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Featured Audio
A Story by Horror Master Stephen Volk

March 20th, 2015

Gothic-1986-poster

I’ve been a Stephen Volk fan ever since I caught the movie Gothic at a midnight run back in 1987. Directed by Ken Russell, the same over-the-top director responsible for such classics as Altered States and The Devils, Gothic presents Stephen Volk’s reimagining of events that led to the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Among his other film credits are Ghostwatch, which made broadcast history by smashing television’s fourth-wall back in 1992; and The Awakening (2011), which may be the best ghost story ever put on film.

Volk has also authored some of the best novellas and short stories currently available in the genre, and over the years I’ve had the privilege of appearing with him in the anthologies Gaslight Grotesque (2009) and Gaslight Arcanum (2011).

challenger_Both books are edits by Charles Prepolec and J. R. Campbell, the same team behind the forthcoming anthology Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, in which Volk and I will again share the pages.

I had the opportunity to meet Volk when the World Horror Convention was held in Brighton in 2010, right around the time his story “Swell Head” was released in The Seventh Black Book of Horror. The book launched at the convention, and “Swell Head” made a strong impression on me, lingering in the way the best stories do, acquiring richness and meaning over time.

While in Brighton, I gave Volk a copy of the my newly released CD Veins: The Soundtrack, which included some spoken-word tracks that have since been released as Aberrations. He evidently liked what he heard, because later that year he asked if I’d be interested in doing an audio performance of “Swell Head.” I didn’t have to think twice about that one.

svolk1In one respect, “Swell Head” is an atypical Stephen Volk story. Its narrator has a distinctly American voice, making the story a fitting project for the 21st-Century Scop. In other respects, it’s very much what one might expect from the author that Andy Hedgecock (Asst Fiction Editor of Interzone Magazine) has called “one of the most provocative and unsettling of contemporary writers.” The story is by turns surreal, nightmarish, and yet surprisingly touching in its portrayal of the protagonist’s commitment to his monstrous sibling.

Until recently, the 40 minute recording has only been available at StephenVolk.net, broken into two pieces for easy download. Now, for the first time (with the author’s permission), I’m making the recording available as a single MP3 file via my podcast service at Libsyn. To listen, simply click the player below . . . and get ready to enter the strange world of one of our foremost practitioners of fantastic fiction. Scop on!

What Riley’s Scops Talk About . . .
When They Talk About Love

February 26th, 2015

tim sommers leadThe polar vortex didn’t keep story lovers from turning out at this month’s storytelling night at Riley’s Pour House.

If you were there, you know firsthand how thoroughly the act of storytelling can warm a frigid night.

If you didn’t attend, and you live anywhere in the Pittsburgh area, you owe it to yourself to drop by next time. Either way, we hope you enjoy this post and will consider spreading the word about Story Night @ Riley’s.

This months session featured a roster of talented scops who explored (in the words of Raymond Carver) “what we talk about when we talk about love.”

Doug Claytor thumbnailThe night’s lineup featured a number of new faces, storytellers whom we hope will become regulars. Among them was Tim Sommers (above left), an accomplished scop who has performed on The Moth stage in London and New York. In introducing his story, Tim spoke of his belief that love stories take a lifetime to be fully realized. Nevertheless, he shared a piece of a story in which love helped bring him back from a nearly fatal accident — a smash up that he related with the intensity of a thriller writer.

Also on hand was Doug Claytor (right), a spoken-word performer from Maryland who specializes in the ancient art of reciting verse from memory. A true 21st-century scop, Doug presented three poems as spoken-word stories, delivering them without the aid of book or paper. By doing so, he demonstrated the kind of connection a performer can established by speaking directly to an audience. That’s what Story Night is all about.

Cheryl RileyThe night also featured some familiar faces, among them Karen Yun-Lutz, Cheryl Riley (left), Richard “Shag” Shaughnessy (below right), and last year’s All-Star champion Owen Kilbane. I hope to post audio from some of their presentations soon.

For this installment of The 21st-Century Scop, I’m offering three of the presentations from Riley’s Love Night, featuring the debut performances highlighted above plus the opening story that I told to kick off the evening. Give a listen to all of them, and, if you like what you hear, please spread the word. If you have any trouble playing any of them, please let me know. I’ve been using Libsyn as the podcast service provider for these 21st-Century Scop recordings. The service seems quite reliable on my end, but I’d like really like to know what you think.

Shag LoveFinally, if you like what you hear in the recordings, we’ll be doing another storytelling night on March 31, when the theme will be St. Patrick’s Day stories — the perfect topic for an Irish pub.

If you’d like to gather some raw material for a story, consider attending Riley’s big St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 14, when I’ll be taking the music stage with some of the members of the Laughrey Connolly Band at 7:00 pm. Also performing will be John Puckett and The Wild Geese Band. Be there, and I guarantee you’ll have stories to tell.

So much for preamble. The audio players are below. Listen, enjoy . . . and scop on!

Photo of Lawrence C. Connolly copyright © 2014 by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette.
All other photos copyright © 2015 by The 21st Century Scop.