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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.

21st Century Scop does Horror Realm

March 11th, 2012

Mike Christopher, Lawrence C. Connolly, John Amplas at Horror Realm.

The undead sure know how to party.

I’ve just returned from Horror Realm, where I shared billing with John Amplas (Martin), Mike Christopher (Dawn of the Dead), and Kyra Schon (Night of the Living Dead).  Also in attendance were Chris Rickert (Eljay’s Books), Tiffany Apan, and lots and lots of zombies.

Primarily a media convention, with a strong focus on the films of George A. Romero, the event drew a couple hundred enthusiastic fans, many of them decked out in their best living-dead regalia.

The  21st Century Scop performance centered on Voices: Tales of Horror (nominated for this year’s Bram Stoker Award). It drew a nice group of readers and fans. Chris Rickert did the introduction.

Here’s the playlist, a great way to revisit the show if you were there . . . or imagine you were if you weren’t. Click the links to access notes, samples, and highlights:

Horror Realm readers.

“Axle Rising” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“The Haunted Attic 1961” (Voices)

“Step on a Crack” (Visions)

 “Shooting Evil” (This Way to Egress)

Something in the Darkness (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” (Voices)

“Downhill Run” (Veins: Soundtrack)

“Monte” (Voices)

A question-and-answer session followed, then it was back to the signing table to hang out and talk to fans and make new friends, many of whom I hope to meet up with again when Horror Realm returns in September. I’m already planning to attend.

Were you there this weekend? Do you have a comment or something to share? The comment tab below and the Facebook, Twitter, and contact buttons above are open. Feel free to share your Voices!

Airships and Sherlock Holmes

October 22nd, 2011

The master sleuth and Master of the World.

What’s not to love?

The World Fantasy Convention has just released its program schedule for 2011, one that offers an impressive blend of topics centering on this year’s theme: Sailing the Seas of Imagination.

At the con, I’ll be joining a discussion about airships and reading from my latest Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Executioner.”

First up, I’ll be joining  Jetse de Vries, Eric Flint, Charles Gannon, and Cliff Winnig for a panel titled “To Sail Above the Clouds: Airships.” Here’s the description:

With Steampunk’s popularity, airships are rising too. Sometimes they’re treated just like sailing ships. (Airship pirates!). Sometimes more like trains or planes. What is unique about this form of transportation that’s grabbed the attention of Steampunk? What has literature done with it and what does literature get wrong and right? (Friday 2:00 PM)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about airships, working on a new story tentatively titled “Zeppelin to the Moon,” which brings together Professor Challenger (The Lost World), Mr. Bedford (First Men in the Moon), and Count von Zeppelin (the renowned airship designer) on a mission to rescue the inventor of cavorite from the clutches of the Grand Lunar. Sound interesting?

 “To Sail Above the Clouds” will mark my second appearance on a steampunk-themed panel this year. The first was two months ago when I joined my good friends Paul Genesse, Anton Strout, Gregory Wilson, and Maurice Broaddus at GenCon for a presentation titled “Make it Steamy: A Look at the Steampunk Genre.” That event really packed them in, with nearly 100 people in attendance. One of the highlights was Maurice’s account of his forthcoming “steampunk story with all black characters.” It’s title: Pimp My Airship. Looking forward to that one!

Paul and I also got the chance to reminisce about works that introduced us to the tropes of steampunk. His was the Ray Harryhausen 1961 film Mysterious Island (soon to be released in a limited-edition Blu-Ray  from Twilight Time). Mine was Karl Zerman’s 1958 Vynález zkázy, released in the States as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. I remember catching that one at a drive-in near Philadelphia. The world has never been the same.

Also on the bill at this year’s World Fantasy will be a Saturday night book launch and party hosted by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.  This will be the big debut for Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes, the third in the critically-acclaimed series of anthologies edited by Charles Prepolec and J. R. Campbell. I understand that Paul Kane will also be there, reading from his entry “The Greatest Mystery” – one of the anthology’s standout horror stories.

And of course, as always, there will be the WFC mass-autograph session on Friday night, where I’ll be looking forward to meeting old friends, making new ones, and signing copies of Gaslight Arcanum, as well as Veins, Vipers, Visions, and last year’s collection This Way to Egress. (All titles will be available in the dealers room.) I also hope to have some preview material for the forthcoming Voices: Tales of Horror, which Fantasist Enterprises will be releasing later this year.

If you’re one of the thousand or so people lucky enough to be attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention (memberships sold out last winter, making this year’s con one of the hottest tickets around), I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Oh yes, and did I mention Neil Gaiman is this year’s Guest of Honor? Should be a good time.

Whether you’re attending or not, please consider leaving a comment below. I’m particularly interested in hearing about when you first encountered the wonders of steampunk.

Perhaps it was Mysterious Island or The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, or maybe it was with more recent works, ones actually published under the steampunk banner. Either way, feel free to chime in. 

In Praise of Indie Bookstores

September 25th, 2011

Eljay's BooksYou walk inside. Right away you sense you’ve arrived someplace special. Books fill the aisles, stacked on a combination of antique, handmade, and prefab shelves. And there’s art, lots of it: on the walls, tables, and even painted directly onto the chairs. But best of all, you’re greeted by someone who knows books – a manager who reads, knows the store’s inventory, and who has mastered the art of supplying you with a basket of books that you possibly didn’t even know about when you walked through the door.

There’s nothing like a good independent bookstore.

Today I’m pondering the merits of such places, possibly because I’ve just finished editing a story about one of them (Between Books) for my forthcoming collection Voices, but also because yesterday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at Eljay’s Books, an independent bookstore that has become a Pittsburgh institution – for good reason.

It’s managed by Chris Rickert, formerly of Pittsburgh’s now closed Joseph-Beth Booksellers, who  invited me to bring the 21st Century Scop to Eljay’s after hearing me speak at Confluence this past summer. I’m glad she did. I had a terrific time, and for the entire afternoon I forgot the month’s pressing deadlines. (I’m currently proofing the galleys for Voices, finishing book three of the Veins Cycle, and trying to get started on a new steampunk story for Edge Science Fiction’s forthcoming Professor Challenger anthology.)

One benefit of doing an event at an indie store is the kind of people who show up for your reading. They tends to be serious readers who enjoy learning about, discussing, and buying books. The big box stores can sometimes generate this kind of turn out (like the ones that often greeted me at the Borders in Wilmington DE, but that was due in large parts to the efforts of Delaware resident W. H. Horner, my editor at Fantasist Enterprises). It’s the personal touch of the indie bookstore’s PR force that brings them in.

Yesterday’s event gave me the chance to share some of the new material from Voices, the forthcoming collection of horror stories that I really should be working on now (and which I intend to get back to as soon as I click the publish button for this blog entry). It’s always reassuring when a group of serious readers reacts favorable to stuff that’s in the pipeline.

Lawrence C. Connolly at Eljay's BooksI also had the chance to revisit some greatest hits, stories from Visions and This Way to Egress as well as excerpts from Veins and Vipers – mostly  read to music from Veins: the Soundtrack and The Legion of Incredibly Strange Superheroes (now disbanded but still one of the best science-fiction rock bands ever). You can listen to studio versions of those readings here and here.

Got some free time today? Why not go out and visit your town’s independent bookstore. If you live in Pittsburgh, make a bee-line to Eljay’s, where you’ll be able to meet the wonderfully entertaining  Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, who will be signing their collection of comedic horror Scary Tales of Scariness

As for me, it’s back to work.

Keep reading!