Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer (NetGalley review). Visionary Weirdness.

I suspect that a great many readers will not appreciate the dense language and the non-linear structure a this loose prequel to Borne. Borne, for all of its hallucinogenic qualities, has a fairly straight forward plot that could be turned into a film, albeit one by Jodorowsky. Dead Astronauts, though, revels in its textuality. It can’t be filmed. Though it’s an ecological science fiction novel that plays with theoretical concepts like Time Travel and parallel Earths, it operates with dream logic. Vandermeer plays games with typography (though not in a House of Leaves way; it’s more like the beginning of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye with its use of repetition and claustrophobic line spacing) that underscore the surrealistic nature of book. The novel—prose poem?— is closer tone to Delany’s DHALGREN or even Lautremont’s Le Chants de Maldoror. This kind of visionary writing—full of beautiful nightmarish imagery—is one of my favorite forms of fiction. I hope it finds the right audience. 

FALL BOOK SCHEDULE FOR CLG

I’ll be appearing at various events/readings/panels this fall!

October 18 @ 7PM

Reading at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division Bookstore in NYC

Violet Ghosts: Reading with Trebor Healey

Event Link: http://bgsqd.com/event/violet-ghosts/

October 20 @ 7PM

Enclave Reading Series

Club Cumming NYC

ENCLAVE Reading Series returns to CLUB CUMMING next month with a stellar lineup of authors gleaned from NYC and beyond. The program is an Enclave-patented eclectic mix of some of the most resonant voices in literary fiction, science fiction, personal essay, and creative non-fiction. It will be a a magnificent journey into the work and minds of five fantastic authors on a bill you will find nowhere else: Emanuel Xavier, Trebor Healey, Craig L. Gidney, Ricky Tucker, and Court Stroud.

October 30 @ 12:30 – 1:30PM

Library of Congress Panel “Modern Horror: Deconstructing the Genre” 

Ruthanna Emrys, Marianne Kirby

November 1 @ 7PM

Reading at Rhizome in DC

Tales of Horror and Dread

Tales of Horror & Dread II, an evening of horror and spooky stories. 7pm November 1st. $10. Featuring readings from Nino Cipri, Craig L. Gidney, Marianne Kirby, Nibedita Sen, dave ring and Jay Wolf. Nightmare soundscapes by Joe Zeranski. Ambiance by Miri Baker. Also: tarot readings, a necromancer cotillion, and who knows what else! Creepy dress encouraged; when in doubt, put a skull on it. Boo. 

Event Link: http://www.rhizomedc.org/new-events/2019/11/1/tales-of-horror-and-dread

Baltimore Book Festival

November 2

7 PM       With the Lights on It’s Less Dangerous

Talking dark fantasy and horror with some of the stars of those fields. 

Nino Cipri, Scott Edelman, Craig Gidney, Micah Dean Hicks, AC Wise

November 3

5 PM       Building Queerer Worlds

Panelists: Craig Gidney, Victoria Lee, Nibedita Sen, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry KM Szpara, Alison Wilgus

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.