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Remembering Twilight Zone Magazine @ World Fantasy 2012

October 30th, 2012

The big news today might be Frankenstorm, but once that monster blows through, I’m hoping to head north for something bigger.

This year, Toronto will be playing host to The World Fantasy Convention, an international gathering of writers, editors, scholars, readers, and others associated with all aspects of fantastic literature.

This year, my first big convention event takes place on Thursday night at 9:00, when I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Remembering The Twilight Zone,” featuring fantasy writers who got their starts writing for the magazine during its decade-long run as one of our most influential magazines.

Known officially as Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, the publication carried on the tradition of the popular CBS television series by delivering an eclectic mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Joining me on the panel will be the convention’s author guest of honor Elizabeth Hand, whose first short story sale “Prince of Flowers” appeared in the magazine’s February 1988 issue. I did a reading with Elizabeth at The International Conference of the Fantastic in Florida in 2009, and I’m looking forward to joining her again in Toronto.

Also on the panel will be Scott Edelman, whose story “Fifth Dimension” appeared in March-April 1983. At his blog, Scott writes about how although he worked a block away from the Twilight Zone offices in the ‘80s, he did not want to meet editor T. E. D. Klein for lunch until after the magazine had purchased one of his stories.  “I didn’t want him to buy a story because he was biased to like me; I wanted him to buy a story because he liked the story.” Fortunately for me, after “Fifth Dimension” sold, Scott showed up at Ted’s office on a day that I was in town, and the three of us headed out to Costello’s Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant’s walls were covered with original doodles by James Thurber, and I remember Ted and Scott sitting with their backs to a droopy eared dachshund who seemed captivated by our discussion. For good reason. At the time, Scott was editing the magazine Last Wave, and both he and Ted had a lot of good advice about writing.

Other panelists will include Nancy Baker, whose first story “Exodus 22:18” appeared in June 1989; and the prolific Darrell Schweitzer, whose story “The Man Who Wasn’t Nice to Pumpkin Head Dolls” appeared in December 1988. Darrell had been selling fiction elsewhere before placing a story in TZ. I first discovered him in the pages of Fantastic Science Fiction and Amazing Stories – where my stories were also appearing in the early ‘80s.

My first Twilight Zone story, “Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement,” appeared in June 1982. The following year, “Echoes” appeared in February 1983. The stories each reappeared in separate editions of Karl Edward Wagner’s Year’s Best Horror Stories, and both remain in print today. Their success, in large part, can be attributed to Ted, who guided me through the rewrites and made sure each story became what it needed to be.

After the Twilight Zone panel, I’m set to take part in the autograph session on Friday at 8:00 PM, where Ash-Tree Press tells me there will be plenty of copies of my collection This Way to Egress, which contains both of my Twilight Zone stories. The book also features some recollections about writing for the magazine.

Beyond that, I’m scheduled to do a reading on Saturday, 1:00 PM, where I plan to share some excerpts from my forthcoming novel Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle. I may also share a bit of my new story “Mercenary,” from Rock On: The Greatest Hits of Science Fiction & Fantasy, the music-themed anthology that came out earlier this month. The publisher Prime Books will have a table in the dealers room.

After my reading I get to relax and attend some of the other panels, presentations, and readings before heading back home early Sunday morning. The weather report shows Frankenstorm will be burning itself out somewhere to the north by then.

It should be clear sailing for the return trip.

“Evocative” – Publishers Weekly

August 28th, 2012

In Lawrence C. Connolly’s evocative “Mercenary,” sniper and musician Lorcan uncovers a dangerous truth about the mysterious, charismatic singer Bobbie Quicksilver . . . .
                                          
Publishers Weekly

Needless to say, I’m really jazzed to be a part of this book.

Fantasy and sf have always seemed to me to be a big part of rock ‘n roll, and with Rock On, editor Paula Guran celebrates that connection with a “diverse collection [that] will appeal to most rock-and-roll and genre fans.”

And you’ve got to love that seven-string Flying-V on the cover!

Preorder from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Prime Books.

 

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.