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Your Favorite Genre Song?

September 3rd, 2012

The forthcoming publication of Rock On: the Greatest Hits of Science Fiction and Fantasy has me contemplating some of the great rock ‘n roll genre songs. There certainly is a ton of them.

Science fiction? How about David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Genesis’s “The Return of the Giant Hogweed,” or Mastadon’s album-length epic Crack the Skye? (Great stuff!)

Fantasy?  Let’s see . . . there’s King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King,” The Moody Blues “House of Four Doors,” and of course Uriah Heep’s Demons & Wizards. You can’t go wrong with any of those.

Horror? Yeah, there’s plenty, everything from Dickey Lee’s sappy ghost story “Strange Things Happen” (OK . . . it’s not really horror, but I recall it giving me a chill when I heard it as a kid) to anything by your favorite death metal band. And we might as well toss in a lot of the songs of Bruce Springsteen, whose work inspired the horror anthology Darkness on the Edge a few years back.

I’m not trying to be definitive here, just free associating – rattling off a few titles that come instantly to mind. The point is, if you’re a fan of genre fiction, you’ve probably got a personal rock ‘n roll playlist of greatest hits. And you almost certainly have a favorite.

At the moment, my favorite is “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” by  Warren Zevon and David Lindell. It’s a complete horror story in a three minute song, delivered with equal doses of irony, political commentary, and literary awareness that leads all the way back to the medieval  epic Rolandskvadet (The Lay of Roland).

I’ll be playing that song this coming Saturday (September 8), when I return to Riley’s Pour House for a night of American and Irish music . . . and later this month when I perform my “Songs of the Horror Writer” show at Horror Realm.

Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, consider using the comment box below (or Facebook or email) to tell me your favorite genre song(s). I’m always looking for new material.

Rock on!

Coming Soon: Rock On!

July 6th, 2012

The Greatest
Science Fiction
& Fantasy Hits   

Edited by Paula Guran and coming this fall from Prime Books, the World Fantasy Award-Winning publisher of science fiction and fantasy.

Kick out the jams with hot licks and fantastic riffs on rock and roll from the only kind of fiction that feeds the soul: science fiction and fantasy. Like rock, speculative fiction is larger than life and there’s no limit on where it can take you. Electrifying stories with the drive, the emotion, the heart of rock.

Headliners, award winners, and rising stars take the stage with their greatest fictional hits.

Find a place, grab some space…get ready to rock! Includes two original stories: “Mercenary” by Lawrence C. Connolly and “Mourningstar” by Del James. 

 

Contents (in alphabetical order):

Elizabeth Bear, “Hobnoblin Blues”: What if the trickster god Loki—who could sing gold from a dwarf, love from a goddess, troth from a giantess, bargain kidnapped goddesses away from giant captors, and blood-brotherhood from the All-Father—became a rock star?

Poppy Z. Brite, “Arise”: Cobb and Matthews are fictional renditions of Lennon and McCartney. Cobb, who faked his death years before to escape fame, hears Matthews has died of cancer. But the “death” turns out to be a creative resurrection.

Edward Bryant, “Stone” (Nebula Award winner; Hugo nominated):
Stim music: the empathy of the star performer feeds the wired-in audience and the audience feeds it back to the performer. But how far can it go?

Pat Cadigan, “Rock On”: In the near future, rock ’n’ roll faces extinction. Only those who’ve experienced the real thing via neural interface can keep it alive.

Lawrence C. Connolly “Mercenary” (Original): Bobbie Quicksilver turns up to play and Silverheads—musicians and fans—gather at secret concerts. The music seems to bring hope and joy to a hopeless, joyless world, but not all see it that way. Online warnings of hidden threats and secret agendas…and perhaps the sources themselves…disappear.

Bradley Denton “We Love Lydia Love”: To what lengths will the industry go to keep a rock megastar producing platinum? How far will a musician go to get a recording contract?

Elizabeth Hand “The Erl-King” (World Fantasy Award Nominee, Novella):
Linette, the daughter of a survivor of the glitterati Warhol set of the 70s, meets a reclusive former rock star who her mother once knew. He can see magical beings through the windows of his mansion, and these are dark creatures indeed…

Del James “Mourningstar” (Original): Fearing he will lose his guitarist, the lead singer of a band dedicated to darkness is determined his desires will be fulfilled and no sacrifice is too great.

Graham Joyce “Last Rising Son”: Two young people, an old blues song about doom updated, and a haunted Wurlitzer.

Greg Kihn “Then Play On“: Sometimes a guitar player’s fingers hurt so bad you can’t play, but you still gotta play. One night Charlie appears, playing a harmonica, and a guitarist’s prayers are answered…maybe “prayers” isn’t the right word, though…

Marc Laidlaw “Wunderkindergarten”: “Like a monster movie in which the monster gets to tap dance to rock. Only more so.“

Caitlín R. Kiernan “Paedomorphosis”: Annie plays in the band, TranSister, but when she visits a member of the rock band Seven Deadlies (who practice—loudly—next door), she discovers a really weird scene.

Charles de Lint “That Was Radio Clash”: In a salute to the Clash’s Joe Strummer, a story about making the right choices, taking chances—maybe getting a second chance—and a little bit of wish fulfillment.

Graham Masterton “Voodoo Child”: Jimi Hendrix is long dead, but there he is in London, recognized by an old friend. The man who wrote and performed “Voodoo Chile” had more acquaintance with certain strange rituals than we knew.

Alastair Reynolds “At Budokan”: Starts with a nightmare about being crushed to death by a massive robot version of James Hetfield of Metallica fame and ends with a Tyrannosaurus rex playing a Gibson Flying V.

David J. Schow “Odeed”: Nihilism, anarchy, audiences gone wild—it’s all rock’n’roll, right? Then one night the band Gasm takes it all the way…the true power of rock literally annihilates.

Lewis Shiner “Jeff Beck”: Blue-collar Felix loves Jeff Beck. When he takes an unusual new drug he makes a wish: “I want to play guitar like Jeff Beck.” We all know to be careful what we wish for…

John Shirley “Freezone”: Rick Rickenharp is a retro-rocker in a near-future cyberpunk world of warring corporations and multi-cultural chaos.

The book will be released by Prime Books in October. For more information and to pre-order a copy of this rocking anthology, visit Rock On: The Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Hits edited by Paula Guran.

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.