The October Report, Second Installment:WORD, The H.P. Lovecraft Forum, and A Group Reading at the New Paltz Public Library

I know, I know:  it’s December, for the love of Pete, practically 2016.  Probably, I shouldn’t bother, but I can be pretty compulsive when it comes to completing stuff.  So:

I.

The second half of my busy October began the Thursday before Halloween, with a mid-morning trip to New York City along with the Honey Badger, so the two of us could read that night at WORD, a  fine independent bookstore in Brooklyn, at a Halloween-themed event organized by the brilliant Alex Houston.  Once in Grand Central, we went our separate ways, me to lunch with my outstanding agent (Ginger Clark, for those who may have forgotten), and him to a long photo shoot at his agent’s (Janet Reed).  The weather was rainy and windy in the extreme.  Ginger and I enjoyed an excellent lunch at a French restaurant, during which we talked over my adventures during the first part of October, as well as my third novel (in process).  After lunch, I met Laird at Janet’s office, where he was deep in the photo session.  I have to admit, it was fascinating to watch the couple who were taking his picture at work.  (The older I get, the more interested I find I am in anyone who’s good at something.)  I succeeded in keeping my heckling to a minimum.

The shoot done, Laird and Janet and I caught a cab to Brooklyn, where we found a pub near WORD.  The three of us succeeded in consuming a platter of very delicious sliders and chips, after which, we were met by the editorial team from Penguin who had been responsible for the republication of Ray Russell’s The Case Against Satan, for which Laird had written a new preface.  They were a charming and fun group, and walked with us to the bookstore.  There, we were met by Alex and the night’s other readers, Livia Llewellyn, Ryan Britt, and Tobias Carroll.  A considerable crowd filled the bookstore’s basement reading space; I was happy to see Ellen Datlow, Michael Calia, Robert Levy, Ardi Alspach, and well-known diva Theresa DeLucci among its numbers.  The reading itself went well:  Ryan Britt made some interesting and amusing references to vampire trousers.  Laird read from his introduction to The Case Against Satan, and a brief excerpt from the novel, itself.  Livia delivered a powerhouse reading; she’s a talented and inspired performer of her own work who never fails to impress, and if you have a chance to see her read, you should.  Tobias Carroll read about half of one of Thomas Ligotti’s stories, and I have to say, brought out a humor I hadn’t recognized in Ligotti’s work before.  I read a self-contained narrative from my story, “Corpsemouth,” which appeared in Ellen’s The Monstrous.

Me at WORD

Let me tell you about Ellen Datlow…

After the reading was done, the booksellers kept the store open while my co-readers and I signed a lot of books for a lot of very nice people.  Then it was off to a local Polish restaurant for still more food (hunter’s stew, very tasty), before Laird and I began the trek to the nearest subway station, and home.

I’ll be honest:  reading at WORD has been one of my personal goals for a few years, now.  Thanks to Alex Houston and the fine folks at the store for making it happen.

 

II.

The day after WORD was the annual H.P. Lovecraft Forum at SUNY New Paltz, number 28 by my count.  Organized by my friend and mentor, Bob Waugh, the Forum has been bringing all sorts of scholars and artists to the New Paltz campus to discuss Lovecraft’s fiction and its impact since I was a college freshman.  This year’s program was among the more modest:  Bob and I each read selections from upcoming, Lovecraft-related stories, but we were joined by artist Stephen Hickman, who brought along copies of his Lovecraft-related sculptures, whose genesis and development he shared with us.

Hickman Lovecraft Pieces

The Original You-Know-Who

 

III.

The day after the Lovecraft Forum, I took part in a group reading sponsored by Inquiring Minds, the local independent bookstore.  Sadly, the bookstore had been damaged by a freak flood; happily, the local public library stepped in and hosted the event.  Half a dozen more or less local writers, including myself and the Honey Badger, read to a full house that included a couple of my students (who were amazed to discover I was an actual writer).  As we read, college students dressed in their Halloween costumes for the contest being sponsored by the bar across the street wandered past the windows, as if extras in the stories we were reading.

And I’m happy to report, the bookstore recovered from the flooding, and about a month later, I read there with Bob Waugh to celebrate the release of his first collection of stories, The Bloody Tugboat and Other Witcheries.

Bloody Tugboat Cover

This is a strange, strange book…

 

 

IV.

So that was October.  Thank God it only comes around once a year.  But a sincere thank you to everyone who was involved in making the various events I took part in happen, and to everyone who attended them, and to everyone who asked me to sign a book or sent a kind word my way.

 

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October! (Part 3)

The last in a series!  Collect them all!

Ahem.  Towards the end of the month, On Wednesday, October 28, to be precise, I’ll be at the WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn as part of Alex Houston’s Dead Dreamers:  A Celebration of Weird Fiction.  I’ll be reading my fiction alongside the honey badger himself, Laird Barron, and the tremendous Livia Llewellyn.  In addition, Ryan Britt will be discussing a selection from one of the recent NYRB reissues, and Tobias Carroll will be reading from and discussing Thomas Ligotti’s work.  It should be a blast.  I’m thrilled to be at WORD, which is a terrific bookstore, and I’m thrilled to be reading with Livia, especially, who is a powerhouse of a reader.  Seriously, if you have not heard her read her fiction, you must rectify this oversight as soon as is possible.  You can find information about the event here.

The very next day, Thursday, October 29, I’ll be taking part in this year’s H.P. Lovecraft Forum at SUNY New Paltz.  For the twenty-eighth year, noted Lovecraft scholar Bob Waugh is putting on a combination of scholarly talks and fiction readings from 7:00-9:00pm in room 1010 of the Jacobsen Faculty Tower.  This is the only thing of its kind in the country, and free, to boot.

Then, on the day after that, Friday, October 30, I’ll be taking part in Dark Harvest:  An Evening of Horror and Speculative Fiction, which is a group reading at Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz.  I’ll be there with Laird, as well as Phoebe North, Nicole Quinn, Gabriel Squailia, and Nicole Kornher Stace.  You can find more information about the event here.

 

And I think that’s it for October.  If you can make any of these events, I encourage you to do so; I’m thrilled to be part of each and every one of them.  And please, say hello.

Necronomicon Providence 2015–Four Weeks On

I returned from the 2015 Necronomicon Providence with my older son and his family about to visit, and with my younger son and I about to test for our next promotions in Tang Soo Do.  As a result, it’s taken me a little while to sit down and set down my thoughts on the second of these conventions.  The short version is that I had an even better time at the 2015 Necronomicon than I did at the 2013 one, which I’m not sure I would have predicted possible.  I was very busy with programming, participating in a couple of readings and a number of panels.  There were also room parties.   In between, I spent time with a host of friends, signed numerous books, and wandered the dealers’ room.  I think I saw the convention developing in interesting directions.  The 2013 con focused more on Lovecraft and his set, with attention given to some contemporary horror writers (mostly those who fit best with HPL’s legacy).  The 2015 con seemed more evenly divided between HPL and his set and more recent horror writers.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2017.

So:  some highlights from this convention:

–Thursday evening dinner with Brian Evenson, Paul Tremblay, Michael Cisco, Nikki Guerlain, Simon Strantzas, and Richard Gavin at a swanky restaurant whose name I’ve forgotten, but whose food was top-notch.  There was a great deal of laughter, and I received some good advice about a minor publishing quandary.  Afterwards, Cisco and Nikki and I wandered the streets of Providence until we came to a restaurant with outdoor seating, where we sat and discussed Gemma Files and Mike Griffin (which is to say, Cisco analyzed their fiction while I nodded and tried to keep up).

–Speaking of Paul:  Stephen King had just tweeted a very kind notice of Paul’s novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, that weekend, and all of us who love and respect Paul spent every available moment teasing him mercilessly about it.  He didn’t care, nor should he have.  It was nice to be able to spend time with one of your friends after he’s received some much-deserved praise from one of his heroes.  (Which reminds me:  have you read A Head Full of Ghosts?  If you have, good.  If not, what are you waiting for?)

–Speaking of Simon and Richard:  in addition to participating in panels and readings together, we had a nice, quiet dinner together on Saturday night at the local Mexican restaurant, where the waiter began our meal by expressing his regret over the news that actor Steven Seagal had just died (which, as it turned out, was not true).

–Then there were the room parties…  With my roommates, Bob Waugh and Eddy Eder, I had rented a suite at the convention hotel.  We invited a few people to stop by on Friday and Saturday nights.  They did.  They brought some more people, and also some very fine alcohol.  There was much good conversation.  I’m told the air in the room was at one point ninety-five percent Scotch, but I believe that’s an exaggeration; it couldn’t have been more than seventy-five, eighty percent, tops.  What I do know is that I can still stay up till four in the morning, if it’s to listen to Matthew Warren Richey read an excerpt from an autobiographically-inflected story and discuss the apocryphal Mormon view of Bigfoot.  I also know that, if you have to liberate extra glasses from somewhere in your hotel, Michael Cisco is the man for the job.

–Speaking of Eddy:  this was his second convention since beginning to focus on his weird artwork.  He was warmly and graciously received by the artistic community at the convention, who made room for him to display and sell prints of his work on one of their tables in the dealers’ room.  He also made contacts with some of the publishers who were there.  I was very happy for him.

–Speaking of artists:  I finally had a chance to meet and shake the hand of the uber-talented Michael Bukowski, who gifted me with an absolutely gorgeous compendium of his Nyarlathotep illustrations.  I was as bowled-over by his generosity as I was his talent, and that’s saying something.

–Speaking of publishers:  I had good conversations with both Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press, about my third collection, forthcoming in early 2016, and Ross Lockhart, of Word Horde Press, about possible future projects.

–And I met and spoke to so many talented writers, I don’t know where to begin.  I had the chance to hang out and have lunch with Dave Zeltserman, whose The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a recent favorite.  We talked about the joys of martial arts for the aging male body.  Anya Martin made me a gift of one of her late father’s books, which was very moving and for which I’m very grateful.  Scott Nicolay gave me a copy of his beautifully-designed chapbook, After.  Marc Fitch gave me a copy of his novel, Paradise Burns, with a very flattering inscription.  I was able to purchase copies of Matthew Bartlett’s latest collection and chapbook, and to spend some time talking with him and his wife.  I was able to get the ferociously-talented David Nickel to sign copies of his books for me, and to talk with him about the joys of writing fiction that’s too literary for the genre imprints, and too genre for the literary imprints.  I talked to Mike Griffin about his upcoming collection.  Justin Steele and I cursed each other out.  The Miskatonic Musings guys caught up with me for a brief interview.  Joe Pulver took me aside to talk to me.  Cisco had me convinced to spend a lot of money at one table in the dealers’ room, and I would have, if that bookseller had taken credit cards.

–What else?  Jack Haringa, floating in a cloud of nicotine, snark, and Scotch.  Matt Burke, whose art I like a great deal.  Michael Wehunt, who’s a very interesting writer.  Jeff Thomas, signing my books.  Ramsey Campbell, always at one end of a line of people waiting for him to sign their books.  Michael Marshall Smith, glimpsed across a room but, sadly, not spoken to.  Cody Goodfellow looking like Moses.  Or Karl Marx.  Or that guy in The Professor and the Madman.  The madman.  Getting to shake Henrik Moller’s hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his short film, Inviting the Demon.  (Really, it’s very good:  go check it out on YouTube.)  Watching Leeman Kessler chase his young daughter, and imagining for a moment it’s Lovecraft playing with his child.

So, well done, all those responsible for and involved with the staging of this convention.  I haven’t been to a better one this year.

ETA:  And shortly after I post this report, I realize I forgot to mention meeting the ferociously talented Damien Angelica Walters, and Phil Gelatt, and Jason Brock, and Mike Davis, and Steve Mariconda, and Alex Houston, and Dan Mills, and I also forgot to mention signing books for any number of folks who were kind and gracious enough to ask me to.  Sorry about that, folks!

Bob Waugh

When I attend Necronomicon Providence in a couple of weeks, I’ll be driving up with Bob Waugh.  Bob is at this point one of my oldest and dearest friends.  He and his wonderful wife, Kappa, are godparents to my younger son.  My wife and I have spent time with them on Cape Cod, in Provence, and here in the Hudson Valley, where we’ve shared birthday dinners and holiday celebrations.

During the second semester of my freshman year in college, Bob was my Honors English 2 professor; subsequently I took a host of classes with him, from surveys of English literature to intensive studies of the work of James Joyce.  Also during my first year of college, Bob founded the H.P. Lovecraft Forum, which he’s kept going for the last twenty-eight years pretty much on his own.  Every October, around Halloween (of course), he’s invited leading scholars of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction to the SUNY New Paltz campus to share their current work.  S.T. Joshi, Steve Mariconda, Peter Cannon, Judy Johnson, Norm Gayford, and a host of others (including more than a few students at the college, presenting their work in an academic forum for the first time) have shared their essays with a mix of students, faculty, and interested members of the public.  It’s usually a modest affair, which allows the audience the opportunity to speak with the participants afterwards.

For me, a consistent highlight of the Lovecraft Forums (Fora?) has been the chance to hear Bob read from his latest critical project.  Over the years, many of the essays he’s read have gone on to publication, first in Lovecraft Studies, more recently in the Lovecraft Annual, and occasionally in critical anthologies such as An Epicure in the Terrible.  In the last decade, he’s collected those essays and synthesized them into two books:  The Monster in the Mirror:  Looking for H.P. Lovecraft and A Monster of Voices:  Speaking for H.P. Lovecraft.  If the books have a common theme, it’s an effort to situate Lovecraft within a larger cultural frame.  In some essays, this means Bob considers Lovecraft in relation to Pope, or Keats, or Lawrence.  In others, it means he considers the role race and racism play in Lovecraft’s stories.  Indeed, throughout the ongoing discussions and debates about Lovecraft’s racial prejudices, I’ve frequently wished that the participants on both sides had read Bob’s “The Subway and the Shuggoth” (found in The Monster in the Mirror), which uses the climatic confrontation with the shuggoth in At the Mountains of Madness as a prompt to a wide-ranging discussion of how racial prejudice and anxiety inform not just the short novel, but the body of Lovecraft’s work.  It’s a moving, masterful piece of critical writing, one that exemplifies the best in literary study.  Sympathetic to its subject, it nonetheless refuses to let him off the hook.  The result is actual insight into how Lovecraft’s fiction functions.  The essay–and Bob’s critical work in general–has served as a model for my own critical efforts.

In the last few years, Bob, already an accomplished poet, has turned his hand to writing short fiction.  The stories he’s produced have ranged from bizarre anecdotes to longer, even weirder pieces.  At Necronomicon, he’ll be debuting a collection of them, The Bloody Tugboat and Other Witcheries.  They make a strangely-appropriate companion to his criticism.

So if you have the chance to hear Bob participate in a panel, or read from his fiction, I highly recommend you do so.  If you don’t have copies of his work, I highly recommend you purchase them.  He’s a fine scholar, a great guy, and I love him to pieces.