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Welcome to My Nightmares:
A Video Essay on Cinematic Monsters

July 2nd, 2018

You’ve heard of man-made monsters. Today, let’s consider a video essay about a monster-made man … or at least a monster-made writer. Namely: the 21st-Century Scop.

Here’s the backstory: Last year I was invited to take part in a speaker series sponsored by the Uniontown Library. Helmed in part by author Heidi Ruby Miller (who also organized the successful Pennsylvania Literary Festival), the program included a series of promotional videos in which authors spoke about influences on their writing.

Thus, they had writers such as Michael A. Arnzen sharing Three Great Things about Horror, John Edward Lawson on Three Great Things about Poetry, and Matt Betts on Three Great Things about Godzilla.

Unfortunately, I was neck-deep in other commitments when Heidi contacted me a to take part in the series. Nevertheless, if they could wait, I was sure I could put together a video in time for an August 2018 visit to the library. An August appearance would follow the premiere of Nightmare Cinema, and I figured the topic Three Great Things about Scary Movies would make for a timely tie-in to the film. Alas, the speaker series concluded in May. Time waits for no one.

Nevertheless, Heidi’s Three-Great-Things premise got me thinking. It turned out I had a few things to say about scary movies. So I decided to shoot my own video, a slice of memoir explaining how monsters influenced (corrupted?) my childhood. Press play. I’ll tell you all about it.

Have Stories: Will Travel

October 27th, 2013

The Scop Road to BrightonContinuing the tradition of the traveling bard, the 21st Century Scop will be hitting the road this week, heading off to England to give readings at the University of Brighton on Wednesday, October 30 (5:30 PM), and then at the World Fantasy Convention’s Reading Café on Saturday, November 2 (12:30 PM). If you’re going to be in the area, I’ll hope to see you there.

Naturally, I also plan to spend time networking with colleagues at both the University and World Fantasy, taking part in the oldest form of social media – face to face contact.  We are creatures of nuance, and much of what we have to teach to and learn from one another comes across best in real conversation.

It’s the same with story performance, during which skilled readers pick up queues from their listeners and adjust their deliveries accordingly. Therein lies the quality that sets live readings apart from any other story deliver system. When storyteller and audience share the same physical space, magic happens.

Raw Dog Book Route: (A) Michael Arnzen at CMU. (B) Stephanie Wytovich at Big Idea. (C) Matt Betts at Muse Stand. (D) Heidi Ruby Miller at Bradley Books. E) Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s.

I had a chance to watch this in action last weekend, when Raw Dog Screaming Press unleashed five of their top writers on Pittsburgh, sending them out to present a series of readings at five different bookstores: Michael A. Arnzen at the CMU Bookstore, Stephanie Wytovich at The Big Idea Bookstore, Matt Betts at The Muse Stand, Heidi Ruby Miller at Station Square, and Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s Used Books. The readings started at 1:00 and continued until 6:00, following a course of some dozen miles.

I caught the last session at Eljay’s, where I settled into the front row while rain hammered the storefront window. Outside it was gray and cold, traffic racing by in a haze on West Liberty Avenue. But inside it was warm and cozy. The perfect atmosphere for a reading.

Jason Jack MillerJason shared a couple of excerpts from the Revelations of Preston Black, engaging the audience with his folksy just-friends-shooting-the-breeze style. It’s a voice that comes across in the writing, but hearing it live really enhances the story’s tone. And the rain tapping the wall of glass behind him added a nice rhythm to the narrative.

Of course, live performance is always an adventure. I’m sure there must have been times when an Old-English scop found himself upstages by distractions in or around the mead-hall. That’s more or less what happened to Heidi Ruby Miller at Bradley Books when a train decided to ruble past Station Square during her scheduled reading slot. No matter. Heidi scopped on, bringing her presentation to Eljay’s and delivering it after Jason concluded his reading, making for a terrific conclusion to the day-long event.

Heidi Rubi MillerHeidi read from her novel Greenshift, which is available through Dog Star books, Raw Dog’s science-fiction imprint.

Other people sighted at Eljay’s were Kevin Hayes, Laurie Mann, Diane Turnshek, and Karen Yun-Lutz – all members of Parsec, an organization devoted to the promotion of literary science-fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative fictions.

A nice contingent or Raw Dog and Dog Star authors were also there, including Michael A. Arnzen, Albert Wendland, K. Ceres Wright, and Stephanie Wytovich.

Of course, Raw Dog founders John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes were also on hand.

It was a great time, and I wish I could have stayed around for the dinner that followed. Instead, I headed out into the rain and made my way across town to do some scopping of my own at Riley’s Pour House.

Next up, we’ll revisit the topic of flash fiction with some questions submitted by the good people who attended my recent PAISTA presentation. Then I’ll be following the scop road to the University of Brighton and World Fantasy.

Scop on!

The Stars Align

October 19th, 2013

flotsam-wfcI’ve just heard from a good friend who has a membership to the  World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. The convention sold out over six months ago, and since then memberships to the international gathering of writers, editors, publishers and fans have been trading like stock futures. If you’re interested in fantastic literature, WFC is definitely the go-to event of the year. But my friend tells me that he thinks he might skip it, toss the membership, stay home and get some writing done. Crazy? Maybe, but I can sympathize. The pull of unfinished work is strong . . . but sometime you have to resist.

This fall season has been amazingly busy, with the Baltimore Book Festival a few weeks back, the PAISTA Conference earlier this week, a performance at Riley’s Pour House tonight, and events at the University of Brighton and World Fantasy’s Reading Café coming up later this month.

1383702_10151609605645426_1348373447_nAnd there’s more.

Today, some of my good friends at Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dog Star Books are holding a bookstore crawl in Pittsburgh, with events kicking off this afternoon at 1:00 with four-time Bram Stoker winner Michael A. Arnzen reading and signing at the Carnegie-Mellon Bookstore in Oakland. After that, Stephanie Wytovich appears a couple miles north at The Big Idea Bookstore on Liberty Avenue. Then it’s ten blocks west for Matt Betts at The Muse Stand at 3:00. After that, at 4:00, Bradley’s Books at Station Square will play host to Heidi Ruby Miller before the day wraps up with Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s in Dormont.

An amazing day!

There’s no way I’m going to miss dropping in on the Raw Dog writers before heading to Riley’s for a sound check. Seriously, if you live anywhere near Pittsburgh (say within 100 miles or so), you owe it to yourself to make at least one of these appearances. Yes, I know, there are other things to do, but who knows when these stars will align again?

In the days to come, watch this space for a couple of follow-up reports. One from PAISTA (where the good people who attended my presentation on Flash Fiction provided some terrific questions that I’d like to respond to here) and another on today’s events. After that I hope to get to at least one WFC preview before crossing the pond to the UK.

Stop back soon. More to come.

Until then, scop on!

Book City

October 2nd, 2013

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAI sometimes get the feeling that we book people are citizens of a kind of portable municipality, a diffused city that reforms around various conventions, conferences, festivals, symposiums, and literary events.

We’re united by the love of story, the feel of books, and the knowledge that vicarious experience can be as meaningful and real as life beyond the covers, and I was reminded of all these things within minutes of arriving at last weekend’s Baltimore Book Festival.

After a five hour drive through two states, passing anonymous drivers and stopping at service plazas inhabited by total strangers, I was at the festival less than a minute before I heard someone calling my name. And that was pretty much how things went the entire day, running into old friends, making new ones, and reconnecting with parts of a community that periodically coalesces around major book events.

And of course there were the books that bind us together, acres of them on display in festival tents and even more (five stories of them!) in the main atrium of the Peabody Library, located adjacent to the festival. (See above.)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAAdditional highlight were running into the people at Raw Dog Screaming Press, in particular K. Ceres Wright, whose Cog was released under the Raw Dog sf imprint Dog Star Books. Ceres was one of my students at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, a contingent that was well represented at the festival. That’s the 21st Century Scop on the right with three WPF graduates — Jennifer Della Zanna, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Hanna Gribble. (Heidi is also the editor of the book Many Genres, One Craft.)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAMy day at the festival centered on the tent run by Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, where I took part in a well-attended panel titled “Keeping the Future Beat: Music in Fiction.” The panelists were both authors and musicians, and afterward I got to join Catherin Asaro and Sarah Pinsker (pictured at left) in an evening of musical performances that continued until the SFWA reception and a book launch for L. Jagi Lamplighter’s new YA novel The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin.

As always, it passed too quickly.

I’m back home now,  looking forward to rejoining the Book City at PAISTA on October 17 and Word Fantasy at the end of the month. I’ll hope to see some of you at those.

Until then, scop on!