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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.

The Horror Zine on Fear the Abyss.

March 9th, 2013

Feat the AbyssThere’s a sweet review of Eric Beebe’s Fear the Abyss over at The Horror Zine. It has some terrific things to say about stories by Joseph Williams, Jack Ketchum, Gary A. Braunbeck, Jamie Lackey, Tim Waggoner, Kenneth W. Cain, and Jeyn Roberts.

And then there’s this:

“Human Caverns” by Lawrence C. Connolly is a beautifully descriptive tale that packs a wallop of suspense. Kevin is enjoying the beauty of the countryside…until he encounters the man with the shotgun. This is an amazing story right out of the X-Files.

Who am I to argue?

[Read more at The Horror Zine. . . .]

When you look into this book . . .

November 23rd, 2012

 . . . it looks into you.

For their new anthology, the good people at Post-Mortem Press have assembled an impressive lineup of writers who’ve made careers probing the depths of human existence, with editor Eric Beebe challenging each to examine the intersection between science fiction and horror.

In the publisher’s words:

The search for knowledge and understanding, what some folks like to call science, tends to create the biggest sense of unknown. We stare into the abyss, hoping to learn, to understand. But the abyss is a cold and uncaring muse.

We risk all when we enter the abyss, usually with little hope of significant payback. In an everyday sense, the abyss is the absolute bottom of an unending unknown.

Here’s a preview of who you’ll find when you enter this book:

Harlan Ellison. His groundbreaking work on television’s The Outer Limits first introduced me to the wonders of sf-noir, and his legendary anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions got me thinking seriously about writing fiction. He’s the winner of multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Edgar awards, and is generally regarded as one of the most influential writers in speculative fiction.

Michael A. Arnzen. He’s won four Bram Stoker Awards in multiple categories, starting with his first novel Grave Markings, which launched the Dell Abyss line back in 1994.

His pioneering work in the digital domain (you can read more about that in the essay “Change Thy Shape”) makes him the perfect writer to explore the horrific effects of technology on our post-modern lives.  

Gary A. Braunbeck. He’s one of the most honored horror writers of his generation, having won the Bram Stoker Awards an astounding six times since 2003. He is also the winner of the International Horror Guild and Black Quill Awards, and the author of some magnificently dark, brooding stories of the human condition.

Tim Waggoner. His story “The Men Upstairs” was a contender for last year’s Shirley Jackson Award, but he’s perhaps best known for his urban fantasy novels Nekropolis,  Dead Streets, and Dark War  – all of which have recently been rereleased in a comprehensive omnibus titled Nekropolis Archives.

In a recent review, Publishers Weekly praised Nekropolis novels for presenting “a complex, intricately crafted setting reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe.”

Jack Ketchum.  He’s the man Stephen King believes may be “the scariest guy in America.”  The author of over 20 novels and novellas, most recently The Woman and I’m not Sam, he was named one of the genre’s Grand Masters by HWA in 2011.

Also included in this anthology are new stories by Paul Anderson, Rose Blackthorn, C. Bryan Brown, Kenneth W. Cain, Brad Carter, Robert Essig, S.C. Hayden, KT Jayne , Jamie Lackey, Thomas Malafarina, Jessica McHugh, Matt Moore, Andrew Nienaber, Nelson W. Pyles, Jeyn Roberts, and Joseph Williams – some of the most exciting writers working the field today.

According to the cover blurb, the stories come highly recommended by New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry. What more do we need?

Fear the Abyss goes on sale everywhere on November 27, but it’s currently available from Post Mortem Press for a special Black Friday price of $15.00.

Oh yes . . . and I’ve got a story in there too.

My contributor copy hasn’t arrived yet, so if you see the book, please let me know what you think. Also, if you’ve been following my recent posts here at The 21st Century Scop, be sure to check out the new comments at “Twilight Zone Magazine Remembered: Then & Now @ WFC 2012” and “From World Fantasy to Riley’s Pour House. ” And as always, feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment of your own or sending a note vie Facebook or email.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the abyss.