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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 or print 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 present 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:

  • Fantastic Fiction at KGB graphic from Kickstarter page, created by Matthew Kressel.
  • 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 Connair.
  • 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.

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

Don’t Sleep: Nightmares are coming!

October 14th, 2017

They enter the Rialto only to have their darkest fears brought to life by The Projectionist – a ghostly figure who holds the horrifying futures of all who attend his screenings. And by the time the viewers realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, all fates are sealed.

That’s the premise of Nightmare Cinema, a film project that began coming together when producer-director Mick Garris first assembled his team of writers, directors, and producers in the fall of 2015.

The goal: gather some of the most exciting practitioners of dark cinema and give them free reign to create a series of short horror films, mini nightmares for the Rialto Projectionist to queue up and screen for each unlucky patron.

If you’ve been following this blog or reading the trades, you’ll recall the buzz from two years ago, starting with an official announcement at the Morbido Film Fest in Mexico, a fitting venue to unveil an international roster of talent that includes Alejandro Brugues (Cuba), Ryuhei Kitamura (Japan), David Slade (U.K.), and Sandra Becerril (Mexico). Check out the clip below, and don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish. Most of the video is in English.

Additional announcements followed the Morbido unveiling. Some appeared here at 21st-Century Scop, others appeared in the trades. Here are a few links from Fall 2015:

After that initial buzz, further developments were kept under the radar until Mick announced the latest details at last month’s Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank. There, accompanied by fellow directors Joe Dante and Alejandro Brugues, Mick lifted the veil on the project once again, this time announcing that it was being prepped for a 2018 release.

Following Son of Monsterpalooza, the press is once again humming with details, including the casting of Golden Globe and BAFTA Award winner Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist and Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Mirari, a key character in a segment penned by horror master Richard Christian Matheson.

Also in the news is the announcement that Cinelou Films (the development, financing, and production company behind Jennifer Aniston’s award-nominated Cake and the upcoming Iraq-war drama The Yellow Birds) has teamed with Fortitude International to coordinate the film’s release.

And just this week, at Podcast One’s Post Mortem with Mick Garris, director David Slade can be heard talking about his life in film — an impressive career that has brought us Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, Twilight Eclipse, Hannibal, and American Gods. David and Mick cover all of those productions, and although I was pretty sure I already knew a lot about them, David managed to reveal quite a few intriguing revelations during the hour-plus podcast.

Bottomline: if you’re a fan of dark cinema, you’re going to love listening to David’s interview on Post Mortem. Give it a click. And while you’re at it, take a moment to subscribe to the series. It’s free … and the interviews are priceless.

Naturally, David also talks about This Way to Egress (a.k.a. “Traumatic Descent”) and the seventeen-year journey that finally put it in the hands of The Projectionist at the Rialto.  It’s a journey that I’ve written about in the past, covering the first ten-years in the introduction to my book This Way to Egress, and it was great hearing David recount the entire tale from his perspective,  including the recent turn of events that led to our new screenplay becoming part of Nightmare Cinema.

(BTW — That’s David and me in the above-right photo, a sureal forward-and-backward view courtesy of a conveniently-placed mirror in an L.A. bistro.)

It’s great to have things coming together on this project. I was on set for filming this past June, and a few weeks ago I screened a rough cut of the Egress segment. It was intense. Even without the final score or completed effects, I found it profoundly unsettling and moving. As David says in his Post Mortem interview: “It really surprised me how intense it was.”

As of this writing, Nightmare Cinema is moving toward a release in early 2018. But the story won’t end there. As Mick tells Simon Thompson in a recent Forbes interview, there are plans “to create more […] Nightmare Cinemas either as feature films or as a TV series.”

And so the journey will continue.

For now, there are certain to be more exciting developments as our release date approaches. When news breaks, I’ll be sure to report it here.

Until then, scop on … and stay awake for the nightmares!

Images & Videos

  • Promotional image for Nightmare Cinema.
  • Nancy Leopardi (line producer), David Slade (director), Joe Dante (director), Joe Russo (producer), Mick Garris (producer, director, writer) Ryuhei Kitamura (director), Alejandro Bruges (director). Photo taken in the Rialto Theatre. June 2017.
  • Joe Dante and Mick Garris reveal plans for Nightmare Cinema at the Morbido Film Festival. Puebla, Mexico. October 2015.
  • Joe Dante, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugues announce the completion of Nightmare Cinema at Son of Monsterpalooza. Burbank, CA. September 2017.
  • David Slade and Mick Garris in the Podcast One Studio. October 2017.
  • Two David Slades (frontward and backward) with The 21st-Century Scop (background, far left). November 2010.
  • The 21st-Century Scop with Mick Garris. December 2016.
  • Nightmare Cinema teaser.