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Monster Wrangled!

June 23rd, 2012

Mission accomplished . . . but of course I had expert help from the fourteen talented writers who attended the presentation.

Together, we considered how to effectively present strange creatures in genre fiction. With a nod to Christopher Priest’s novel The Prestige, the discussion explored how some of the most effective monster scenes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror basically employ three elements:

1. the sense of anticipation
2. the appearance of something terrible or wondrous (sometimes both)
3. a dramatic payoff (what Priest’s novel refers to as the prestige).

That last step is important. It’s not enough to have the creature appear and chew the scenery. Instead, the most successful monster scenes present something new and unexpected, as do the vampire scenes in Bob Leman’s excellent (albeit relatively obscure) “The Pilgrimage of Clifford M,” which served as one of our examples during the discussion.

We also deconstructed Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven” (in which the monsters never actually appear) and Bob Leman’s “Window” (in which they do). The discussion seemed to go well, and in the end I sense that I learned as much as my students. A great way to spend a Thursday afternoon at Seton Hill!

The next day, with the monsters successfully wrangled, I visited the alumni writers retreat, aka “In Your Write Mind” (which runs concurrently with the university’s graduate writing program) for a survey on Genre Conventions. As I often do at such events, I began by providing each attendee with a 3×5 index card for submitting questions and comments. In this case, I also asked for recommendations of conventions not covered in my presentation.

Here are a few of the comments and recommendations that I received:

“Don’t forget about Killercon! This year it’s September 20-23 in Las Vegas [featuring] Bill Nolan, Kelley Armstrong, Jack Ketchum, Don D’Aurua, and Brian Keene.”

Yes! Thanks for the reminder. I’ve heard good things about Killercom.

SCBWI – Summer & Winter Cons.”

This one’s new to me, but it looks like a must for people interested in children’s books.

Love is Murder (held in Chicago around Valentine’s Day). Cost is approximately $200 – $250. The focus is on mystery/thriller but also includes paranormal, suspense, pulp, near-future thrillers, master classes, and manuscript critiques.”

I must check this one out!

And here are a few of the questions submitted (along with some quick answers):

“How far away is too far [to go to attend a con]?”

With air travel and ticket pricing being what it is these days, distance isn’t really much of an impediment. Indeed, I found that some of my longer trips have actually been far more affordable than the close ones. The ticket prices for my last three trips from Pennsylvania to the west coast (San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Jose) were better than half the price of my upcoming trip to Toronto for World Fantasy. I also find that I can get a lot of work done on planes and in airports, so the time in transit isn’t really lost. In all, I think it comes down to the event itself and not how far away it is. If it looks worthwhile, go for it.

“Is the western genre being absorbed into science fiction? Can science fiction and horror be blended as well?”

I don’t really see sf taking over the western. True, both deal with new frontiers, but – with the exception of western steampunk (The Wild Wild West, for example) – I don’t really see one taking over the other.

The dividing lines between horror and sf tend to be quite permeable, as can be seen in works such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven,” and Bob Leman’s “Window” – all stories that we considered in Monster Wrangling (see above).  For this reason, if you are interested in horror, you might consider checking out WorldCon, where the programming usually contains a few horror-related discussions.

“Many writers are introverts – how do you break out at cons?”

The people you want to meet and work with are almost certainly introverts as well. They probably spend most of their time reading books and sitting in front of their computers. They’re attending the con to meet people like themselves . . . and you are one of them.  I find that keeping that in mind helps. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

Right now, I need to get away from this computer and attend a book signing sponsored by the alumni at SHU. Hope to see some of you there!

As always, feel free to post comments, corrections, or questions below. Don’t be an introvert. I’d love to hear from you.

Voices & Music at Jozart Center for the Arts: A Stoker Homecoming

April 3rd, 2012

What is the sound of horror?

We explored the question at last week’s World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, with a multi-media reading from Voices: Tales of Horror.  As part of the on-going 21st-Century Scop project, the presentation featured prose selections set to the music of Veins: The Soundtrack.

This week, the exploration continues at The Jozart Center for the Arts in California, PA, where I’ll be joined by two terrific up-and-coming writers, Sheldon Higdon and Stephanie M. Wytovich.

Sheldon Higdon has had over thirty publications, ranging from fiction to non-fiction to poetry, in numerous magazines and books. His work has appeared in Rue Morgue Magazine, Shroud Magazine, The Portland Magazine, Necrotic Tissue Magazine, Horrorwired, Death Be Not Proud, and Northern Haunts.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is a Rhysling Award nominee (for her poem “The Craving”) who is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.

Prose, poetry, and music – the sounds of horror.

Jozart will be the perfect venue for this event.

At World Horror we had to make due with portable equipment set up minutes before the reading. It went well, but at Jozart we’ll be able to work with a system that has been calibrated for the performance space – always an ideal situation.

Jozart is located at 333 Second Street in California PA. You can reach them at 724-938-9730. If you’re anywhere near the area on Saturday, do consider joining Stephanie, Sheldon, and me as we explore the sounds of horror.

The event will run in the evening from 6:00 – 10:30. Admission is free. A reception and book signing will follow.

The 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ Winners!

April 1st, 2012

The Horror Writers Association announced the winners of the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards™ at its annual awards banquet last night. This year’s presentation was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the World Horror Convention, and marks the 25th Anniversary of the awards.

The award is named for Bram Stoker, best known as the author of Dracula. The trophy, which resembles a miniature haunted house, was designed by author Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk.

Twelve new bronze haunted-house statuettes were handed over to the writers responsible for creating superior works of horror last year. This year’s winners are:

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle Books)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in a YOUNG ADULT NOVEL (tie)
The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder (Razorbill)
Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Superior Achievement in a GRAPHIC NOVEL
Neonomicon by Alan Moore (Avatar Press)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Conjunctions: 56)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011)

Superior Achievement in a SCREENPLAY
American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)

Superior Achievement in a FICTION COLLECTION
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates (Mysterious Press)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp (Black Dog and Leventhal)

Superior Achievement in NON-FICTION
Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY COLLECTION
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (Necon Ebooks)

Also awarded:

Vampire Novel of the Century Award to:
Richard Matheson for his modern classic I Am Legend

Lifetime Achievements:
Rick Hautala and Joe R. Lansdale

The Specialty Press Awards:
Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press and Roy Robbins of Bad Moon Books.

The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award:
HWA co-founder Karen Lansdale.

Samhain Publishing served as the Platinum Sponsor for the event.

Source: HWA

21st Century Scop does Horror Realm

March 11th, 2012

Mike Christopher, Lawrence C. Connolly, John Amplas at Horror Realm.

The undead sure know how to party.

I’ve just returned from Horror Realm, where I shared billing with John Amplas (Martin), Mike Christopher (Dawn of the Dead), and Kyra Schon (Night of the Living Dead).  Also in attendance were Chris Rickert (Eljay’s Books), Tiffany Apan, and lots and lots of zombies.

Primarily a media convention, with a strong focus on the films of George A. Romero, the event drew a couple hundred enthusiastic fans, many of them decked out in their best living-dead regalia.

The  21st Century Scop performance centered on Voices: Tales of Horror (nominated for this year’s Bram Stoker Award). It drew a nice group of readers and fans. Chris Rickert did the introduction.

Here’s the playlist, a great way to revisit the show if you were there . . . or imagine you were if you weren’t. Click the links to access notes, samples, and highlights:

Horror Realm readers.

“Axle Rising” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“The Haunted Attic 1961” (Voices)

“Step on a Crack” (Visions)

 “Shooting Evil” (This Way to Egress)

Something in the Darkness (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” (Voices)

“Downhill Run” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Monte” (Voices)

A question-and-answer session followed, then it was back to the signing table to hang out and talk to fans and make new friends, many of whom I hope to meet up with again when Horror Realm returns in September. I’m already planning to attend.

Were you there this weekend? Do you have a comment or something to share? The comment tab below and the Facebook, Twitter, and contact buttons above are open. Feel free to share your Voices!