WEIRD FICTION REVIEW #9 Now Available

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Weird Fiction Review #9 (Centipede Press, 2018), Cover Art by Colin Nitta

With last year’s passing of the illustrating titan Stan Lee, it’s suitable to celebrate his voice and verve (along with the great Jack Kirby) with the cover art of Centipede Press‘s latest installment of Weird Fiction Review, which offers a wry wink to the inaugural, 1961 issue of the Fantastic Four (released fifty-seven years ago this past November).  The odd quad featured on the cover are, of course, notables from the Weird field, with Caitlin Kiernan standing in for Sue Storm, Victor Lavalle repping the Human Torch, Stephen Graham Jones taking on Mister Fantastic, and Laird Barron depicted as (suitably, noting his affinity for the Carpenter film) The Thing.  The list price is $35, but Centipede Press’s site currently has it for $22.

Weird-Fan side by side

Weird Fiction Review #9 (Centipede Press, 2018) / The Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, Issue #1 (1961)

“The Weird Fiction Review,” goes the site’s synopsis, “is an annual periodical devoted to the study of weird and supernatural fiction. It is edited by S.T. Joshi. This ninth issue contains fiction, poetry, and reviews from leading writers and promising newcomers. This issue features fiction by Caitl’n R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, Victor LaValle, Stephen Graham Jones, Scott Bradfield and others, and articles by Stefan Dziemianowicz (an illustrated history of Gnome Press), Adam Groves (on surrealist horror novels), John C. Tibbetts (on Marjorie Bowen), as well as verse and other essays and fiction. The feature of the issue is Chad Hensley’s outstanding article on H.R. Giger-inspired Alien toys.”

Giger

Brown University, Dec., 2018

Adam Golaski and Clint Smith, Brown University, December, 2018

In addition to a lengthy interview with author David Mitchell, Weird Fiction Review #9 also contains an exchange between Adam Golaski and me — an interview, of sorts, conducted by the Brown University English lecturer back in the fall of 2017.  The several weeks of correspondence was really an ideal way to get to know this writer who, perhaps, thrives in his obscurity.  We were able to spend a brief amount of time attempting to catch up back in December, 2018, on the Brown campus (shortly before our reading at the Arcade Asylum Author Series, Krampusnacht edition, at Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council).

My story, “The Pecking Order” (a tale which begins with a young woman attending a former student’s funeral, but transforms into something appalling) can also be found in Weird Fiction Review #9.

 

WFR9

 

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The Multiform Tongues of Krampusnacht

krampusnacht

I’m honored to announce that I’ll be participating in the Arcade Asylum Author Series, Krampusnacht, 2018 edition, hosted by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council and NecronomiCon Providence. “In celebration of the longer, darker, colder nights,” writes the organizer, “we’re thrilled to welcome several exciting voices in weird and dark fiction.” Indeed, I have some formidable associates, as my fellow readers include Adam Golaski, Julie C. Day, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Barry Lee Dejasu, and Larissa Glasser.

So, if you happen to be in the Providence, R.I. vicinity on Saturday December 1, I’d be keyed to meet you (particularly if we’ve been acquainted in the virtual realms but have never had a face-to-face encounter).

This free event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council. It’s open to the public, but seating is limited.

Darker Plans Indeed…

The ever-vigilant Scott Dwyer—writer, editor, and administrator of The Plutonian site and its attendant newsletter—has published a generous essay titled “Clint Smith:  Poet of the Weird Underbelly of America.”  Link:  here.

(1) Ghouljaw and Other Stories - FINAL Cover

Ghouljaw and Other Stories (Hippocampus Press, 2014)

Skel Mel, paint, ready for edits (for upload)

The Skeleton Melodies (Hippocampus Press, 2019)

 

Dwyer’s awareness of the horror genre (as well as related genres) is evident in his commentaries and insightful criticisms.  That said, I’m humbled that he would find some merit in my work.  Pursuing character relatability in my stories is of paramount importance—something that produces an echo not only in my audience, but in any errant reader.

With as much fiction currently being produced in the Weird / Horror / Dark Fantasy fields, adroit voices like Dwyer’s are critical for both tempering the dimensions of our creative zeitgeist, and clarifying the fundamental features of these aforementioned mediums.  It’s quite clear that Dwyer does his homework—so if you’re unfamiliar with him, you have some homework too.  An ideal primer is his website, The Plutonian; afterwards, check out his seminal publishing project, Phantasm/Chimera:  An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams.

phant,chimAnd keep your eyes peeled on his follow-up project, Pluto in Furs:  An Anthology of Erotic and Strange Horror (he’s accepting submissions through December 31, 2018—details here:   The Plutonian, Facebook).

An Errant Conduit: Exchanges with Adam Golaski

WTMIn upcoming months, a conversation will be available between Adam Golaski and I—an exercise (which has been structured as an interview) that began in the autumn of 2017, one in which I was reluctant to conclude late last winter (the publication venue will be announced in due time).

About a year ago, Scott Dwyer (steadfast champion of the horror genre and editorial superintendent of the “nightmarish and…nebulous” site The Plutonian) had achieved breathing perverse life into his publicational labor of love, Phantasm/Chimera:  An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, for which he had a specific vision, fulfilling a specific vision for creating a project with a singular roster of writers.

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In addition to writers, Dwyer’s “cast” included writers who I’d previously established contact via reader-writer interactions on social media, namely Jon Padgett, John Claude Smith, Matt Bartlett, and Chris Slatsky.  Still, there were others whose paths I’d not crossed but who’d inked impressive reputations in the weird-fiction, dark fantasy, and horror communities—among them, Thana Niveau (From Hell to Eternity); Brian Evenson (A Collapse of Horses); Mike Allen (Unseaming); Jason Wyckoff (Black Horse and Other Strange Stories); Livia Llewellyn (Furnace); and Adam Golaski (Worse Than Myself).

In the following weeks, I’d read some commentary Golaski had made about Dwyer’s P/C project on his Little Stories blog, and I initiated what would be a rather humorous and insightful correspondence.

One of the things I admire most about Golaski’s work is his practice of utilizing what might be judged as discarded (or neglected) “ingredients” or premises which lend themselves to story-arc fecundity.  Golaski has the knack of taking a segment of all of our ostensibly mundane situations, and augmenting them into something brilliantly discordant.  I am reminded, in that way, of some of the Dadaist aesthetics, and in others in the specimens of surrealists, with how he executes his craft.

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One compelling parallel when describing Golaski’s inventive, non-conformist verve is from his story “The Animal Aspect of Her Movement” (Worse Than Myself, 2008).  In its opening sequence, the behind-the-wheel narrator—mentally magnetized to vehicle whose occupant is the source of a tepid obsession—alters his course to pursue a little red car; but Golaski deftly weaves his reader into a different lane all together.  With a seamless, anachronistic shift into the past, the narrator watches the girl (the object of perceptive fixation), after briefly exiting the vehicle and surveying a roadside overlook:

[she] returned to her car, shut the door, turned on the ignition, drove through the guard rail, and over the edge of the cliff. / I followed.  With deliberation, I backed up and drove my car through the gap she’d made in the guardrail, across a few yards of crumbling dirt, over, down.  I caught a glimpse of the picnickers, a delightfully absurd sight, as my stomach laughed its way up my throat to my brain.  My car hit the dirt, nose-first.  The river loud, a short distance from my shattered windshield.

And then, following the jarring crash, an understatement of normality:  “I was later coming home than expected.”

We, his audience, are repeatedly—sometimes subtly coaxed, sometimes viciously hauled—drawn across boundaries and reeled over cliffs of convention.  Often unorthodox, Golaski perpetuates his avant-garde undertakings while maintaining a resonate accessibility and an admirably dark weirdness (I defy you to read the final, uneasy paragraphs of “A String of Lights” without some sort of vertiginous, dread-induced shudder.)

In the wake of those occasional, conversational salvos, I’ve been, in this past year, reminded about the importance of this discipline—something which, in my mind, resembles a rickety, Temple-of-Doom rope-bridge conduit between writer and reader, and how an errant, conversational salvo can lead to genuine discovery.  It just reinforces one of the more rewarding aspects of this exercise:  that—though at times daunting and fraught with what might appear to be self-defeating futility—this thing works.

There’s recognition, resonance (think of Werner Herzog’s “ecstatic truth”—the trinity of fabrication, imagination, and stylization); and though it’s never necessary to reach out to other writers to converse about their work, our age (sometimes) makes it more feasible.  Conversely, the same platforms present myriad mirrors which can threaten to poison our private progress.  (Years ago, it seems, Golaksi was smart enough to preserve some distance between himself and social media, and he’s been fidelis about sustaining that phantomic fingerprint—yet another aspect about his ethos I’ll praise here.)

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If you haven’t familiarized yourself with Adam Golaski’s brilliant stories, essays, and poetry, remedy the misstep quickly.  If you’re fortunate enough to find them, snag a copy or two of the Golaski-edited nɘw gɘnrɘ, which feature haunting, oppressively well-crafted short stories (stories by Stephen Graham Jones, Jennifer Claus, Eric Schaller, and John Robins are found in previous installments of nɘw gɘnrɘ—in particular, a clever tale by Jaime Corbacho, “Honeymoon,” makes me want to be a better writer); and keep an eye peeled for some difficult-to-find stories in the back issues of David Longhorn’s Supernatural Tales.

Finally, it was welcome news last year (not once, but twice) to have discovered that my stories would share the table-of-contents for a pair of publications with Golaski; you can read his unsettling story, “The Wind, The Dust,” in the (aforementioned) Phantasm/Chimera:  An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams.  2017 also afforded a Golaski story in the pages of C.M. Muller’s superb, annual undertaking Nightscript, the third volume containing the pleasantly distressing story, “The Beasts Are Sleep.”  Most recently, Golaski has an essay featured in the Bennington Review (update:  read his essay, “On David Lynch’s Revenge of the Jedi,” here).  Beyond that, here are some other projects to add to your homework:

Worse Than Myself (2008)

Color Plates (2010)

Oh One Arrow (2007)

A Sing Economy (2008)

Personally, one of the compartments of innate validation comes in the form of candidly sharing tales of toil:  against the clock, against failure, in finding time to suture-together “things” in the face of daily obligations—the Artful-Dodger methods we, as writers, exploit in order to “make” time.  The cynosure of being published is, of course, a criterion of progress and a benchmark for industry acclimation, but our courses require channels of calibration, criticism, and conversation.  Accolades roll in ebbs and neaps, but the integrity of our intrinsic endeavors endure.  “Some kind of supernatural thing,” Golaski writes in one of his stories, “that thing that occasionally [makes] lonely moments profound.”

Lux’s Liminal Illumination

lux shotIn February, 2017, the poet Thomas Lux died of lung cancer at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.  I was unaware of his passing until months later when I snagged on his name in an “In Memoriam” section of a magazine.  The sneaky-swift riptides of shock and shame curled in under my midsection—shock:  the confrontation of another’s non-existence; and shame:  possessing an innate ignorance despite claiming an acquired awareness.  At the conclusion of 2017, now finally typing in its successor, it is that intersection of simple sadness and horizon-scanning curiosity that I’m assessing.

It’s certainly not hero-worship, though I would count Lux as one of my fundamental mentors.  And it eclipses belly-bitching melancholy.  There exists a group of influential individuals who’ve not cleaved to the social-media precincts which have seduced so many (indicting myself here, too) over the past decade and some change, and I find myself scrambling to keep pace with the creative rhythms which provided so much (wince, if you must) galvanic inspiration.lux cradle

My corporeal clock ticked-over to forty this past year, and in exercises which aim to strike a balance between conducive reflection and solipsistic introspection, I ruminate on the late poet Lux and what his work did for me.  “A poet may not be a hero,” wrote Stephen Dobyns, “but I can think of many who have been heroic, since certainly it is heroic to put the ego in jeopardy.”

My first encounter with Lux—one of his poems, rather—came during a rather unforgiving winter in 2004.  After returning from Chicago, I’d taken to the notion of completing a bachelor’s degree (which had been simmering on departmental and bursar back-burners for a number of years), hewing toward the disciplines of my newfound preoccupation with creative writing.  I’d been privately penning some rather painful free-verse; and it wasn’t until I’d tapped-in to the frequencies of Thomas Lux (and for that matter, the works of Adrienne Rich, Charles Simic, Tomas Tranströmer, Kumin) that my amateur endeavors began to gain some modulation.


“Snake Lake,” Thomas Lux

My friends, I hope you will not swim here:
this lake isn’t named for what it lacks.
This is not just another vacant scare.
They’re in there—knotted, cruel, and thick

with poison, some of them. Others bite
you just for fun—they love that curve
along the white soft side of your foot,
or your lower calf, or to pierce the nerves

with their needles behind your knees.
Just born, the babies bite you all the same.
They don’t care how big you are—please
do not swim here. There is no shame

in avoiding what will kill you: cool pleasure
of this water. Do not even dip your toes
in, because they’ll hurt you, or worse,
carry you away on their backs­—no,

not in homage, but to bite you as you sink.
Do not, my friends, swim here: I like you
living: this is what I believe, what I think.
Do not swim here—lest the many turn to few.

#

street clocksIn the summer of 2004, a number of coincidences which were punctuated by an unlikely tag-along invitation to accompany an MFA-student-acquaintance to Warren Wilson College outside Asheville, North Carolina (where they were finalizing said degree).  As it happened, Thomas Lux was an instructor at the time.  To recount my happenstance meeting and its ensuing discussion with him would dilute the point:  that, in my neophyte enterprises, I’d been appraising the triangulation of symbolic abstraction, manifest fulfillment, and the ossified insulation of the real—a contextual balance of emotion, intellectuality, physicality.


“A Little Tooth,” Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It’s all

over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

#

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Like Lux’s poems, there were companionable comforts which sustained me in 2017.  Not the least of which being the actual friendships I’ve gained and maintained over the past few years—friendships which are less the result of ephemeral popularity, but the actual twofold transmission of ink and image.  Along with some ancillary notes on the progression of publication, here are some mediums which provided more than a little contentment.


Aural Accompaniment:

I had some ferocious companions this past year; and though some of the albums are a few years old, they provided an infusion of vibrant acidic-electricity, making the mundane vagaries of our typical day-to-day more tolerable.  Here’s what I’ve got:

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  • Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (2017)
  • River Black: River Black (2017)
  • Scour: Scour (2017)
  • Vektor: Terminal Redux (2016)
  • Iron Reagan: Crossover Ministry (2017)
  • Crimeny: Peat (1994)
  • Bolt Thrower: Mercenary (1998)
  • Magna Carta Cartel: The Demon King (2017)
  • Night Demon:  Darkness Remains (2017)
  • I: Between Two Worlds (2006)
  • Steely Dan: The Royal Scam (1976)
  • Immortal: Damned in Black (2000)
  • Immolation:  Atonement (2017)

Judge Read:

Just like some of my writing exercises, I find myself with a similar confession about reading:  I don’t do it as much as I used to or need to.  Still:  here’s a portion of what I was able to get under my belt:

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  • His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae Burnet
  • Bodies of Water, V.H. Leslie
  • From A People of Strange Language, Christopher Slatsky
  • Palladium at Night, Christopher Slatsky
  • The Secret of Ventriloquism, by Jon Padgett
  • Worse Than Myself, Adam Golaski
  • With a Voice that is Often Still Confused But is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer, by J.R. Hamantaschen
  • The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
  • Stoner, John Williams
  • Phantasm/Chimera, edited by Scott Dwyer (which included my story, “Fiending Apophenia”)
  • Sweet land Stories, E.L. Docotrow
  • Nightscript, Vol. III, edited by CM Muller (which included my story, “The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein”)
  • The Bottoms, Joe Landsdale
  • Mrs. God, Peter Straub

Ocular Edification:

Because free time is spare and a rare commodity during the week, I’m tallying serial vehicles as well.

  • They Look Like People (2015)sdt
  • Super Dark Times (2017)
  • Absentia (2011)
  • A Dark Song (2016)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • The Invitation (2015)
  • Hush (2016)
  • Stranger Things 2 (2017)
  • It (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)