Next week I’ll be giving an online reading and an online talk in support of MetaFilter, a long-lived discussion forum/community weblog that’s been running a fundraiser during November. If you’ve never been there before, swing by and take a look! It’s a diverse online community with many different sub-sites to appeal to different users. I’ve been a member there for about fifteen years, and I lurked for many years before then. Highly recommended.
29 November I’ll be giving a talk in my “academic who horrors” guise, entitled “The Ghost in the Bookstore: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of U.S. Horror Fiction.” For those of you who saw me give a paper about this at ICFA some years ago, later published in Postscripts to Darkness, it’s going to be in something of the same vein, but updates and broadened in various ways. Horror has changed in various ways in the last five years!
1 December I’ll be reading my short story “The Haunted Object.” It’s a cursed story in a number of ways! I’m looking forward to infecting getting it out to a new audience.
Valancourt Books (previously) has increasingly been releasing horror in translation in recent years. Their Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories does what work in translation should do, “bringing the news” from other parts of the world to your own, or at least to your own language, and has shown up in reviews, on syllabi, and other places of honor. Not coincidentally, the press won the 2021 HWA Speciality Press Award, testament to their impact on the field, from reprinting forgotten classics to their translation work, to the Paperbacks from Hell series.
Recently they released a book that’s even better than the norm for them: Anders Fager’s Swedish Cults (Valancourt|Bookshop|Amazon). I no longer buy books based on blurbs, but I can honestly say that the blurbs for this book are correct. It’s a vigorous collection of Lovecraftian horror that belongs on a shelf with Caitlín R. Kiernan & kin. Reading it, I felt the same old/new shock that I got on reading Charles Stross’s “A Colder War,” that sense of a new take. Fager’s blend of sex and surreality is distinctive, he has one of the best uses of Shub-Niggurath I can remember reading, and there are no bad stories in this book. If any of the above resonated with you, check it out. Good reading for dark nights…
I should probably say that I was predisposed to be interested in Fager’s book. Growing up Scandinavian-American, my childhood was full of the usual stuff: lefse, rosemaling, Ole & Lena, etc. It also featured more than a little Norse mythology and folklore, including trolls of all shape and size. My interest in that has revived in recent years, partly for personal reasons and partly due to encountering works like Midsommar and Swedish Cults. I’ve bought or repurchased various related titles, some pictured below.
Tack for reading, and check out Fager if his book sounds up your alley at all!
Several years ago, I was doing some archival research on the history of literary groups, associations, and the like in Richmond. At the time I was serving on the Board of Directors of James River Writers, the largest and most prominent literary organization in Central Virginia, and I’d gotten curious about where and how these groups preserve their histories. I didn’t expect to be personally attacked in the process, and yet—!
In the course of reading, I ran across a letter between two members of a bygone organization, talking about the value of different authors’ works. One said to the other that, in essence, people who publish academically are not real writers. An interesting claim, and one that makes more sense, given the letter was from many decades ago, back before creative writing put down… not merely roots, but taproots in the ivory tower.
To be fair, these correspondents weren’t discussing scholarship, much of which is just not created to be read for pleasure, with artistic goals in mind, or both. My publications over the last fifteen years have encompassed all of the above, though the last few years have seen a decrease in my fiction credits as I’ve turned my attention toward novels. For better or worse, that meant more careful allocation of my time, which led to less time reading and writing short fiction. It hasn’t, however, cut so much into my academic writing. Some of that’s professional stuff about my work as a librarian that is probably of no interest to most people reading this, but not entirely.
To wit, yesterday I got my (aforementioned) contributor’s copy of Fantastic Cities: American Urban Spaces in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. It includes my chapter “Olympia, Wilderness, and Consumption in Laird Barron’s Old Leech Cycle.” Viz:
This essay had a long gestation period, as is not uncommon in the humanities. I’m grateful to the editors that it’s out in the world, and I hope it finds readers! While I don’t have the same artistic ambitions with it that I do have with my fiction, I tried to write it well, and I tried to offer some perspectives that might be interesting to other readers of weird fiction, and Laird Barron’s fiction in particular.
Other than that? With March here, it seems like Omicron might be behind us, even if the world is unquiet. I’m still thinking about next steps on the novel I wrote about a couple posts back. In the meanwhile, I’m 10,000 words into a new novel, one that involved as detailed an outline as I’ve ever created, along with 25,000 words of preparatory character sketches. Sometimes new books need new methods, or so I’ve heard. Happy Spring!
One of the categories on this here blog that consistently gets attention, even after individual posts have fallen off most people’s radars, is “whenworldscollide.” That’s where I stick the stuff that lives in the Venn diagram of creative writing, scholarship, librarianship, and academic stuff. 2021’s been busy with that kind of stuff.
Early next year, my essay “Olympia, Wilderness, and Consumption in Laird Barron’s Old Leech Cycle” will be published in Fantastic Cities: American Urban Spaces in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Likely not the rubric most people use for thinking about Old Leech, but it worked for me because I kept thinking about how very well Laird Barron does both Olympia and Washington, and also how little academics have yet written about either Barron or fiction set in Olympia. I probably wouldn’t have tried to write this piece back when I was first a librarian, trying to wall off different parts of my life and never really thinking about literary scholarship, but here we are.
Last week I moderated a lively discussion about the future of speculative fiction for James River Writers, the Central Virginia writing org on whose Board of Directors I served some years ago. Our conversation roamed over many topics, but I wound up juggling my writing hat and my library hat a bit, in particular on the question of genre labels and taxonomies. A tough issue that continues to get tougher as readers’ tastes solidify and specify. Many U.S. readers have no nearby bookstore they can happily browse, and many factors (not least the pandemic) have continued to drive book buyers to online sellers. In that environment, what a book is classified as can at times matter far more than it used to… to the reader, writer, publisher, OR library.
Finally, back in May I had the distinct (and new for me!) pleasure of serving as a keynote speaker at a symposium hosted by the University of Calgary, “Integrating Library, Archives and Special Collections into Creative Writing Pedagogy: An Experiential Symposium.” It was an honor and super-invigorating to present and help plan with the organizers and my fellow keynoter, David Pavelich. This event was some years in the making and had to be shifted online due to the pandemic, which put a damper on some facets and allowed for new ones, including broader attendance. None of it could have happened without the indefatigable efforts of my Canadian colleagues, Melanie Boyd, Aritha van Herk, and Jason Nisenson. Lots of great “whenworldscollide” moments here, but I have to say that it was a particular delight to talk about the research practices of various folks in horror and weird fiction.
Starting in 2015 I maintained a list of publishers of weird fiction, literary horror, or mainstream fiction that occasionally handled either. That list stayed current for a few years, but updates gradually became less frequent, and it became ever more out of date. Many people have used it over the years, but my interest in refreshing it has gone. If you’d like to save the links I had posted for your own purposes, there’s a copy over on the Wayback Machine.
These days, seems like more people get their market info from social, or from those folks who do regular submission roundups, like Eric J. Guignard or Gwendolyn Kiste. Likewise, check out Ralan.com, lists from writer’s organizations (SFWA, AWP, etc.), The Grinder, etc. Cheers!