Outer Dark podcast, and “A Spectral Hue” update

A SPECTRAL HUE has a release date of June 18. It’s currently at the page proof stage and ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) have been sighted. I have seen the glorious cover art Word Horde plans to use and can’t wait to share it with you.

In the meantime, you can hear me read an excerpt of the book at the Outer Dark Symposium, along with readings by Kristi DeMeester (fellow Word Horder), Damien Angelica Walters (practically local to me–outside of Baltimore to my DC) and Michael Wehunt (fellow lover of ambient music). A presentation on the history of the Swamp Thing comics and panel on the role nature plays in Weird Fiction follows.

Link: The Outer Dark: Episode 046

Norwescon Schedule (April 18 -21, 2019)

My Norwescon Schedule, where I will co-lead the Norwescon Writer’s Workshop, is below. Can’t wait to get back to Seattle!

Thursday

Norwescon Writers Workshop Meet & Greet

8:00pm – 9:00pm @ Baker

Sienna Saint-Cyr, Barth Anderson, Carol Berg, Nisi Shawl, Neil Clarke, Craig Laurance Gidney

Friday

Norwescon Writers Workshop Critique Session with Craig Gidney & Barth Anderson

2:00pm – 6:00pm @ Baker

Craig Laurance Gidney, Barth Anderson

Saturday

The New Norwescon Writers Workshop Q&A

2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Cascade 11

Sienna Saint-Cyr, Barth Anderson, Carol Berg, Craig Laurance Gidney, Nisi Shawl, Neil Clarke

Mommy, Where Do Writers Come From?

4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 11

Craig Laurance Gidney (M), Kat/K.R. Richardson, Caroline M. Yoachim, Jack Skillingstead, Yilin Wang

Norwescon Writers Workshop Reception

5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Presidential Suite 1360

Sienna Saint-Cyr, Carol Berg, Barth Anderson, Craig Laurance Gidney, Nisi Shawl, Neil Clarke

What’s Happening in Social Horror

7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Cascade 9

Jon Lasser (M), Craig Laurance Gidney

Sunday

Writing the Mad March Hare

1:00pm – 2:00pm @ Cascade 5 & 6

Barth Anderson (M), keerawa, Craig Laurance Gidney, Scott James Magner

Subversive Horror

3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Cascade 10

Evan J. Peterson (M), Jon Lasser, Craig Laurance Gidney, Eric Morgret

An eeriness of weird fiction enthusiasts: The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird 2019

The third annual Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird occurred last weekend. It was a confluence of readings, panels, and academic presentations all held in a special effects studio in Atlanta, under the watchful gaze of silicon monsters. Attendees came from all parts of the country, as far away as Hawaii. The readings spanned the entire cosmos of Weird Fiction, from the absurd to creepy to literary and all points in-between. The lively panels were full of passionate participants.

I have no idea where my own fiction fits in this constellation but it definitely has a home, embedded there amongst the other dark stars. In fact, I pitched A SPECTRAL HUE at last year’s symposium (check the acknowledgements of the book). Thanks to everyone who had a hand in organizing this event.

Till next year!

A few of the other attendees (Silver Scream FX Lab)

Velvet Buzzsaw: Putting the Art in Arthouse Horror

I saw Velvet Buzzsaw, Netflix film about haunted paintings and outsider art for a few reasons, foremost among them the fact that my forthcoming novel,A SPECTRAL HUE mines similar territory and shares some tropes.*

The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Toni Collette and Rene Russo as dealers and critics in the contemporary art world. It starts out as a roman a clef/satire of that scene. Gyllenhaal plays a critic (loosely modeled on Jerry Saltz). Russo is an ex-punk rocker turned arts dealer, a nod to Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and Collette plays a cutthroat curator. There’s no small element of camp in the performances and writing of these characters, as they pretentiously prattle on about the arts on display, some of which is shown in the film. (Which includes incomprehensible abstract art, and, most notably, a horrific robotic homeless person).

Russo’s put-upon underling (and Gyllenhaal’s secret affair), played by Zawe Ashton, sets the plot in motion when she discovers a cache of disturbing paintings left by her deceased reclusive neighbor. The discovery of the paintings resembles the discovery of Henry Darger’s work. (Darger’s epic novel and collage-based paintings were found after his death by his landlords). Vetril Dease, the artist, wanted his canvases destroyed, but the culture vultures ignore the directive and a feeding frenzy starts, as the dealers, curators and critics rush to promote the work as the Next Hot Thing.

Henry Darger piece

That’s when the supernatural element comes into play, and Velvet Buzzsaw turns into a moralistic slasher film. The death sequences are inventive, but the actual haunting—its rules and mechanisms—are not explored. There’s an under-developed subplot about Dease’s mental instability and possible murderous activities. All of that takes the backseat to the stylish comeuppances. 

As a ghost/horror story, the movie didn’t work for me. As an over the top jeremiad against the contemporary art scene, the message is muddled. For all that, I’m glad that it was made and the performances were entertaining if a little too cartoonish.

*A SPECTRAL HUE features an art critic and haunted  outsider art work, but goes in a completely different direction and mood. The Outsider art in the novel is partial inspired by the quilt makers of Gee’s Bend.

Gaslighting Racism, Part 2

When I was in high school, I wrote a story inspired by the work of the Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. I was going through a Southern writers kick back then. The story was about the friendship between two women, one white, the other black in the deep South. The white woman became friends with the black woman because her out-of-wedlock pregnancy made her a pariah in her small town.

I submitted the story to the school literary magazine. I went to a small, mostly white Episcopalian high school in the DC suburbs that was moderately conservative. The vice principal rejected the story as being “immoral” (there was no sex in the story, it was just two women reminiscing, like a two person play).

The next year, the literary magazine published a story by a white girl about a homeless black woman who kills a man in a robbery and uses the money to feed her kid. The first line in that story, I’ll never forgot, had the would-be murderess’ child say, “Momma, I be huuuungry.” (Of course, the mother in the story presumably also “immoral” in the same way my piece was).

That was one of my first experiences with blatant bias and revealed how White Privilege works. A literary story by a black boy was “immoral” and “filthy because it alluded to illegitimacy;” a story by a white girl, full of violence and stereotypes (and poorly rendered African American English), however, was acceptable.

Thirty years later, we’re still centering white voices over people of colors’.


UPCOMING APPEARANCES: Norwescon Writers Workshop in Seattle/Tacoma (April 18-21, 2019)

Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning editor, Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld Magazine), Independent Publishers Book Award winner, Craig L. Gidney, and three-time Colorado Book Award winning novelist, Carol Berg, are three of the pro facilitators slated for the inaugural year of the Norwescon Writers Workshop. More facilitators will be announced soon! The workshop will be held during Norwescon 42. Short stories and novel chapters are being accepted now for the Norwescon Writers Workshop. Please click here for guidelines and other information: Norwescon. The deadline is December 9, 2018!

Screenshot 2018-11-21 17.33.00