocentric worldview, you are already treated with indifference. We have to deal with our horrors away from the spotlight. In panelist Chesya Burke’s short piece “Walter and the Rat,” the cosmic horror is infrastructure of White Supremacy, which causes disenfranchisement. “The Rat in the Wall” is the literal point of view character in this story. In panelist Victor LaValle’s “The Ballad of Black Tom,” the title character, who was the monstrous other in Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook,” has a different relationship to the indifferent, malevolent chthonic deities. For myself, I am drawn more towards ‘weird fiction’ that is imbued with dream-logic rather than fear or horror. As discussed in the panel, many of the tropes used in Euro-horror, like possession, zombies and voodoo (Vodoun) are, in the diaspora, not necessarily evil or bad things. The gods we hid behind the edifice of Christianity are not good or bad. They are both. Possession is an intimate joining with these spirits. It is not an invasion; it is an invitation to partake of the Divine. Yes, there is sacrifice in Vodoun/Santeria/Candomble; but the rituals are prayers and not demonic summonings. Our wise woman weren’t burned at the stake. Tituba escaped that fate. Mining the black folkloric traditions creates it’s own wonderful cosmology, once freed from the White Gaze.

WHERE TO BEGIN WITH TANITH LEE (FOLLOW UP TO “HER OWN DARK MYTHOS” PANEL)

As a follow up to the Tanith Lee panel at Necronomicon, I had a bunch of people come up to ask me where to begin with her work. Lee wrote a such a wide range of genres, from comic children’s and YA books, to high fantasy, to horror, to even mystery and contemporary fiction. She even published one historical novel about the French Revolution and one spy novel. All of her work was graced with her unique gothic weird sensibility. (The aforementioned French Revolution novel, The Gods Are Thirsty, feels like an epic fantasy novel, and the spy novel, Turquoiselle, has a Dionysian subtext). My fellow panelist Paul Di Fillippo likened her to Joyce Carol Oates in her range. I would say Lee was more reminiscent of fellow Brit author Joan Aiken, who carried an idiosyncratic style across several genres and forms.

I think Lee was a master of the short form and readers should start with her numerous collections of short fiction. According to Allison Rich, a fellow panelist and maintainer of the web-based annotated bibliography Daughter Of the Night (an awesome resource), Lee published over 340 pieces of short fiction. The best of these read like fever dreams, full of lush prose and clever plot twists. Her fairy-tale retellings are collected in Red As Blood and Redder Than Blood, and they range from grim-dark, to de-mythicfications, to weird inversions. Immanion Press has collected some of her fiction together. The Weird Tales of Tanith Lee gathers all of her appearances in Weird Tales magazine, and Venus Burning has all fifteen of her appearances in Realms of Fantasy Magazine. Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata and Other Uncollected Tales has fantasy work that I missed. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are recent collections from Fantastic Books (Dancing Through the Fire) and Leaves of Gold (Phantasya) that have new work. All of the collections I have come across have yet-to-be discovered new favorites.

As for her novels, my favorites are the three major series, all of which are structured like connected short fiction.

Tales from the Flat Earth (Night’s Master, Death’s Master, Delusion’s Master, Delirium’s Mistress, Night’s Sorceries) are erotic fantasies that take place on a worldscape that’s part Arabian Nights, part Oscar Wilde fairytales. The Secret Books of Paradys Quartet (The Book of the Damned, The Book of the Beast, The Book of Dead, and the Book of the Mad) are set in a haunted, fantastical version of Paris, full of dark wonders. They are Gothic and Decadent down to the very language Lee choses to tell her tales. The Secret Books of Venus Quartet (Faces Under Water, Saint Fire, A Bed of Earth, Venus Preserved) treats the city of Venice similarly, but with even weirder phantasmorgia (a hairdo that can start fires, cursed masks, and, of course, a murderous flamingo).

Her books for young adults are full of British madcap humor, particularly the Unicorn trilogy (Black Unicorn, Gold Unicorn, Red Unicorn) and the Piratica (Piratica, Piratica II (Return to Parrot Island, Piratica III: The Family Sea) books.

I have a particularly fondness for the work written by her alteregos Esther Garber and her half brother Judas Garbah. Lee channelled both writers—the French Jewish lesbian Esther and her gay French-Egyptian half brother Judas. These works, collected in the volumes Fatal Women, Disturbed by Her Song, and the short novel 34 ostensibly occur in the ‘real’ world but they are shot through with wild streak of surrealistic fantasy.

The panel was well attended and filled with her passionate fans. I hope that this brief, disjointed rambling will help.

{Finally, as I was writing this up, Immanion Press just announced the publication of one of TL’s long lost, unpublished manuscripts, At the Court of the Crow}.

Lee was a true one of a kind — an ink-stained enchantress of the written word.

(Newly discovered Tanith Lee manuscript….cover by John Kaiine)

Necronomicon 2019/ Wikipedia Page

I had a great time at Necronomicon in Providence, Rhode Island this past weekend. I caught up with old friends, and met new ones and did my best not to break the bank with all of the various artwork in the dealer’s room. While I am not particularly a Lovecraft fan, I am huge fan for Weird Fiction itself–both contemporary and historic.

I was on two panels this year. Both of them were recorded for the Outer Dark podcast, and should be up in the near future.

The Tanith Lee panel explored Lee’s criminally underrated idiosyncratic fiction, its eroticism, humor, and lush decadence. I learned more facts about Lee the person from Allison Rich, who runs the online bibliography Daughter of the Night: An Annotated Tanith Lee Bibliography.

Paul Di Fillipo, Thomas Broadbent, Allison Rich, me, Sonya Taafe, Daniel Braum

The Weird Fiction in the African Diaspora was equally illuminating–my fellow panelists offered a plethora of passionate viewpoints. We talked about how the various tropes of Cosmic Horror are transformed through a black/African-descended lens.

Hysop Mulero, Victor LaValle, me, Chesya Burke, Errick Nunnally, teri zin

Both panels were well-attended.

I managed to sell out of the books that I brought with me, and signed a shipment that arrived at the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences store.


I came home to find that now have a Wikipedia entry, thanks to friends who are editors.

Sycamore Hill; New edition of Sea, Swallow Me

Back row (l to r): Sarah Pinsker, K. Tempest Bradford, Karen Joy Fowler, Maureen McHugh, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel. Middle row: Richard Butner, Kelly Link ,Yours Truly, Jennifer Marie Brissett. Front row: Usman Malik, Christopher Rowe, Gavin J. Grant

I participated in the Sycamore Hill workshop this summer with some brilliant authors.
2019 Edition: Cover by Matthew Bright
2008 Edition: Cover by Thomas Drymon

Forthcoming Story in Broken Eye Books Anthology.

My story “Underglaze” is in the forthcoming anthology Nowhereville: Weird is Other People — Tale of the Urban Weird (Broken Eye Books; TBD). Editors Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski have assembled a top-notch roster of artists, including Maura McHugh, S.P. Miskowski, Ramsey Campbell, Kathe Koja, Erica L. Satifka, Nuzo Onoh, Lynda E. Rucker, P. Djèlí Clark, Cody Goodfellow, Wole Talabi, Stephen Graham Jones, Mike Allen, Jeffrey Thomas, R.B. Lemberg, Evan Peterson, and more.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on this cover!

Song of Morrison

TONI MORRISON – February 18, 1931 — August 4, 2019

The first Toni Morrison novel I read was Tar Baby. At the time, it was considered to be a lesser work in her oeuvre because it was a love story. It was marketed as such — as it was about a black model and her ‘untameable’ Heathcliff-like paramour. My mother, who mostly read romance, had a copy of it, in among her stacks of Danielle Steele and Janet Dailey. I don’t think Mom enjoyed the book. She thought it was too weird.

I remember dipping into its pages and immediately being entranced by the language. It was dense, allusive, and mythic. It was also experimental, profane and erotic.  It was a love story, yes, but it was also about decolonization and identity. The novel moved between contemporary scenes and the long, rich shadow of cultural history. Gods and goddess, both disguised and not, appeared in the text. Ghosts were both metaphorical and real.

Tar Baby was my first Morrison novel, but it was far from my last. The Bluest Eye brutally shows the horrors of a colonized mind. Sula made the lives of black women into an epic. Song of Solomon is a magical realist tone poem for the black gaze. And Beloved laid bare the profound evil of America’s past. Morrison used and shaped forms and language itself to create a black American literary cosmology. She was and remains a deep influence on my work, and indeed, on world literature at large.

Upcoming Appearances and Forthcoming Works

OutWrite 2019

Washington DC

August 2, 2-3pm

Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/631330400609166/

Reading: A Crooked Looking Glass

Nino Cipri, Ruthanna Emrys, Craig L. Gidney, Margaret Killjoy. Moderated by Marianne Kirby

NecronomiCon 2019

Providence, RI

August 22 – 25

Link: http://necronomicon-providence.com/core-schedule/

Friday Aug 23 1:30pm

HER OWN DARK MYTHOS: TANITH LEE – Capital Ballroom, Graduate 2nd Floor
Tanith Lee (1947–2015) wrote broadly, including work for children and adults, poetry, and television. With her lush, dark, and often deeply psychosexual prose, she created bizarre fantasy worlds and turned familiar horror tropes upon their heads. Join our panelists as they explore the work of this grand master of the decadently weird and impossibly strange.

Panelists: Paul Di Filippo, Craig Gidney, Paul Tremblay (M), Sonya Taaffe, Allison Rich, Daniel Braum

Saturday Aug 24 10:30am

DARK MATTERS: WEIRD FICTION FROM THE AFRICAN DIASPORA – Biltmore Ballroom, Graduate 17th Floor
Writers of African descent around the world have been contributing to speculative fiction since the days of Charles W. Chesnutt, W. E. B. Dubois, and George S. Schuyler, but their contributions have not always been acknowledged. Our panelists discuss the history and importance of this literary movement and how the Diaspora experience has shaped and informed it.


Panelists: Victor LaValle, teri zin, Errick Nunnally (M), Craig Gidney, Hysop Loreal Mulero, Chesya Burke

I also wrote the introduction to Love in a Time of Dragons a new Tanith Lee collection of her short fiction put out by Immanion Press which will be released in August!