Yesterday, I got a comp copy of Alabaster: Wolves #3, and it was pretty much my first look at the final comic. Wow. We done good. Comics Bulletin agrees, and gives the issue 5/5 stars. Read the review here. Next stop, #4 (which has the best cover of the bunch, says I).
Behind the cut is my ReaderCon 23 schedule, and this should be pretty close to the final schedule. Between Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon, I have sixteen programme items:
Thursday July 12
9:00 PM F The Visual Generation. Gemma Files, Elizabeth Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan (leader), Lee Moyer. Last year's horror-related Readercon panels all brought in discussions of other media. Many of today's horror and dark fantasy writers were exposed to horror movies and television before ever picking up a horror novel. In a 2010 book review, horror critic Will Errickson wrote, "I can't imagine what it must have been like for authors such as Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Sheridan LeFanu, et. al., to write horror fiction without having horror film as an influence." Yet despite these undeniable changes in the field, readers often disparage horror writing when they feel it tries too hard to be "cinematic," or when an author openly admits to being inspired by visual media. Is it time for us to get over this stigma and accept that horror literature and visual media are in an ongoing two-way conversation? Or are we in danger of diluting the craft and consigning the genre's past masters to obscurity unless they've been adapted to film?
Friday July 13
12:00 PM RI At School with Peter Straub. Andy Duncan, Jack Haringa, Nicholas Kaufmann (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Paul Tremblay. For the generation of horror writers who came of age in the seventies and eighties, the fiction of Peter Straub has exerted a profound gravitational pull. Glen Hirshberg has spoken of the importance of If You Could See Me Now to his development as a writer of ghost stories. Lee Thomas has acknowledged the influence of Ghost Story on his novel The Dust of Wonderland. Kelly Link has noted the significance of Shadowland to her stories. Laird Barron has written the afterword to the recent Centipede Press edition of Koko, in which he details that novel's importance to his work. This panel will bring together several writers who have benefited from the example of Straub's fiction to discuss some of the ways in which his work contributed to theirs.
1:00 PM READING: No, as of now, I have no idea what I'll be reading. It'll be a surprise.
2:00 PM ME The Works of Shirley Jackson. F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Faye Ringel. Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) has inspired generations of writers with her dark, psychologically incisive fiction, which her husband, critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, called "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times." The Science Fiction Encyclopedia notes that many of Jackson's stories are "fantasies of alienation," despite often not being strictly fantastical, which makes them particularly resonant to readers and writers of horror and dark fantasy. This panel will discuss her many touchstone works, such as "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House, and their influence on authors such as our other guests of honor.
4:00 PM F Wet Dreams and Nightmares. Samuel R. Delany, Gemma Files, Paula Guran (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Sonya Taaffe. Writers such as Caitlín R. Kiernan, M. Christian, Cecilia Tan, and Paula Guran are well known in both speculative fiction and erotic fiction circles for creating what Kiernan calls "weird and transgressive" erotica. How does this subgenre use the tools and tropes of horror and dark fantasy to explore taboo aspects of sexuality and gender? How has it changed over the decades as sexual culture has evolved? And as the romance genre becomes more welcoming of both the erotic and the undead, how will weird erotica maintain its identity as something separate from paranormal porn?
7:00 PM ME The Multimedia of The Drowning Girl. Kyle Cassidy, Caitlín R. Kiernan. After photographer Kyle Cassidy read Caitlín R. Kiernan's novel The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, he was inspired to create still photos from it. In turn, these were developed into a two-minute book trailer funded by Kickstarter. Cassidy and Kiernan explain how a novel can become a multimedia experience.
8:00 PM RI The Works of Peter Straub. Mike Allen, Ken Houghton, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Henry Wessells (leader). The biography on Peter Straub's website cites works of poetry, mainstream literature, supernatural and psychological horror, and the simply unclassifiable. All come from that moment when he first "gathered up his ancient fears and turned them into fiction." 1979's Ghost Story and 1988's Koko demonstrated Straub's talent for digging deep into the darkest areas of the psyche and turning his findings into gripping prose, well-seasoned with the rhythms of his beloved jazz. This panel will chart his trajectory from those early successes to his present position as a master of the compellingly disturbing.
Saturday July 14
10:00 AM NH Reading. Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub. Caitlín R. Kiernan and Peter Straub read from the works of Shirley Jackson.
11:00 AM F Pointed Experiments in Indeterminacy. Michael Cisco (leader), Peter Dubé, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe. "Pointed experiments in the manipulation of point of view" is how Gary Wolfe and Amelia Beamer have described several works by Peter Straub; they are "metatextual and metafictional" experiments that lead to the conclusion that "the indeterminate nature of reality is a central inquiry in these books." We can't help but notice that this also closely describes several of Caitlín R. Kiernan's works, notably her novels The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, and her short story "Tidal Forces." Our panelists discuss the ways writers use point of view to interrogate the nature of reality, and their reasons for doing so.
1:00 PM G Why Am I Telling You This (in the First Person)? Richard Bowes, Helen Collins, L. Timmel Duchamp (leader), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Kate Nepveu. In some narratives it is clear why and how a first-person narrator is telling their story (the tale is a found document, a club story, etc.); in some narratives the reasons for the telling must be deciphered (Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun) or the revelation of the reasons forms a key part of the story itself (N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). But in some cases it seems counterproductive or otherwise quite unlikely that a narrator would be telling us the secrets they want to keep hidden, their plans for world domination, etc. What do we make of this question of narrator motivation? To what extent should we read the telling as part of the tale, a chosen act of character, versus simply an extra-textual conceit required for the story to exist? Is this different for present vs. past tense? And to the extent that authors consider these questions when choosing a narrative point of view, what are some interesting examples of how they've used the fact of the telling of a story to affect how that story is read?
3:00 PM E Autograph session.
4:00 PM F Caitlín R. Kiernan Interviewed by Elizabeth Hand. Elizabeth Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan.
9:00 PM ME/CT Book Covers Gone Wrong. Lee Moyer, Caitlín R. Kiernan, et al.
Sunday July 15
10:00 AM F Uncanny Taxonomies. Daniel Abraham (leader), Ellen Datlow, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Jeff VanderMeer. When considering the literatures of the uncanny—horror, dark fantasy, supernatural fiction, the weird, etc.—it can be difficult for a more casual reader to distinguish between the marketing-based labels and real differences in concern and approach. Moving away from common genre labels, our focus will be on the specific areas of uncanniness various authors have investigated in their writings. We will attempt to establish key commonalities and differences within and between their writings and other notable past and recent works. Possible topics include knowledge versus the unknowable, and the scope of possible knowledge; certainty and uncertainty, and the value of each; truth as power versus truth as horror; the body and the mind; the possibility or impossibility of metaphor; and the primacy of our world and the drive to transcend it, or to inhabit it more completely.
11:00 AM G The Shirley Jackson Awards. Nathan Ballingrud, Matthew Cheney, Michael Cisco, F. Brett Cox, Ellen Datlow, Sarah Hyman DeWitt, Elizabeth Hand, Jack Haringa, Caitlín R. Kiernan (leader), John Langan, Sarah Langan, Kelly Link, Kit Reed, Peter Straub (moderator), Paul Tremblay, Genevieve Valentine, Jeff VanderMeer, Gary K. Wolfe. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson's writing, and with permission of the author's estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916-1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, "The Lottery." Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2011 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,774 words on Fay Grimmer. And this book genuinely is grimmer than I'd expected it to be. I think it's headed towards, well, let's do the Hollywood high-concept pitch and say Labyrinth meets Kill Bill 2. A scene went somewhere yesterday I'd had no idea it would go, and that left me a little stunned. I begin to think this will be a more "serious" novel than its predecessor (no matter how over the top Fay Grimmer may remain). Honestly, it's not an idea I'm comfortable with. But I'm not going to force the book in this or that direction. Wild magic, remember?
After the writing, well, a sort of hilarity ensued. I had an appointment at Rockstar to a) have my lobes stretched up to the next gauge, from four to two and b) reinsert my labret. It's b) that is the source of the vaguely gruesome hilarity. Or "hilarity." About two ayem on Sunday, I realized it was missing. As in, not in my face. It was, in fact, nowhere to be found, though I was absolutely sure I'd felt it about six hours earlier. An extensive, hour-and-a-half search of the apartment began (Spooky was sleepy, and I got yelled at a lot, with dirty words). Nothing. Anywhere. It's a fairly large piece a jewelry, the fishtail style of labret that's kind of old school, that no one much uses anymore. But...not a sign. I even feared I'd somehow swallowed the thing. Wouldn't that have been fun.
And then! Spooky found it caught in her hair. Yes. Her hair. A couple of hours before I noticed it missing, I'd kissed her on the top of the head, and it had snagged, and had been yanked out, and, somehow, I'd not noticed a 3.5 cm. length of stainless steel being pulled out of my lower lip. Let's not even go there. So, we made an appointment on Sunday to have it reinserted on Monday. This story is actually a LOT more absurd than I have time to relate, but...condensed version. Billy, the dude who does my piercings, figured this was a piece of cake. The only reason, we figured, I hadn't been able to slide the labret back in (though I've done it in the past), was my lack of depth perception. Then he tries. And I'm cool with pain. Pain comes with the territory. But here there was unexpected pain that meant the jewelry was NOT going back through the hole. Billy said, "You gotta be kidding me." He asked again how long it had been out. Spooky told him. He tried two or three more times. There was some blood. And then he stopped. Apparently, in only a couple of days, a hole that's been open FOREVER sealed pretty much completely. These are my freaky healing super powers. Anyway, I go back in on Thursday evening to get a new hole for the labret. I'm still sort of amazed.
Hey, at least we got Mama Kim's Korean deliciousness for dinner.
Still Sort of Amazed,