Thursday, June 30, 2005


I've been on vacation this week and have been pretty busy. Surprisingly busy, although not in the usual ways. I've seen some great exhibits like the Biennial at the Corcoran, I've been to the Folklife Festival on the National Mall, and I've been playing catch-up on several movies I've been meaning to take in like Sin City, Batman Begins (both fabulous), and Land of the Dead (a bit of a letdown). All of these probably deserve full write-ups of their own, and I may back track at some point to cover them. But then I may not if I get distracted with other topics. We'll see.

I've also been doing some actual fiction writing for the first time in awhile. Oh, I've written little scraps here and there but this is the first time in months I've sat down and wrote large passages all at once. I've secretly worried that maybe I couldn't do it anymore. And while what I've written may not be winning an O. Henry prize or anything, it still felt good to do that.

Tomorrow Miss L and I are heading up to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to take in some of the history, and perhaps ride some inner tubes down the C&O canal. Weather permitting, of course.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Healer

I first read Michael Blumlein about nine years ago. I was still working as a gallery attendant at the Phillips Collection, a mid-sized art museum in Washington, D.C. On that particular day the HVAC system decided to break down, making the average temperature in the building an uncomfortable and sweaty 92 degrees. They stationed me in one of the least traveled areas of the museum, which meant I was not only hot but bored.

It wasn’t too hard to fight off the boredom and ignore the heat with Blumlein’s collection The Brains of Rats in hand. Although billed as horror, the collection is not your typical fare of monsters, ghosts or serial killers. Subtly disturbing, most the tales roam the dark, unfamiliar hallways of hospitals and medical practices, examining the fine lines of terror the medical industry has for everyone. One story, for example, is about a doctor with the ability to alter the sex of an unborn fetus, raising interesting and chilling questions about gender roles and identity. Another story features a struggling writer who starts selling body parts to make money for his family. Blumlein’s own experience as a surgeon serves him well, allowing him to bring in a visceral realism another writer might not have achieved. I had drifted away from fantasy, s/f and horror for a time, and I think of this book as one of the ones that brought me back.

After being so impressed by his work, I kept my eyes open for anything I could find. His two novels, The Movement of Mountains and X, Y, are both interesting but not as successful as the collection. Every now and then I’d stumble across a fabulous short story in places like Interzone, making me think he was more of a short story writer than a novelist.

But then along comes his new novel, The Healer.

Payne belongs to a race of mutated humans called grotesques. Although essentially human, they are set apart and looked down on by their human counterparts because of their unsightly cranial ridges and distorted bodies. A small number of grotesques develop the ability to heal others by pulling out infected or diseased material into their own bodies and then expelling it through a small orifice in their chest. Their unique abilities place healers in high demand, making them into slaves for the humans. Overworked, most healers have a short life span, a small blessing for people with very difficult life.

We follow the life of one particular healer, a grotesque ironically named Payne, from his initial recruitment and through his whole career. He spends his early days working for a mining colony, but Payne is quickly discovered as one of the most skilled and powerful healers in generations. His power puts him in high demand, and he quickly becomes a pawn for both human rulers and Grotesques fighting for independence. Blumlein’s other life as a medical doctor serves him well again. While he makes wonderful use of describing many odd diseases and disorders for Payne to cure, it also seems to influence the odd mixture of power and servitude healers continually feel throughout the novel.

As a character, Payne may frustrate some readers. He lives very much as a pawn throughout much of the novel, bouncing back and forth between outside influences, rarely making real decisions for himself. Often he acts as a tour guide through this fabulously detailed and metaphorical world Blumlein created. The dark and disturbing ending, however, develops fully out of a difficult choice Payne makes for himself, thus delivering a glimmer of hope for both Payne and the world he lives in which he lives. With all this going for him, not to mention very favorable blurbs on the cover by Peter Straub and Ursula K. Leguin, Blumlein's status as a writer is about to rise very quickly.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Events for the Week

27 Monday

12:30 P.M. Lisa Scottoline signs her new mystery, Devil's Corner, at Borders-Downtown, 18th & L Sts. NW, 202-466-4999. She will also read and sign at 7 p.m. that evening at Olsson's-Bethesda, 7647 Old Georgetown Rd., 301-652-3336.

6:30 P.M. The Inter-American Development Bank's Diversity Group is sponsoring an event with Jamaican novelist Patricia Powell , who will discuss Chinese immigration to her native island during the 19th century, the inspiration for her novel The Pagoda. The IDB Cultural Center is at 1300 New York Ave. NW; call 202-623-3558 or visit their site for details.

28 Tuesday

7 P.M. Joseph Kanon reads from and signs his new World War II thriller, Alibi, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 2008. Event Phone: 202-364-1919.

7:30 P.M. The Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series features readings by Carrie Bennett , winner of the 2004 Washington Prize for Biography of Water, and Donna Denize , author of the collection Broke Like Job, at Miller's Cabin, Picnic Grove #6, Beach Dr. at the Military Rd. overpass in Rock Creek Park. For details and rain location, 301-587-4954.

29 Wednesday

6:30 P.M. Darren Coleman signs his new novel, Don't Ever Wonder, at Karibu Books, the Mall at Prince Georges, 3500 East-West Hwy., 301-559-1140.

7 P.M. Edna Buchanan reads from and signs her new mystery, Shadows (follow-up to last year's Cold Case Squad), at Books-A-Million, 1451 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, Va., 703-893-7640.

7 P.M. Clarinda Harris, Rod Jellema and Roseanne Singer read from their poetry at the Kensington Row Bookshop, 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md., 301-949-9416. An open reading follows.

7 P.M. Ray Villard, Infinite Worlds: An Illustrated Voyage to the Planets Beyond Our Sun. Baltimore scientist Villard signs his new book and discusses new astronomical discoveries and solar planets. Barnes & Noble, 1819 Reisterstown Road,
Pikesville EVENT PHONE: 410-415-5758

30 Thursday

Noon Charles E. Lathrop discusses and signs The Literary Spy: The Ultimate Source for Quotations on Espionage and Intelligence at the International Spy Museum, 800 F St. NW, 202-393-7798.

Noon. Forensic anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs reads from and signs her new Tempe Brennan thriller, Cross Bones, as part of the Smithsonian Associates series held at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. Admission is $15 for nonmembers; call 202-357-3030 to RSVP. She will also read at 7:30 p.m. that evening at Borders-Baileys Crossroads, Route 7 at Columbia Pike, 703-998-0404.

7 P.M Writing Young Adult Fiction. Young adult novels are one of the most popular genres in publishing today--and one of the easiest to break into for first-time novelists. Find out the secrets to writing and polishing your manuscript and how to sell it from author Adam Meyer. Meyer is the author of The Last Domino, a YA suspense novel recently published by Putnam and nominated as an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. His second novel, When She's Gone, is due out in 2006. Bertucci's Restaurant, 2800 Clarendon Blvd., Clarendon, Va., at the Market Common in Clarendon. (703) 528-9177 for directions. Order food and drink from 6:30 p.m. Meyer will speak at 7 p.m. This event is sponsored by Washington Independent Writers. Cost to WIW Members is $5 with advance payment; $7 at the door. Nonmember cost is $10 with advance payment; $15 at the door. Reservations are required. To RSVP, call (202) 737-9500.

7 P.M. Evans D. Hopkins , a former member of the Black Panther Party, discusses and signs his new memoir, Life After Life: A Story of Rage and Redemption, at Borders-Silver Spring, 8518 Fenton St., 301-585-0550.

1 Friday

7:30 P.M. Fireworks Fiction. Want to marshal your creativity? Stockpile story ideas? Conquer writer's block, or rocket your thinking "out of the box?" Then sharpen your pencils and join us in Leesburg for an evening of wordplay, writing prompts and games. $6 ($4 for members and Leesburg residents.) Event held at the Leesburg Town Hall, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg, Va. More info through the Writer’s Center.

2 Saturday

1 P.M. First Saturday Series Local authors sign copies of their books: T.P. Luce, Tha Bloc; Richard LaMotte, Pure Sea Glass; Peter Dans Perry's Baltimore Adventure; Vince Wilson, Ghost Tech; Stephen Parlato, The World That Loved Books; and Julio Malone, Sammy Sosa in 9 Innings. Barnes & Noble, 601 E. Pratt St., Baltimore. Event Phone: 410-385-1709

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Night of Gargoyles

Last night I went to the reading for the new issue of Gargoyle at the Lubber Run Ampitheatre in Arlington, Va. Tucked away in the neighborhoods of Arlington, it wasn't the easiest of places to find, but still a nice venue. Lubber Run is a small outdoor ampitheatre with 100-150 seats, and a small stage. The turnout was light--about 30 or so--but considering it wasn't at a metro-accessible location, it was pretty good. It was an especially nice evening. The temperature was very mild, and the only insects flitting around were a scant few lightning bugs. Somehow they seemed to fit right into the atmosphere for the evening.

Co-editor Lucinda Ebersole kicked things off by introducing herself and Co-editor Richard Peabody as the "Katie and Tom of Gargoyle" and jokingly invited everyone to ask about their new religion. From there, things jumped right into the readings. Standouts for me were David Housely's fun sequel to the old Princess and the Frog fairy tale, Matthew Kirkpatrick's story of second string superheroes, and poetry by Moira Egan and Sandra Beasley. All the work read, though, was very solid and I look forward to digesting them more fully in their printed state.

The new issue is a special one; number 50 for Gargoyle, and sells for $18.95. But before you balk at the cost, it's a big honker of an issue, and holds what looks to be a lot of fine work. Gargoyle pulled in their usual mix of big names (Richard McCann, Elizabeth Hand, Rick Moody) underground luminaries (Lance Olsen, Lidia Yuknavitch), and a wide selection of known and unknown local talent. As kind of a capstone, the issue also includes a previously unpublished piece by Kathy Acker. I'm always a little wary when mags put out "undiscovered" works by dead authors, but it's a killer piece. I couldn't help but read it while I waited for the actual reading to start, and it's very surprising no one else ran it yet. Although I have several things to read for revewing purposes, I know temptation will lead me to reading the full issue within a week or two.

Today marks the start of a ten day vacation from work for me. I'm kicking things off tonight by going to my first National's Game, and I'll be attending lots of cultural events over the next several days. I'll be busy, but I'll try to keep regular updates when I can. My next post will probably be a review for Blumlein's The Healer.

Happy weekend to everyone.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Added a new link today for the Blog Links section at Beltway, an online poetry magazine that focuses on poetry here in the D.C. area. The blogs they link to, including this one here, are pretty diverse, and really show how different all the writers in the D.C./Baltimore area are.

If you have time, take a look around their main site. Along with poetry, they also post a lot of good info on readings, publications, calls for submissions, and more.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My Cover's Been Blown!

Last night I went to a going away part for someone at work. It was a good time, and much needed since we just finished the busiest part of our year. Everyone was ready to blow off some steam, and a co-worker leaving was the perfect excuse.

We went to the District Chop House, an upper mid price place about three blocks away from the office. The Chop House is one of those big places that makes its own beer and serves steak with virtually every entrée. Even the dinner salads.

We pretty much took over the small bar area upstairs on the 2nd floor loft. There were two pool tables, but they charged $13 an hour and I couldn’t convince anyone else to play. Since work was picking up the food and drink tab, most everyone went way overboard with the Summertime Mint Margaritas and Chocolate Martinis. With my recent health problems, I’m still not supposed to drink much alcohol so I had a beer and followed it up with several glasses of Coke.

I’m not usually much for larger parties, but this was nice. Since my office is in a different building from most of the staff, it gave me a chance to catch up with people I don’t normally see and gossip with.

After a while of making the rounds, someone grabbed my elbow. It was our newly hired graphic designer. We’ll call him Designer Gary. “So I’m betting you’re a writer of some kind,” he said.

“Umm…yeah,” I responded. “I write a lot of book reviews, and a short story now and then. How did you know?”

“I can tell by the way you’re acting,” Designer Gary said. “You talk a bit, but mostly you listen. Unlike a lot of people at parties, you like you’re actually listening beyond the usual bar chatter. And every now and then you pause, look around the whole room, and the re-focus. It’s just a very writerly way to act.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I guess it is. I don’t really think about doing it, but I guess it is kind of writerly. But it looks like I’m not only observant one here.”

He laughed. “My first design job was with a newspaper, and I worked with a lot of writers. I just know what to look for. Either that, or you’re a spy.”

We both laughed at that, although it’s not the first time I’ve been accused of being a spy.

So be careful out there, fellow writers on the lurk and prowl. A few regular people out there know what to look for.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Events for the Week

Whew! A lot going on this week. Pay special attention to the Eco reading on Monday night (I met him once while working at a bookstore...he's very charming), the Contemporary Poetry Review event on Tuesday, and the Gargoyle Magazine event on Thursday. I hope to make at least one of them.

Special note:
The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival starts June 23, and is located on the National Mall. If you live anwhere close to Washington, D.C. you have no excuse. Go. I attend every year, and usually more than once. It's more than worth the metro ride, the heat, and the crowds. As one of my friends always says, "I go for the food, stay for the exhibits, and then come back for more food".

20 Monday

6:30 P.M. Elizabeth Benedict reads from and signs her new suspense novel, The Practice of Deceit , at the Chevy Chase Public Library, 5625 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-282-0021.

7 P.M. David Plotz discusses and signs The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank at Olsson's-Courthouse, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va., 703-525-4227. This event is part of the Washingtonian magazine book club. Plotz will also read on Saturday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 202-364-1919.

7 P.M. Author and semiotician Umberto Eco continues to break boundaries with his new illustrated novel, The Mysterious Flame of the Queen Loana. Yambo is an elderly used-book dealer who loses his memory in an accident and seeks to recover it by revisiting the memorabilia and comic books of his youth. Eco blends masterful storytelling with insights derived from cognitive theory and philosophy. This is a Ticketed Event held at Temple Sinai, 3100 Military Road, NW, Washington, D.C. Two tickets are free with book purchase; otherwise $10 each. Event hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore, 202-364-1919.

7:30 P.M. Michael Collier , professor at the University of Maryland and former Maryland poet laureate, reads from his work as part of the poetry series at Café Toulouse, 2431 18th St. NW, 202-726-4680

21 Tuesday

7:30 P.M. Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore and Rosanne Singer read from their poetry as part of the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series held at Miller's Cabin, Picnic Grove #6, Beach Dr. at the Military Rd. overpass in Rock Creek Park, 301-587-4954.
Time: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 7:00 PM
Title of Event: CPR Book Club

7 P.M. Garrick Davis, distinguished editor of the online journal, Contemporary Poetry Review, launches Chapters' CPR Book Club, with a discussion of Adam Kirsch's new book, The Wounded Surgeon. Chapters Literary Bookstore, 445 11th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 202-737-5553

22 Wednesday

7 P.M. Kermit Roosevelt , assistant professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, reads from and signs his new legal thriller, In the Shadow of the Law , at Olsson's-Penn Quarter, 418 Seventh St. NW, 202-638-7610.

7 P.M. and 9:30 P.M. 48 Hour Film Project. Screening of films created over the weekend - 26 Baltimore teams have only 48 hours to write, shoot, edit, and score original music for their film. The winner of "Best Film of Baltimore" will compete against winners from other cities. Visit the official website for more info. Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St, Baltimore, Md. 410-727-3456.

23 Thursday

6 P.M. Jeff Bagato presents a slide-illustrated talk about his new travel guide, Mondo DC: An Insider's Guide to Washington, DC's Most Unusual Tourist Attractions , at the Provisions Library, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, 2nd fl., 202-299-0460.

7 P.M. Peter Quinn reads from and signs his new WWII thriller, Hour of the Cat , at Olsson's-Penn Quarter, 202-638-7610.

7:30 P.M. Adriana Trigiani reads from and signs her new novel, Rococo, at Borders-Baileys Crossroads, Route 7 at Columbia Pike, 703-998-0404.

7:30 P.M. Pamela Kessler discusses and signs Undercover Washington: Where Famous Spies Lived, Worked, and Loved at Barnes and Noble-Rockville, 12089 Rockville Pike, 301-881-0237.

7:30 P.M. Meet the Artist: Leo Vallareal. Leo Villareal, whose work is on view in the exhibition Visual Music, discusses his lucent installations that redefine architectural and outdoor spaces with fluidly changing combinations of colored light. His work offers the viewer a charged experience that embodies the central idea in Visual Music. The event is free, and first come, first serve. Location: Ring Auditorium, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at Seventh Street SW, Washington, D.C.

8 P.M. Gargoyle Magazine celebrates its 50th issue with readings by poets and fiction writers featured in its pages, at the Lubber Run Amphitheatre, North 2nd & N. Columbus Sts. in Arlington, Va. Call 703-228-1850 or visit Arlington Arts for further details.

24 Friday

11:30 A.M. Steven Raichlen , author of The Barbecue! Bible and BBQ USA: 425 Fiery Recipes from All Across America, presents a lecture, "Barbecue: A History of the World's Oldest Culinary Art," at the Library of Congress, James Madison Bldg., Mumford Room, 202-707-0911.

7 P.M. Honor Moore reads from and signs her new collection of poems, Red Shoes, at Chapters Literary Bookstore, 202-737-5553.

7 P.M. John Glassie. The author/artist discusses and signs his book, Bicycles Locked to Poles. Atomic Books, 1100 W. 36th St, Baltimore, Md. 410-662-4444.

7:30 P.M. Marc Estrin reads from and signs his new novel, The Education of Arnold Hitler, at Barnes and Noble-Georgetown, 3040 M St. NW, 202-965-9880.

8 P.M. Backseat Film Festival Kick Off Backseat Shorts "Laughs and Gags!" and Backseat feature premiere Pleasures of the Damned (1979, Giallo). Creative Alliacne at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, Md. 410-276-1651.

25 Saturday

5 P.M. Poetry Orgy with Clarinda Harris. Poets from Towson University read from their own work. Minas Gallery, 815 W. 36th St, Baltimore, Md. 410-732-4258.

26 Sunday

This annual competition, sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, honors excellence in writing. The first-place winners in the categories of poetry, fiction and dramatic writing will each give a short reading. Join us for an opportunity to support and encourage the work of up-and-coming local writers. Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 202-364-1919.

Friday, June 17, 2005

You Know You've Made It When....

...Julia Roberts calls you to work up a script. At least if your Michael Cunningham, that is.

Nestled between articles on obscure film awards and an inflated promtion of War of the Worlds, there's a very odd interview with Cunningham in the June 17 issue of Entertainment Weekly. The article starts on page 35 with this:

"I just left a message for Julia," says Michael Cunningham blithely, settling down for an interview in his closet-size Greenwich Village writing studio, where a framed, unhung poster of The Hours, autographed by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore, rests in an overcrowded corner. Julia, of course, is Julia Roberts, adn Cunningham is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of both The Hours and a peculiar and sometimes beautiful new novel called Specimen Days.

Although the article talks briefly about his writing life and success in the last couple of years, most of it reads like he's a new rockstar, going into detail on his celebrity status and what's it like to be Michael Cunningham, hollywood insider. It just struck me as kind of odd, considering an article in just about any other publication would highlight his artistic achievements, his struggle prior to his huge success, and on and on. I imagine it's the angle of a publicist trying to promote his new novel, which appears to be very different from The Hours, but it's an odd tactic I never would have considered.

Not sure where I'm going with this. It just struck as me as odd. Any way to sell a book, I suppose.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Darkened Down-home Humor

Weneshkeen, Michigan, a small town on a small lake that feeds into Lake Michigan, appears simple and quiet on the surface. But Steve Amick’s novel, The Lake, the River and the Other Lake, peels back that picture postcard of serenity and brings us a set of loosely connected stories that are often funny and always touching.

Most, although not all, of the stories base themselves within the conflict between the people who live in Weneshkeen all year and those who simply vacation there during the summer months (these latter people Amick terms “fudgies” because of the high quantities of fudge and other knick knacks they buy from the various shops in town).

The novel’s big star is Roger Drinkwater, an Ojibwe Native American who served in Vietnam and now coaches the high school swim team. Tired of the noisy jet skis that make his daily swim in the lake difficult and dangerous, Drinkwater enters a one man crusade to sabotage every jet ski in the town. Other stories of Weneshkeen include a farmer whose son marries one of the migrant workers and has to face his own feelings of racism, a teen fudgie who starts dating the summer beauty queen and finds she may be more trouble then she’s worth, and a business man who starts a rumor that David Letterman is vacationing in the town to help sell his idea of Sumac Lemonade.

Despite everything that happens, and a lot happens in this fast moving book, Amick’s narrative is driven by the strength of his well rounded, memorable, and very likable characters. The folksy, down-home style of Amick’s humor reminded me of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon books and radio broadcasts. But Amick moves beyond the puns with some darker turns here and there, showing an occasional influence of T.C. Boyle. Darkly funny and bitterly poignant, Amick’s book is a great read if you want something just this side of quirky.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Alive and Kicking

Yes, believe it or not, I am still alive. I won't go into the finer details of my illness, except to say that it was painful and that I'm glad it's over. At least for the time being. Thank you, everyone, for the good wishes. It was nice to see those in my mail box.

I started back at work over the weekend. It was the big fundraising gala for work, so I dragged newly unmedicated self in to help the cause. Although the days were long, it was kind of fun. I attended a party at the capital building on Saturday night, and I saw a few celebrities. Jeff Foxworthy looks exactly like you think he does, and he's extremely friendly. Gena Davis is uber-tall, and was all the more strident in her white pants suit. Hillary Duff was there as well with her entourage. She seemed very nice when the couple of youngsters in attendance approched her. In actuality, though, I had more fun just looking around the building. I hadn't been inside the Capital since I was a little kid, so I had a good time walking through the House and Senate, gazing at the portraits and statues.

It'll take me a little bit to get used to blogging again, but I have some reviews that will be going up over the next few days. I'll also be picking up new books to review tonight at the monthly magazine meeting, so I should have a lot to write on once I get rolling.

Hope everyone is doing well out there.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Hebdomeros is Out

I probably won't be blogging much, if at all, the next few days. I discovered bright and early yesterday morning that I'm the proud owner of a kidney stone. Fortunately, the drugs keep the pain pretty low, but they also make me pretty sleepy and fuzzy-brained. I'll be back up and running once my body is back to normal.

Hope everyone is doing well.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Just Fake It

Author Jeff Vandermeer has a wonderful website up. It's a pretty fun parody of author web sites and does a good job at poking fun at all of our little conceits as writers. I'm particularly fond of the FAQ section, where he talks about suing Stephen King. Not for the thin-of-skin.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Knocking on the Tin House

The newest issue of Tin House is billed as the Obsession issue. Theme issues, I realize, must be pretty tough to do. Some of the submissions will match what the editor's looking for, but I'm sure a good number don't. This issue, in particular, has several pieces that don't relate to the theme at all. Unless I'm just missing something, but I don't think I am.

In general, I actually enjoyed the non-fiction more than the fiction. Some took the quasi-literary approach, like Nathan Alllling Long's essay on Samuel Delany's The Motion of Light in Water or Jessmyn West's memories of her childhood favorite reads in her essay "Cress Delahanty". Others take a more personal approach, like Steve Almond's "My Soul Upon the Grill", which ends with a nice recipe for chicken salad, and "The Green Fairy" by Elissa Schappell, which explores her strange fascination and near addiction with absinthe.

Fiction-wise, the pieces I liked the most are the ones that tie closely into the theme. Amanda Gersh's tale "Stalk Me Gently" is, not surprisingly, a story about a stalker. The twist, though, is that the stalker's target-a lovely girl named Julie-enjoys the thrill of being stalked. Interesting curveball, in that their obsessions mirror and play off each other. We only get the point of view of the stalker, which made me wonder at points that Julie's obsession might be a fabrication to justify his actions. Delving into her point of view could be fun, but it would have made the piece much too long for a mag like Tin House, and might actually constitute a novel's worth of material

"Mudman" by Pinckney Benedict is probably my favorite piece in the whole issue. Farmer Tom Snedegar is driven by three obsessions: wasps in his house, the belief that his wife is having an affair, and the building of his Mudman. With a skeleton made from scrap pieces of wood and flesh and muscle from sculpted mud and dirt, the Mudman transforms from a blob of nothing into a living, moving, talking varmint killing machine. The three obsessions circle around each other and accomplish what I really look for in well written fantasy-the creation of a magical tale that in the end reflects upon the characters driving the work.

Bill Gaston's "A Forest Path" tells the story of a young man who hates fiction. Kind of an odd character to write about, his story makes sense as he tells it to you. His hatred for fiction extends from his unending obsession for the author Malcolm Lowry. This obsession, though, is not that of a fan but of a son left behind. A child of a brief affair between his mother and Lowry, the narrator lays blame for all the bad things that have ever happened to him and his mother at the feet of this respected if somewhat odd author. A compelling story, it has a lot to say about how authors and artists in general interact with the rest of the world.

There are other good pieces in the issue--Sergei Nosov's "Nabob: A Writer's Tale" and "End of Messages" by Lucia Nevai are particularly good--but they don't really fit into the theme. I went into the issue with certain expectations on the issue, and found myself a little let down by each piece that didn't really fit the mold promised by the cover or the editor's introduction. Not the fault of the writers at all, but the editors should have saved these pieces for use in other issues.

Beh. Maybe it's just my headache talking.

Happy weekend to everyone.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Never Give Up the Good Fight

Apparently I had my head buried in the sand and missed this year's Balticon. For the uninitiated, Balticon is a gigantic S/F oriented convention held yearly in Baltimore. I've only been once before, but it put all other conventions to shame. Any convention of its type features way-out fans dressed like their favorite characters, but when I went I saw witness to people dressed as everything from your typical Kligons all the way out to Transformers. Quite a geek fest, so I obviously fit right in. Seriously, it's kind of a rare chance to meet and talk to people who like some of the same books and movies I like. And I'm sure it was way geeked up this year, with Star Wars and Star Trek just finishing up.

It was probably 8 years ago when I last went. I always mean to go, and always seem to miss it.

On the good side, I see on their site that one of their guests was Count Gore De Vol. For the few reading this who may have lived in the D.C. area in the 70's and 80's, the good Count was a fixture of local t.v. During the day he dressed in a faux Star Trek uniform, called himself Captain 20 and hosted a kiddie program called WOW. On weekend nights he changed personas, becoming the Count, a bloodsucking vampiric fiend who hosted the late night Creature Feature. The Creature Feature, the good Captain and the Count all vanished when Channel 20 became part of the UPN network, and I haven't heard a thing about him since.

But, god bless him, he's still fighting the good fight online, hosting and running a weekly creature feature. If you love the old horror movies like I do, little ventures like this one are probably the best way to find them anymore. I know I'll be watching.