Alas, I did not win this year. I guess I’m the Susan Lucci of the Lammys!
Thanks to the judges who nominated A SPECTRAL HUE. The novel has been the most successful of my publications, thanks to Word Horde for publishing it, and thanks to everyone who read (or is reading) it!
Dionne Warwick’s classic songs—”Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” — always reminds me of my aunt Connie. She was my mother’s older sister and the black sheep of that family. She kind of looked like Warwick, with a similar skin tone and fashion sense. Connie wore her hair in a Jheri-curl, a style that really worked for her facial features. She was a tall woman, maybe 5’9 or so. At any rate, she towered over my mother, who was 5’1. She moved in with our family when I was ten or eleven. Previously, she’d lived in Philadelphia, where most of my mother’s family settled after living in the Carolinas.
Her first name was Stella but she always went by Connie. When she was sixteen, she got “in the family way” and was sent up North to avoid small town scandal. Her child was put up for adoption, but I believe that she never returned to the South. She married three times. I never met her husbands, but according to my mother, at least one of them was physically abusive. She moved in with us in DC when one of her marriages ended. She began working for my father as the receptionist for his dental practice, and lived in the basement room of our house.
Connie had a real zest for life. I remember my mother—who was very prim and proper—and her would spend evenings drinking beer and laughing about the Old Days. I learned that Connie followed the horoscope like a Wall Street trader follows the NASDAQ. She told raunchy and vulgar jokes to me and my brothers. She loved blaxploitation movies, Chablis, cigarettes and yes, Dionne Warwick.
I will be co-editing Baffling Magazine, a new flash fiction venue that specializes in Weird Fiction with a queer bent, alongside dave ring, who runs the Neon Hemlock micropress. (“Weird Fiction” isn’t strictly Lovecraftian/cosmic horror here; it includes the new fabulism of Kelly Link and Jeffrey Ford).
A submission announcement will go up soon. In the meantime, you can check out the mostly skeletal website here.
Speaking of Neon Hemlock, they are also running a chapbook contest (poetry/fiction/nonfiction categories) for the OutWrite Literary Festival, which happens every summer. It is only opened to writers in the DVM (District-Virginia-Maryland) area and has some awesome judges.
Check out my illustrated flash piece Knaiveté in the magazine Forbidden Futures. It’s a cross between Jack Vance and Jean Genet…. Warning: the issue is only for mature (18+) audiences…..
FORBIDDEN FUTUREShas never shied away from controversial subject matter, but for this special issue, we tack recklessly into the riptide of controversy, trawling for taboos to smash. And if you think there’s nothing left out there that needs smashing, step into our orifice.
A disclaimer: I’ve known Liz Hand since we both took a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing course at the Writers Center in Bethesda, back when she lived in the DC Area.
Another disclaimer: I’ve been into Henry Darger’s work for almost as long. Part of my research for A SPECTRAL HUE included a visit to the Intuit Center for Outsider Art museum in Chicago (which houses a large collection of Darger’s work). Ultimately, my Outsider Artist novel is very different from Liz Hand’s book, with melds together the thriller/crime genre with historical fiction. But my knowledge of Darger marginalia made reading this book extra-pleasurable.
Curious Toys navigates genre modalities deftly, hopping from the viewpoint of a creepy killer of little girls, to the police officer in pursuit, and, scenes with Darger, who suffers from some unidentified mental illness.
But this is ultimately the story of Pin, a fourteen year old girl who dresses as a boy to help her move through the various milieus. Both Pin and her mother live in a cardboard shack at the edge of Riverview, a giant amusement park where Pin’s mother works as a fortune teller named Madame Zanto. Both of them have suffered a fairly recent tragedy: the disappearance of Pin’s special needs younger sibling Abriana. Pin spends the time when her mother working as a drug mule, shuttling marijuana cigarettes between Riverview and the silent film studio, Essanay Studios. During her off time, she wanders the amusement park, which is also frequented by a local oddball—Henry Darger. The two of them—separately—witness a horrific crime, one that shares a similarity to her sister’s disappearance.
The novel is a thriller, but it also operates as a coming-of-age novel. Pin is at least lesbian (if not non-binary) and the crafting of her sexual identity makes for some of the most moving moments in the novel. Curious Toys also is a historical novel, with Ragtime/Zelig-like cameos of historical personages beyond Darger; Charlie Chaplin and Wallace Beery have small roles. There’s an atmosphere of verisimilitude in the novel, rich in description of turn-of-the-century Chicago in all of its grime and glory. The book shines and becomes luminous when Hand describes Darger’s secret magnum opus and explores the relationship between Pin and the famed artist, who are both misfits in their own way.
Steve Berman, the publisher of Lethe Press (publisher of my first collection Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories), amassed a panel of gay male authors who write dark fantasy, including Matt Bright,James Bennett, Michael Ford Thomas and myself.
The critic/author Lee Mandelo has a new article about their Queering Science Fiction and Fantasy column, where they asked authors about the advances made in queer representation in the field. I’m included along with Carmen Maria Machado, Liz Bourke, Charlie Jane Anders, Nicola Griffith, Cheryl Morgan, José Iriarte, Sunny Moraine, Yoon Ha Lee, Nino Cipri, Sam J. Miller, Mary Anne Mohanraj.
I’ve long admired the work of artist Michael Bukowski and his unique take on the creatures that dwell in the annals of Weird Fiction. In addition to illustrating the creatures of the Lovecraftian Mythos, he’s also tackled the work of more contemporary writers, such as Nnedi Okorafor and Ursula LeGuin.
He’s gone ahead and rendered a portrait of the Grey Boy in The Nectar of Nightmares!