scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

Gone Scopping:
Keeping the Oral Tradition Alive @ KGB

June 24th, 2018

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time reading screens. When it comes to accessibility, the digital format is hard to beat. But is it the best format for sharing stories?

I recall an article at CNN.com in which a writer lamented the loss of print: “I miss the edges – physical and psychological. I miss the start of reading a print magazine, but mostly, I miss the finish. I miss the satisfaction of putting the bundle down, knowing I have gotten through it all.”

For those of us who came of age with print media, it’s hard not to sympathize. Yet, it’s worth remembering that the art of story existed long before ink and paper. Which brings us to one of the recurring themes of this blog site — story as performance.

Live storytelling may not be as convenient as digital media. You need to go to it, enter a physical space, remain there for the duration. And it isn’t as durable as print. It’s ephemeral, existing only for the moment. But it remains my preferred platform for sharing stories.

And that brings us to Fantastic Fiction at KGB.

This past Wednesday, I again got the chance to experience live storytelling on both sides of the KGB stage. And once again, I came away convinced that spoken-word storytelling still has an important place in the digital age.

This time out, I had the chance to read with multiple Hugo Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Although best known as a fantasy writer, Mary proved she is equally adept at science fiction by reading the opening chapter of The Calculating Stars, the soon-to-be-released first book of her Lady Astronaut duology. The excerpt features a gripping account of a catastrophic meteorite strike as experienced by a narrator far removed from the point of impact – a narrative device that amps up the tension as the character comes to realize what has happened. A seasoned reader (Wednesday’s performance was her fifth at KGB), Mary effectively brought the story to life in a manner that transcended the printed page. A stellar performance.

For my presentation, I had originally planned on sharing the bonus story from the newly released second-edition of Voices: Tales of Horror. The story first appeared as “Human Caverns” in Fear the Abyss (Post-Mortem Press, 2013). Revised and retitled as “Siren” for the new edition of Voices, the story is one of my personal favorites. But as the performance date approached, I began toying with the notion of framing the performance as a vintage anthology show (ala The Outer Limits) complete with a control-voice intro and several stand-alone stories (ala Night Gallery).

I felt the format might make for a fun presentation, and I like the way it provided a kind of homage to the upcoming anthology film Nightmare Cinema.

The resulting presentation featured the control-voice story “Aberrations” and the flash-fiction tales “Step on a Crack” and “Prime Time!” (all three taken from Visions: Short Fantasy & SF. I then concluded with an excerpt from “Siren” (the story I had originally planned to read in its entirety) and a control-voice outro.

How did it go? Did I make the right call? You’ll soon be able to judge for yourself. Fantastic Fiction will be posting the audio of the performance (expertly recorded and mastered by Gordon Linzer) at their website. Naturally, the digital recording will be one-step removed from the physical experience, but it should nevertheless give a sense of the oral tradition that hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel are keeping alive at Fantastic Fiction at KGB.

For now, thanks for reading these digital words. Until we meet again (whether in person, print, or pixels) … scop on!

Images:

  • Illustration by Calvin C. Chan, Creative Commons.
  • Crowd outside KGB Bar from The end of the Tour, A24 Films, 2014.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal and Lady Astronaut books at KGB, photo by Ellen Datlow.
  • The 21st-Century Scop reads from memory at KGB, photo by Tom Conair.
  • Cover of the second-edition of Voices: Tales of Horror. Cover art by Jason Zerrillo. Cover design by W. H. Horner of Fantasist Enterprises.

Voices: Tales of Horror
New Edition Preview @ Fantastic Fiction

June 17th, 2018

The good people at Fantasist Enterprises are preparing a couple special editions of Voices: Tales of Horror for release this summer, starting with the book’s first-ever digital edition and following it with a second print edition.

Both will feature a new foreword by Mick Garris (Showtime’s Masters of Horror and the upcoming Nightmare Cinema) and a bonus section featuring an additional story that originally appeared as “Human Caverns” in Fear the Abyss (Post-Mortem Press 2013).

Rewritten for its appearance in the second edition of Voices, the story about a strange discovery in the West Virginia woods will appear under its new title, “Siren,” and will be accompanied by an introduction and a new illustration by World Fantasy Award nominee Jason Zerrillo.

Jason did all the illustrations for the original release of Voices, and it’s great having him on board again.

The new digital edition will be available across all platforms (Epub, Nook, Kindle, iBook) in July, but folks attending my reading at KGB (June 20) will be able to pick up vouchers for advance copies of the epub edition (included with the purchase of the book’s first edition).

Hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, Fantastic Fiction is held at the KGB Bar in the East Village. Readings begin at 7:00 PM. This time I’ll be joined by Mary Robinette Kowal – winner of multiple Hugo Awards and the author of the historical fantasy novel: Ghost Talkers and the forthcoming Lady Astronaut duology. The event is open to the public, and admission is free.

If you can’t make it to NYC but still want to score a voucher for the advance epub of Voices, I’ll be joining Fantasist Enterprises for a special signing at Seton Hill University in Greensburg on June 23. The event will be part of the In Your Write Mind Workshop, a four-day event that runs concurrently with the University’s summer residency for writers of popular fiction.

Looking further ahead, we hope to have both the new print and digital editions available to coincide with my return to Confluence, the long-running Pittsburgh sf convention, on July 28.

And of course, I’ll also be attending the premiere of Nightmare Cinema at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 12.

More updates coming soon. It’s going to be an exciting summer.

Back to Fantastic Fiction!
Reading at New York’s KGB Bar on June 20

June 11th, 2018

A line stretches around the block outside a bar in New York’s East Village, but the crowd hasn’t gathered to hear a band. Instead, they’ve come to attend a fiction reading at the place New York Magazine has called “the best literary venue in New York” — the fabled KGB Bar.

You’ve got to love it when a fiction reading packs them in.

The image above is from James Ponsoldt film The End of the Tour (2015), based on the David Lipsky book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (2010). In the film, David Foster Wallace is about to deliver a reading from his novel Infinite JestDescribing the actual event (which took place in 1996), New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote:

Wallace steps inside to find a narrow staircase mobbed with people. They are merely the spillover. The real crowd waits in a room at the top.

Of course, every writer isn’t going to command a spillover crowd down E. 4th Street to 2nd Avenue, but every reading I’ve seen or heard about at KGB has been SRO, and I’m hoping to see the same when I return there for a reading with Mary Robinette Kowal on June 20.

It’s going to be a special night, taking place a few weeks before the premiere of Nightmare Cinema and on the same date that Fantasist Enterprises will be releasing the ebook edition of Voices: Tales of Horror. The collection first appeared in print in 2011, but until now it has not been available in digital format. And to make the release even more special, Fantasist will be including some bonus features unique to the ebook.

I’ll be sharing more about the ebook’s bonus content in an upcoming post.

Until then, save the date … and scop on!

Images:

Crowd outside KGB Bar from The end of the Tour.
Voices: Tales of Horror, cover art by Jason Zerrillo. 

Fantasia Film Festival & Nightmare Cinema

May 5th, 2018

This summer, Nightmare Cinema will have its long anticipated premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. 

I’ll be posting more about this prestigious unveiling in the days ahead, but — for now — here’s a brief description from the Festival’s Facebook page:

Five Forces of Fear Come Together for A Terrifying Dose of Nightmare Cinema

As part of Fantasia’s Opening Night events, the festival will unveil the World Premiere of Cinelou Films’ hotly-anticipated anthology NIGHTMARE CINEMA, featuring segments by Joe Dante (GREMLINS), Mick Garris (THE STAND), Alejandro Brugués (JUAN OF THE DEAD), Ryûhei Kitamura (VERSUS), and David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT) with a cast that includes Mickey Rourke, Richard Chamberlain, Adam Godley, Belinda Balaski, Elizabeth Reaser, and Annabeth Gish. It’s always cause for celebration when the acclaimed “Masters of Horror” brew new creations, and seeing their energies distilled into a single feature film will all but make the universe explode. Join us for what’s sure to be a very special night, with all five filmmakers in attendance. Not to mention…

A Lifetime Achievement Award For Joe Dante!

Fantasia will be presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to adored US genre legend Joe Dante, a man whose inspired filmography has touched generations of cinephiles. From PIRANHA, THE HOWLING, and the universally-beloved GREMLINS films to INNERSPACE, EXPLORERS, and his bold television work, Dante’s works are electric with witty personality and brim with innovative storytelling and a big-hearted affection for all things film. As Fantasia will be World Premiering his latest work with NIGHTMARE CINEMA, there couldn’t be a better time to honour the great man. Previous recipients of Fantasia’s Lifetime Achievement Award include Guillermo del Toro, Takashi Miike, Ken Russell, Tobe Hooper, Jean Rollin, Andrzej Zulawski, Mamoru Oshii, John Landis, José Mojica Marins, Larry Cohen, and Ray Harryhausen.

More updates coming soon. Until then … scop on!

Images:

Sarah Elizabeth Withers in Nightmare Cinema’s “Thing in the Woods,” written and directed by Alejandro Brugués. Photo by Michael Moriatis, The Hollywood Reporter

Joe Dante, publicity photo from IMDB.com