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Report from the KGB

June 23rd, 2013

KGB SignFrom the outside it looks like a redbrick townhouse, with only a small sign above the door to let us know we’ve arrived at the KGB Bar – the place that both New York Magazine and the Village Voice have named the best literary venue in New York.

The doors are likewise unremarkable, opening to a flight of stairs that leads to a dim room decorated with Soviet art. For a moment I feel as if I have arrived back in Leningrad, or possibly the upstairs gallery of the illegal artist in my story “Smuggling the Dead.”

MM DeVoe Nicholas Kaufmann Alexa AntopolEllen Datlow, one of our hosts for the evening, is already there. She shows us to our seats, and within minutes people start arriving. I recognize some of them. There’s Nicholas Kaufmann, M. M. De Voe, Rick Bowes, Linda Addison, Gordon Linzner of Space and Time Magazine (editor emeritus), Vaughne Hansen of the Virginia Kidd Agency, and Will and Meesh Horner of Fantasist Enterprises. It’s going to be a fun evening.

Tom Connair and Heather SedlakSome newer writers are also settling in, among them are Heather Sedlak and Tom Connair, MFA candidates from the graduate writing program at Seton Hill University; Andrew Alford, who’s made sales to Space and Time and Midnight Echo; and Nicholas Schwartz, a terrific young filmmaker who has recently option my story “Shooting Evil” for adaptation as a short film. Others are there as well. Too many to mention. Soon, the room is overflowing.

Matthew KresselSarah Langan is also there, of course. We’re sharing the bill. She’ll be reading an excerpt from her forthcoming novel. I’ve selected three stories from Visions. Between the two of us, we have what seems a nice mix planned for the evening.

Cohost Matthew Kressel kicks things off with the announcement of a Kickstarter campaign to help underwrite the continuation of the series. He also shares a list of upcoming readers, including Libba Bray, Lucius Shepard, James Patrick Kelley, and Thomas F. Monteleone. Listening to the list, I’m thinking I’ve got to move to New York so I can become a KGB regular.

Lawrence C Connolly Reading at KGBThen Matthew introduces me, and I’m on. The stories I’ve selected are “Step on a Crack,” “Prime Time!” and “Echoes.” I plan to deliver each from memory, a mode of presentation that harkens back to the roots of storytelling. Think Homer or the Beowulf poet, traveling scops who carried their works in their heads and presented their texts live without reliance on the printed page. I’ve blogged about this technique elsewhere, particularly in Scop 101.

The stories are a bit like songs. They’re longer, of course. And they don’t employ rhyme. But each has a vocal rhythm that facilitates memorization. The audience is wonderfully receptive, and the performance goes well.Sarah Langan at KGB

After a break, during which Will Horner does brisk business at the Fantasist book display, Ellen introduces Sarah – the three-time Bram Stoker winner whom the New York Times has referred to as one of “Shelley’s Daughters,” a strong writer of contemporary horror who carries on the groundbreaking work started by Mary Shelley.

Sarah reads the first chapter from The Clinic, and it’s clear from the delivery that she has another Stoker contender in the works.

The reading leaves us all eager for the book’s release.

will meesh heather3After the readings, about 20 of us head out to dinner at the Grand Sichuan Restaurant in St. Mark’s Place, after which Ginny and I make our way back to our Midtown digs. Special thanks goes out to our New York friend for getting us through the subway turnstiles and showing us the way. We never would have made it without them!

Our original plans were to stay in the city one more day, but a gig at another nightspot – Riley’s Pour House in Pittsburgh – sends us packing in the morning. Still, I’m amazed at all we were able to fit into our short stay.

VortexThere’s lots more to tell, including an account of my visit to GQ for lunch with former Twilingt Zone editor T.E.D. Klein. I’ll try to get to some of it in a follow up post. Look for it soon.

I’d also like to share the preliminary cover art for my forthcoming novel Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle. If you were at the KGB and stopped by the book display after my reading, you got an advance look at what artist Rhonda Libby has planned for the conclusion of the series. If you didn’t, I’m going to keep you in suspense a little longer. The art warrants a blog post of its own.

In the meantime, keep reading. And, as always – rock on!

Image Credits:

Screen cap of the KGB Sign is from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Fundraiser video.

Photos of  Milda De Voe, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Alexa Antopol;  Tom Connair and Heather Sedlak; Matthew Kressel; Lawrence C. Connolly; and Sarah Langan are © Ellen Datlow.

Photo of Meesh Horner, Will Horner, and Heather Sedlak is © Lawrence C. Connolly.

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.