Author of "Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories" (2008 Lambda Literary Finalist); "Skin Deep Magic" (2014 Lambda Literary Finalist); "Bereft" (2013 Bronze Moonbeam Award and 2014 Independent Publishers' Award) "The Nectar of Nightmares" (Dim Shores Chapbook) and A Spectral Hue (2019)
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.
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.
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!
The opening anecdote in that now-deleted The New Republic hit piece on Pete Buttigieg was so outrageously cruel, that I barely skimmed the rest of the article, which was some vaguely defined bromide against Neoliberalism and assimilation. (You can read a great takedown of it by Andy J Carr here). The thing that stood out was the author’s insistence that being an East Village ACT-UP style gay was the one Correct Way to be Gay.
I remember the Doc Marten, tight jean, activist t-shirt crowd well enough. I had a boyfriend who lived on Long Island and would frequently visit him up there and go out to the East Village. I remember calling those type of gays “clones.” I distinctly remember them being cliquish, gatekeeping and mostly monochromatic. It was like High School the Sequel. It was not a nurturing and welcoming community.
I have always been The Wrong Kind of Gay. I have never been offered the keys to the kingdom of circuit parties, and Fire Island getaways. Part of it has to do with race. Part of it has to with the fact I’m outside the gay ideal. I’m 5’2, have been told that I remind people of Alfonso Riberio, the buttmonkey of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I will never been a tall black Adonis. When I went to clubs and bars, I was, at best, invisible. At its worst, I subjected to thoughtless cruelty and juvenile lookism.
Picture it: Halloween in San Francisco’s Castro. The parade of over-the-top costumes. I think I saw a few Siegfried and Roy outfits, guys walking around with stuffed tigers attacking them. I remember one person dressed up as Hurricane Katrina, an elaborate concoction of paper maiche buildings under water with a phalanx of cotton clouds dyed virulently gray hovering above his head. I remember a man dressed as a flaccid penis, bravely trundling up and down the treacherously steep hill.
I was dressed as the Masque of the Red Death, in a crimson floating satin robe, my face corpsepainted black and white in the semblance of a skull. I remember feeling euphoric, glad to be a part of the pageantry.
Then a drunken guy bumped up against me. We’ll call him Chad. No big deal. It was a crowded space. But when Chad regained his equilibrium, he looked at me, and said to his group of friends, “Look! It’s Gary Coleman!” Then he and his group disappeared into the crowd. I forget what this drunk guy was wearing, and what he looked like, but he and his group were white, blandly handsome and of average (acceptable) height.
This stark reminder of how I was the Wrong Kind of Gay was hardly new. In my adulthood, the only grownups who commented on my diminutive stature were gay men. *Grown* gay men—of all colors. The notion that there is or was a utopian brotherhood of queerness is false.
If snap judgements, identity-policing and name-calling are Correct, I’m ecstatic to be Wrong. Not all of the activist t-shirts in the world can disguise moral vacuity or cruelty.
Today is the official release date of A Spectral Hue, my debut novel for adults. It has already been seen on bookstore shelves—my publisher Word Horde (aka Ross Lockhart) also works in a bookstore and did some early book displays. Direct orders from the publisher have also been sent out early. They’re even signed!
This novel has lived inside of me for many years, and existed in a variety of forms. It was called Summoning A Muse and Peculiar Hue before it got its final title. At one point, the book was just a collection of imaginary artists biographies. During the writing of this book, my mother died. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of her in this book—some of her stories haunt these pages.
If you read it, please spread the word about it far and wide. Reviews on GoodReads and Amazon help with the sales algorithms. If you run a podcast, a book group or even teach college, I would love to talk about this book, or any of my other work. Friends of mine who work in the libraries, please request it for the collection. Post about it on social media—the cover is gorgeous and just screams to be #Bookgrammed.