Unanticipated Pleasure No. 485

Looking at pictures of your older son reading the first issue of the comic he wrote to your grandchildren…

 

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(Thanks to the fabulous Kasey Langan for the photos!)

 

 

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Sons of Thunder! (An exercise in shameless parental promotion)

As a dad and a writer, I’m not sure there’s any pleasure quite the equal of watching your kids grow into artists in their own right.  It’s a thrill to be able to share what they’re doing, and to encourage anyone who’s interested to check it out and support it.  (Yes, this is one of those awkward, look-how-great-my-kids-are moments.  If it isn’t your thing, feel free to skip it.  No hard feelings.)

First off, my older son, Nick, who has been a police officer for some years, now, first in Baltimore and now in Lancaster (where he has yet to arrest Brian Keene, despite my repeated requests for him to do so), has recently broken into writing comics.  He has a number of irons in the fire, and first up is a comic called Crowns of Hebron, which is a retelling of the Biblical Saul/David story.  The first arc is set to run for five issues.  Should it succeed, he has several more arcs planned.  Right now, he’s set up a Patreon account to help fund the project; if you’re interested, I encourage you to kick in a little cash to it.  The rates are exceedingly reasonable.

Here’s an image from the first issue of Crowns of Hebron.

 

And while Nick makes his way into the world of comics, his younger brother, David, has expanded his musical activities to include joining local punk band, Interference 845, as lead guitarist and backup vocalist.  Last week, the band livestreamed a short concert consisting of covers of half a dozen classic punk songs including, “Search and Destroy,” “Harmony in My Head,” and “Amoeba.”  Today, at around 2:00pm EST, they’ll be livestreaming another half a dozen covers.  You can find them through their Instagram account, which is also the location from which they’ll be broadcasting today.  (I’m pretty sure the broadcast will be available for 24 hours after it’s first shown.)

 

 

 

The October Report, First Installment: Scary Vampires, Comic Con, Parental Horrors, and a Film Set in Upstate New York

I suppose it’s only appropriate that October should be a busy time for a horror writer.  Of course, there’s good-busy and bad-busy.  The last couple of weeks have definitely fallen into the former category.

I.

The first two Saturdays of the month were taken up with events related to the release of Seize the Night, the anthology of scary-vampire stories edited by Christopher Golden, and full of more great stories than you can shake a stake at.  On October 3rd, I drove up to North Andover for the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  This was held at the ACT theater, a community theater located in the recesses of a converted industrial site.  There were a ton of horror writers there, and even more horror readers.  The theater itself (which, appropriately enough, was set up for Seussical the Musical) hosted a series of hour-long panels on an assortment of horror-related topics, while the space immediately outside the theater (where, I’m guessing, concessions would normally be located) was set up with tables for book selling and signing.  I took part in a panel on Seize the Night at the beginning of the event, and was part of a brave attempt to read all of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at its end (after two hours, we were about three-quarters of the way through it, but decided to stop for dinner).  In between, I signed and sold books, and spent time with some wonderful people:  Paul Tremblay, Sarah Langan and J.T. Petty, Jack Haringa, Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni, Rio Youers, Dana Cameron, Kelly Link, S,J, Bagley, Gardner Goldsmith, Bracken MacLeod, Barry Dejasu and Catherine Grant, and of course Chris Golden.

Rio Youers can't believe how pink I am.

Rio Youers can’t believe how pink I am.

 

Are Jack Haringa and I judging you? Of course we are.

Are Jack Haringa and I judging you? Of course we are.

 

I'm happy to be with S.J. Bagley and Brian Keene. They are more dubious.

I’m happy to be with S.J. Bagley and Brian Keene. They are more dubious.

 

Paul Tremblay and I, immediately before the spiders rained from the ceiling.

Paul Tremblay and I, immediately before the spiders rained from the ceiling.

 

Dana Cameron and I love our fans!

Dana Cameron and I love our fans!

 

I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been to one of these events at which everyone–writers, fans, support staff–was in such a good mood.  It was like a huge party.  Afterwards, Jack Haringa and I joined everyone else for a huge dinner at a local brewpub, during which Kelly Link and I talked weird anthology ideas (the MANthology, anyone?) and I had the chance to speak with noted editor Jaime Levine.  Thanks to everyone who came out and made the event such a success.  Thanks, too, to Chris Golden for doing such a fine job organizing it, to the folks at the ACT theater company for hosting and staffing it, and to the Andover Bookstore for selling copies of everyone’s books.  This was a huge effort on Chris’s part, but if he decides to put this on again, next year, you can be sure I’ll be at it–and so should you.

 

II.

The following Saturday, I took the train down to Manhattan so I could attend my first-ever New York Comic Con.  There were people in costume boarding the train in Poughkeepsie, and their numbers grew with each stop.  By the time I was walking to the Javits Center, I was a decided minority, with my jeans and zombie Mona Lisa t-shirt.  Ed Schlesinger, the editor at Simon & Schuster who worked with Chris Golden on Seize the Night, met me outside the Center, bestowed a pass on me, and escorted me inside to the madness that is Comic Con.  If you’ve seen pictures of the event, then you have some idea what it’s like:  a crush of people, many of them in costume, wandering aisles flanked by booths full of comic- and genre-related people, publications, clothing, toys, videos, video games, and memorabilia.  Right away, I was in love; although I think I was grateful that I didn’t have that much money with me.

NYCComicCon

Dana Cameron and I met up at the Simon & Schuster booth, and Dana, who had been at the convention for days at that point, was good enough to help me in my quest to find a Hawkeye t-shirt and copies of the first couple of Hawkeye collections for David.

Hawkeye!

Hawkeye!

 

We returned to the S&S booth in time to meet up with Chris Golden, and then the three of us sat down to sign some books.  In between signings, Ed Schlesinger, who’s very charming and funny, told us how brilliant the three of us were.  After the signing was over, Paul Tremblay and I wandered the convention floor, both of us bemoaning an assortment of childhood toys foolishly discarded before we realized they could have paid our kids’ ways through college.  Once Paul left to catch his train, I made my way over to the Horror Writer Association’s booth to meet up with Ellen Datlow for dinner.  On the way, though, was the convention’s great surprise and treat for me:  Glass Eye Pix had a booth there.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s writer/director/actor Larry Fessenden’s production company.  Larry’s behind a number of my favorite horror films, including Habit and Wendigo.  Not only did the booth have Blu-Rays of his latest effort, Beneath, but Larry Fessenden himself was there to sign them!  Because I was on my way to Ellen, I didn’t have time to do much more than shake Larry’s hand enthusiastically and gush about how much I love his work.  Still, what a thrill to meet such a great filmmaker.

Larry Fessenden at NYC Comic Con with specialty posters of a couple of his films.

Larry Fessenden at NYC Comic Con with specialty posters of a couple of his films.

 

After some shenanigans at the HWA booth with Trevor Firetog, Patrick Freivald, and James Moore, Ellen and I headed out for a nice dinner at an Italian place that wasn’t too far from the Javits Center.

Me, Trevor Firetog, and James Moore, expressing our delight in one another's company.

Me, Trevor Firetog, and James Moore, expressing our delight in one another’s company.

 

Ah, but here our mirth has turned to lunacy...

Ah, but here our mirth has turned to lunacy…

 

Then it was back home, in time to catch David still up and give him his Hawkeye shirt and comics.  His reaction may have been the highlight of my day; scratch that:  it was the highlight.  Thanks to Ed Schlesinger and Chris Golden for making my first trip to Comic Con happen; and thanks to the folks at the Simon & Schuster booth who helped make the signing go smoothly.  You can be sure, I’ll be back for this next year.

 

III.

The Tuesday after Comic Con, I was back in Manhattan, again, this time for Pen Parentis‘s monthly salon at the Hotel Andaz.  Together with the fabulous Veronica Schanoes and my (not?) cousin, Sarah Langan, I read from my work and then took part in a far-ranging discussion about writing while raising small children, writing horror as a parent, and writing effective horror.  It was great to see Nick Kaufmann and Alexa Antopol there, as well as Dan Braum.  M.M. Devoe and Christina Chiu did a fabulous job organizing and MC’ing the evening.  This was my second time back at Pen Parentis; I’m grateful to them for having me.  I look forward to number three.

 

Veronica Schanoes, Sarah Langan, and yours truly, flanked by Christina Chiu and M.M. DeVoe, in the swanky Andaz Hotel.

Veronica Schanoes, Sarah Langan, and yours truly, flanked by Christina Chiu and M.M. DeVoe, in the swanky Andaz Hotel.

 

I'm not saying I sang Elvis's greatest hits, but the camera doesn't lie, does it?

I’m not saying I sang Elvis’s greatest hits, but the camera doesn’t lie, does it?

 

My favorite downstate Langan.

My favorite downstate Langan.

 

Oh, and afterwards, there was Japanese food.  Just sayin’.

 

IV.

The morning after Pen Parentis, I was up early (well, for me) to travel with the Honey Badger up to the New York/Vermont state border, where an intrepid film crew was nearing the end of principle photography for their film adaptation of Laird’s story, “30.”  The drive went more quickly than we’d thought, through some lovely, if increasingly-remote, country.  We arrived at what I guess you could call base camp in time for lunch with the director, Phil Gelatt, producer Will Battersby, and just about all of the crew.  That everyone was happy to see us had nothing to do with the beer and homemade cookies Laird had brought.  Phil Gelatt is a lovely and talented guy; he wrote the script for Europa Report, which convinced me he’d be the perfect guy to adapt “30.”  We’d met at this past Necronomicon Providence, where we’d had a pleasant conversation about this very project, and it was pretty wild to see him now engaged in it.  After the meal, we accompanied everyone to the location of the principle outdoor shoot, where we were allowed to watch part of what I think will be a pretty creepy scene being filmed.  Will Battersby stood with us and patiently and thoroughly answered the questions with which Laird and I barraged him; it was quite the education.  I left impressed by the sheer effort involved in bringing just a minute of film to the screen.  Laird was pretty happy with everything he saw.  Out of respect for Phil and the crew, neither of us took pictures of the set, but they’ve set up an instagram account where you can see some of what they’re up to.  Thanks to Phil, Will, and the entire crew for being so accommodating of the two of us, and thanks to Laird for asking me to tag along.

 

So there you have it:  a pretty busy couple of weeks.  Thanks again to everyone who’s played a part in making these things happen.  If I signed a book for you or talked to you, thanks very much.

 

The Labyrinth Podcast

File under “I should have mentioned this earlier”:  this past November, I was interviewed by Cesar Torres for his Labyrinth podcast.  I had watched Cesar’s interviews with Peter Straub and Laird Barron, among others, and was pleased and flattered when Cesar contacted me about doing a show with him.  We had a fine, far-ranging conversation (which you can watch here); so fine, in fact, that we agreed to continue it sometime after the new year.  Stay tuned…

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid, most of them put out by Marvel.  (This was from the mid-to-late seventies to the early-to-mid eighties.)  The Amazing Spider-Man was my favorite, both the new issues being written by the great Marv Wolfman, and the original issues being reprinted six at a time in paperback collections.  My brother liked The Fantastic Four–also being written at that time by Wolfman–so I read those, too.  Conan the Barbarian was a favorite, as was his superhero cousin, The Mighty Thor–both written by Roy Thomas.  I read a lot of other titles, too, sometimes because they crossed over with one of the Spider-Man comics (there were, as I recall, three regular Spidey series:  Amazing, Spectacular, and Marvel Team-Up, where Spidey paired with a different hero every issue, as well as at least one reprint series) and sometimes because they simply looked cool.  (And this isn’t going into the series I read because they brought to life this or that toy [Rom, Spaceknight or The Micronauts or The Shogun Warriors] or film monster [Godzilla].)

As I grew into my early teens, I started picking up the X-Men, as well–then being written by Chris Claremont, who wrote every issue of the comic I read for years.  I’m sure Claremont’s run on the X-Men has been discussed and dissected in all manner of venues, from academic popular culture studies to online forums.  I remember being struck by the intensity of his stories:  even by the melodramatic standards of comic book plots, his narratives went for broke.  It wasn’t just that things were darkest before the dawn–they were pitch black.  It’s the kind of technique someone like Joss Whedon would deploy in each season of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.  I was impressed, too, by his portrayal of strong, complex female characters–Storm, Rogue, Kitty–something that was in particularly short supply when I was growing up.  The character of Wolverine as he was being written at that time also struck me:  this was a violent character whose violence had an edge that felt real and even frightening.  I liked, too, the moves Claremont was already making towards transforming Magneto, the X-Men’s greatest enemy, into more of an anti-hero than an out and out villain.

All of which serves as a prelude to this afternoon, when the Honey Badger and I went to the local theater for a matinee of the latest entry in the X-Men film series, Days of Future Past.  I have to admit, I wasn’t anticipating this one as eagerly as I was some of this summer’s other offerings (i.e. Godzilla), but I wound up being pleasantly surprised.  For one thing, talk about a story where there’s a lot at stake:  if Logan (Wolverine) doesn’t succeed in his time-travel mission, then it’s curtains for him and what few of his friends are left alive.  What’s more, there’s a chance for some of the deeper divisions that have occurred among figures like Professor X, Raven/Mystique, and Erik Lensher/Magneto to be, if not healed then at least ameliorated.  And indeed, this is where the movie really worked for me.  There are CG effects a-plenty, especially in the scenes set in the future, but while they’re undoubtedly impressive, I found them far less compelling than the human drama that plays out amongst the younger Xavier, Raven, and Lensher.  A lot of superhero movies appeal to the significance of choice, but this one does a better job than most of actually dramatizing that choice so it means something.  There are a couple of plot hiccups (i.e. the failure by Xavier et. al. to include Quicksilver in their plans for the  final showdown) but they’re forgivable.  If there’s one thing I can say about this X-Men movie, it’s that it makes me excited to see the next X-Men movie, which, this far into the series, is no small feat.