It Is Happening Again

Audrey Horne

Of course we called her “Audrey.”

Later this month, my short story “Be Still, My Dear, and Listen” will be podcast over at Pseudopod. The story originally appeared in a 2015 issue of Richmond lit mag Makeout Creek, published in conjunction with The Great Southern, a Twin Peaks festival here in the RVA. If you like Twin Peaks, horror, and/or audio fiction, it may just be your jam!

As you might guess, the timing is not accidental, coinciding as it does with the launch of the Twin Peaks reboot. I’ll post when the story’s up, but I’m pretty darn—no, pretty damn—excited.

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Artful Weekend

Middle of last week I got the word that the VCU Communication Arts students’ Senior Expo was coming up on Friday. I’ve occasionally been to shows featuring work by Comm Arts students, but the description of the setup was great, and—By The Bats Of Mike Mignola!—the art was freaking great. The students brought their A game, and frankly the quality of what I saw was on par with what I’ve seen at conventions and fairs. Some of the highlights for me included…

Japanese flying squid

Japanese Flying Squid, by Lohitha Kethu

Illustrations of a cluster of figs and a Japanese flying squid, by Lohitha Kethu,  the latter of which currently graces the front page of my library’s website as part of an exhibit at our medical library. Scientific illustration’s been on my brain lately, as the digital arts and humanities initiative I’ve led for some years had a panel + workshop this spring that was on the topic. Kethu’s illustrations grabbed me because one was quite familiar, but the other—well, I like figs, and the clarity and detail of her work brought them immediately to life.

stickers

Stickers from Corey Hannah Summers

Corey Hannah Summers‘ work caught my eye as I was on the way out, off in a nook that I hadn’t seen walking into the expo. She had a few more original paintings on display than some of the students, which I appreciated, as well as a crop of stickers,  a few of which I had to have (those teeth!).

painting of antlers

Antlers by Corey Hannah Summers

Summers’ paintings can be seen on her website, but here’s an antler study that grabbed me from across the room. The warm accents really made it stand out, given how many bones-and-antlers paintings I’ve seen that go entirely warm or cool.

There were many, many other cool things on display, from Elly Call‘s tarot deck, to Norine King‘s stickers of heroic women, to Mike Collier‘s fangs and gaming-related swag, to Will Sullivan‘s atmospheric concept art. Near the start of the show, my eyes were caught by Emma Welch‘s Parasite. Parasitic & symbiotic imagery always gets me, but I’ve been consuming even more art than usual that plays with these themes, from a re-watch of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, to Jeff VanderMeer’s new novel, Borne.

parasite

Emma Welch’s Parasite

Really, the overall quality of the show was outstanding. I went in not knowing what I’d see, and I was repeatedly struck by the work our students are doing. It should also be said that the “artists alley”-type setup in The Depot really worked well, and the turnout was great, with folks turning out from all over the university and surrounding community.

Sunday we went to Arts in the Park in Byrd Park, a first for us, despite having lived here for years. The arts and crafts on display were high quality, and the weather was great for walking around. With 450+ vendors, there was more than enough to see, even passing over the stuff that wasn’t our thing.

vessey paintings

Trick or Treat!

The first booth we stopped at was that of Mary Ann Vessey, a painter from the Shenandoah Valley. She uses her paintings to tell stories and show off the land she loves, often through the lens of changing seasons, and there were a number of holiday-themed paintings on display, prints of two of which we picked up. Halloween is having a moment right now, but it’s also our thing, for all the reason you’d imagine.

We wandered the show and had a great time, admiring Debi Dwyer‘s 3D stained glass creations and Molly Sims‘ vivid, beautiful animals, among other things. Stephen Brehm‘s oil paintings were among my favorite in the show, as he has both a way with light on water, and a deft hand at bringing background light and color into the shadows. There were plenty of paintings to be found at the show, from abstract to whimsical to landscape, but his stayed with me.

allison funk's booth

Allison Funk’s Booth

Toward the end, we found our way into what was the most exciting and surprising booth in the show, that of Allison Funk, an artist specializing in prints, from woodblock to linocut to monotype. I wasn’t sure when we went to the show what, if anything, I’d be buying, but that immediately switched over from an “if” to “which one” when I saw her prints.

It’s hard not to think of Expressionist woodcuts looking at Funk’s work, but you can see shades of more contemporary styles, as well. Handling of flesh that echoes the honesty of Freud, compositions with the feel of Albright or Munch: these and many more things struck me, but—to be clear—they struck me because of her deft use and strong style. From the way she works with shadows to her use of reflective surfaces, Funk clearly has a style of her own.

allison funk with print

Allison Funk, with Zombie

I considered but did not buy a print of a version Funk did of an iconic scene from The Walking Dead. I’ve seen various art derived from the show, but none that have been as good. Funk’s take on it was as clear and iconic as the many subsequent versions we’ve seen of Night of the Living Dead, and I think it will appeal to many. For me, it encapsulates the pathos of Kirkman’s vision as clearly as anything else I’ve seen.

Ultimately I walked away with a quieter print, a linocut with watercolor that spoke to me the moment I walked into the booth. Funk’s work is “pensive” in the best possible sense of the word, and it’s no surprise she discusses “self-reflection” in her artist’s statement. The prints she pulls are all fundamentally moments taken out of time, with tension rising from things have come and gone, or are yet to be.

waiting by allison funk

Waiting by Allison Funk

Her vision feels distinctly more urban than I would expect from any given artist out of Staunton. And it’s happily not full of the contemporary clichés that connote “urban,” but istead is part of the patchwork of city life that has captured the interest of creators as diverse as George Bellows and Kathe Koja. Her scenes are tight, with a world pressing in that is kept at bay by walls and curtains, where her subjects consider things that are just out of sight, be they people or ideas. I look forward to seeing her work grow and change over time.

 

RVA Lit Crawl This Weekend!

Are you in Richmond or Richmond-adjacent? This weekend will see the inaugural edition of the RVA Lit Crawl, two days of literary readings around the town at many different venues. Each is a group reading, with authors focused around a theme or project, and they look great (schedule)!

I’ll be in the “Sci-Fi and Fantasy” reading, along with authors Bill Blume, Meriah Crawford, Dennis Danvers, Phillip Hilliker, and Eric Smith. Come hear us at 6:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Urban Farmhouse down in Shockoe Slip. We hope to see you there!

poster for RVA Lit Crawl

Scratching & More Scratching

What’s new, pussycat? A couple of largely news-free writing months for me. As I expected a while back, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple months raising my voice, doing my best to help hold power accountable, etc., etc. No glory in it, but when your elected representatives don’t just disagree with you or ignore you, but actually lie to the media regularly about your existence… you have to speak up.

scratchAlas for missing AWP, given it was just a couple hours away, but I have other things on the go, and hours and dollars are finite. This year I plan to attend ICFA and NecronomiCon, both with my scholarly hat on (though I’m participating in a group reading at ICFA, and TBD about NecronomiCon). If things go as planned, I’ll also be participating in some group readings around Richmond this year. Details forthcoming.

Are you a writer? Do you aspire to make any money from your writing, but aren’t quite there yet? Read Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin. It’s new out this year, and it’s got some really good stuff in it about aspects of the writing life that often go publicly unaddressed, and about which many people are not well informed. All sorts of good essays and interviews in it, and worth its weight in gold for the blend of windows it offers into the life of the “full time writer.” In some regards it’s of a piece with Nick Mamatas’ Starve Better, which I’ve previously mentioned, and Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife.

But What If It’s Life That’s Political?

Lindsay Chudzik at Strange Matter

Lindsay Chudzik emcees at Strange Matter, photo by Justin Stillman

Last Friday I attended Love Trumps Hate: A Community Reading, held at Strange Matter here in Richmond. My ass-kicking friend and fellow writer Lindsay Chudzik made all the arrangements for and publicized this event, which was well attended and featured readings of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The works all explored “experiences with racism, homophobia, sexism, sexual assault, and xenophobia,” and we raised money for Safe Harbor and Health Brigade, a couple RVA orgs working to support sexual assault survivors and the LGBTQ+ community.

The event was electrifying, and there was a lot of courage on that stage. I read “Sufficient Pangs,” a piece of flash fiction I published several years ago and revised lightly for Friday. The story turned on a moment of sexism of the buddy-do-you-understand-what-you’re-saying variety, the kind that we all gotta step up and talk about in the moment. Thank you to my friends and colleagues who were able to make it out to hear everyone read, and to Lindsay for making it happen.

Despite living here as long as I have, it was my first time at Strange Matter. The crowd was a welcome blend of alt, art, college, and hip. Great staff and food, and I’m grateful they served as a venue for this event. Will I try a different combination of cheeses on my grilled cheese next time? Only time will tell.

The elephant in the post is, of course, why J.T. Glover, writer and reader of dark and weird fiction is all fired up about social justice. Friends, I don’t plan for this to become a political blog, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say I was horrified by the events of the past month. The election of Trump, the wave of hate crimes in the weeks following, and the country’s public surge to the right are more than troubling to me, and I think we have a hard road ahead. The modest efforts I previously made to support candidates, organizations, and initiatives that align with my beliefs… were not enough to prevent a truly terrible happening.

Even assuming Trump’s presidency and a complicit legislature don’t result in the actual destruction of the U.S. as we know it, or some sort of global conflict, I think there’s a solid chance that we’re about to enter a truly miserable period in American history. It’s still too early to be certain, but so far the next four years appear likely to include some combination of Gilded Age business practices, Red Scare-era propaganda, re-fighting the battles of the Civil Rights Era, and Cold War paranoia, plus greater general public tolerance for xenophobia, discrimination, and non-interventionism than we’ve seen for decades.

Life is always political, and it’s always been more political for marginalized groups than for straight, white, male, able-bodied, land-owning, etc. Americans. As such, if those latter traits apply to you, this is the time to use your power to speak out against the threats that lie ahead. We owe it to those who do not have our privilege to raise our voices.

And finally, if Love Trumps Hate sounds good to you, keep your antennae up. There was interest among attendees in doing it again, and I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more such events in the years to come.

Dennis Danvers’ The Watch

The WatchThe Watch by Dennis Danvers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoughtful take on anarchy, mutual aid, and the legacy of the Confederacy as seen through the eyes of a visitor from the past. This is a heartfelt book, and a fine picture of Richmond that brings the punk anarchy of the 1990s to life like nothing else I’ve read or heard. Kropotkin’s humane approach to life is a tonic, especially when it leads to repeated jarring crashes against our world today.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Updates, Honorable Mentions, and the Warping of Young Minds

richmond young writers logoThis summer marked the first time I taught (twice, even!) creative writing for young writers. I was delighted to serve as guest author for the good folks at Richmond Young Writers, and had the pleasure of working with Julie Geen, whom I’ve known for a couple years now, at VCU and from around town, James River Writers, etc. The kids were great, it all seemed to work out well, and I’d love to do it again one day.

Photo of H.P. LovecraftThis autumn I’m going to be presenting some of my Lovecraft scholarship in an academic venue. More details on that down the road, but I’m darn excited. My other scholarship on literary horror, HPL, and weird fiction continues apace.

In a not unrelated vein, I’m excited for the publication of “His Knife, Her Shadow,” in the second issue of Thinking Horror this autumn. My piece is a confessional memoir of sorts, all about how I came to horror as a child in the early 1980s. Writing it proved unexpectedly harrowing, and I hope it’s of interest to the readers of Thinking Horror.

Finally, in further exciting news, I was delighted and honored that Ellen Datlow noted two of my short stories for her long list of Honorable Mentions for Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 8:

“Hunger Full and Lean,” The Lovecraft eZine 34 [free online]
“Mercy’s Armistice,” Big Bad II [$2.99 on Kindle]