Reading Emergency!

I don’t really care what it is you’re doing right now but you must drop it, whatever it is, and run out and find a copy of The Undiscovered by William Sanders.

The thing is, this is probably the best thing I’ve read this year.

But I can’t tell you *why* because it’s the surprise of the story that makes it what it is.

Trust me. Read this. I’ll be checking up on you. The discovery of The Undiscovered came via Amy H. Sturgis.

It’s a novellette, first published maybe a decade ago, and republished in various collections. The one I found was Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s best science fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois.

Norilana Press has a paperback and hardback collection of his work, called East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith. Wildside Press has a paperback collection called Are We Having Fun Yet? American Indian Fantasy Stories

Good luck in your Emergency Reading book search, we’ll catch up in a few weeks.

The Graphic Canon, vol 1, edited by Russ Kick

Here’s one thing I’ve been pouring over for …ah, three months now. Good thing Columbus Library lets me renew ten times. Heh!

The Graphic Canon: from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons, edited by Russ Kick.

This is a collection of Illustrated adaptations of literature spanning the human experience. Gilgamesh–really!– Dante’s Inferno, Beowulf and Apu Ollantay, an Incan play. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Lucretius’ On The Nature of Things, The Book of Esther, The Letters of Heloise and Abelard, The Tale of Genji… It goes on and on and this is just the first half of the first volume.

Russ Kick collected a crap ton of these, and commissioned more, into a three volume set. The first volume which I’ve pilfered from the library was published in 2012, and the third volume just came out.

Editor Russ Kick tells us a little about each selection. Why he chose this piece to feature, where it was published, a brief history of the original novel, poem, legend, play, religious treatise, collection of letters, etc., which he calls the source.

I really like that he includes a paragraph or two on the style of the artist, gives me information about what it is that I’m looking at on the following pages. He explains what is unique about the artist, and how the artist’s adaptation of the source expresses the intent of the source in a modern rhetoric.

For example: “Chicago artist and writer Caroline Picard creates highly inventive comics. Pushing the form forward, she arranges and integrates images and words to create a unique, sinuous flow. Panels as such don’t exist. Everything blends seamlessly, and each page seems like a single work of art even though it contains a sequential narrative.”

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The variety of artists is stunning, how each artist reinterprets the classic work for today’s reader. One of the best examples of this is “The Woman with two Coyntes”, a tale from the 1001 Arabian Nights which did not pass the Victorian sanitation guards and is often left out of abridged versions. Here, it has been illustrated by Vicki Nerino.

In this panel, she says, “I’m back! Kay, so like my mom has bequeathed to me something totes weird. Wanna know what it is?”

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Heh! Elsewhere, Nerino uses “OMG!” And “WTF?” And “whatevs”. Kick states, “This is perfectly in order, since this is a folktale, which will always be told in the language of the folk.”

One of the most interesting ones is the rendition of Poems by Rumi, by Michael Green. It surprised me a little because Green doesn’t use his own drawings here. He chooses to interpret these mystical poems with, ah, doctored photographs, I guess. One photo for you, but understand that every page of Rumi’s poems interpreted by Green has a different layout, dominant color scheme, format. I especially like this one because he makes the poem part of the bottle:

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I’m currently finding the graphic novels where Kick has featured an excerpt for this collection. I’ve found Beowulf by Gareth Hinds. That’s a nice one. Another is Trickster, Native American folktales, edited by Matt Dembicki.

But enough of my yammering. I’m telling you, find yourself a copy of this book. It has rekindled my interest in Classic literature.

P.S.! Just because it’s illustrated doesn’t mean it’s for children! Lysistrata, illustrated by Valerie Schrag

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Clockwork Phoenix 4 and Black Fire Concerto and Mythic Delirium

Hey guys! Mike Allen News Abounds!

1) Clockwork Phoenix 4 is out!
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All four volumes are in print and in e-print, for your paper or digital preference.

Here are reviews from some folks you might know…
Just Book Reading

Little Red Reviewer

2) Mythic Delirium Re-Boot

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Mike Allen, running on the heels of the energy generated by the release of the fourth installment of Clockwork Phoenix, is thick into a Kickstarter now to continue funding for his 15 year plus running magazine, Mythic Delirium. The magazine, which has for a decade and a half, been printed and mailed, is moving into the digital frontier.

He sent me these paragraphs to share with you:
“The first quarterly issue of the new Mythic Delirium, Issue 0.1, is ready. You can get it by backing the Kickstarter for Mythic Delirium or by ordering a subscription through the Mythic Delirium website.

“It’s being sold as an e-zine in PDF, EPUB and MOBI format. In two weeks, if all goes well, the upgraded version of the Mythic Delirium will go live, and I’ll feature one story (“The Wives of Paris” by Marie Brennan) and two poems (“Ahalya: Deliverance” by Karthika Nair and “Cuneiform Toast” by Sonya Taaffe) from the new issue. I’ll repeat this pattern each month until the full issue is posted — but if you don’t want to wait 3 months to read the whole thing, subscribing is the way to go, and that gives me the funds to publish more issues.”

Why subscribe to a poetry magazine? scoff! Even a dudderhead like me enjoys the poetry. Additionally, the re-boot includes fiction! A bit of insider info: take time to read the Ken Liu story in issue 0.1

Also, you might like Mike’s sense of humor, here.

Mythic Delirium Kickstarter Link

3) and Black Fire Concerto will be released soon.
This book I’ve just been dying over, and I’m ecstatic to see that it will finally go to print. Why am I so excited to tell you about this book? Ok. Let’s put it this way. If you enjoyed reading any one of the four volumes of Clockwork Phoenix, imagine its editor sitting down to tell you a story… yeah, that

Stay tuned. I’ll squee at you when it goes live.

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Storm Coming: Writing Music for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

Who likes Neil Gaiman and who counts American Gods as one of their all-time-top-five fave books evah? …Yea, that’s why I thought this incredible project from singer/songwriter/comedian Mikey Mason might be of interest to all y’all. Mikey bills himself as the Comedy Rock Star, and some of his geekery funnies that I enjoy include Best Game Ever and She Don’t Like Firely (my fave is Too Fat To Troop). Mikey’s music is not just snort-politely-into-your-tea funny but is endanger-myself-and-others-by-careening-off-the-road funny. So, he has stepped pretty far from his comfort zone here to do a serious piece on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Fan-fiction, tribute, Lit-Rock, whatever you call it, I call it something to be excited about. If anyone has the cojones and street-cred to take on a Gaiman-sized Fan Project like this, it’s definitely Mikey, which will become apparent when you listen to his albums Barbarian Jetpack or Impotent Nerd Rage. Finding someone who loves what they read enough to create Art about it is truly special, and to have it created by someone with the skill set that Mikey has is a rare and precious thing. I see it as a way of sharing a mutual book-obsessed passion. Here, he directly addresses you, Darkcargoites, about the writing and composing of this unique EP* In trying to convince him that writing the article for us was worth his time, I billed y’all as HardCore Book Nerdz. Take a listen and see if he’s done Gaiman’s work justice. Me? I’ll be upstairs crankin’ it and continuing with my Storm Coming-inspired re-read of American Gods.

-editor

*an EP is longer than a three-track “single” and shorter than a 9+ track album. I didn’t know that until I asked.

Storm Coming: Writing Music for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

copyright 2013 Mikey Mason

American Gods has long been one of my favorite books, with its sprawling travelogue structure and ability to shift focus from the mundane to the bizarre, from one story to another, all while carrying a strong thematic throughout. I read it at least once a year. It inspires me. It is one of the bars by which I judge works of long fiction. So, on a sort of whim, I recorded this EP Storm Coming, which is essentially the musical equivalent of fan-fiction.

I’ve felt myself growing rusty at writing songs that weren’t intended to make someone laugh and wanted to work out the creative and intellectual muscles in control of that skill set. [Full disclosure: I am a comedian by trade. I make my living by writing and performing funny songs and standup comedy, which is why I’ve focused primarily on comedic songs in this last decade or so.] When considering what subject matter to write about, I flashed back to a bit of advice that was given to me when participating in one of many NaNoWriMo events: write fan-fiction. Sure, I thought. Why Not? Nobody’s going to hear it anyway. Then I thought about what intellectual property on which to bring my fan-fic beast to bear. I’m a fan of many things, but when I stumbled onto this quote while researching fan-fiction (yeah, that’s the way my mind works…) I latched on to American Gods immediately.

“I’m not sure where the line gets drawn – you could say that any Batman fan writing a Batman comic is writing fan fiction. As long as nobody’s making money from it that should be an author or a creator’s, I don’t mind it. And I think it does a lot of good.” – Neil Gaiman

Arguably, having published stories about Sherlock Holmes, Cthulhu, and even Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, Mr. Gaiman himself has written fan-fiction. So I set about my task. I found that having the book as a touchstone, a starting and ending point, a reference for character and theme, opened more creative floodgates than I’d anticipated.

The opening track “Storm Coming” has hints of Pink Floyd shining through, combined with intense American blues rock, which I thought a fitting nod to a British author writing about America. It foreshadows the conflict of the novel, in the same way Gaiman’s opening pages do. Lyrically, however, it could either be from Shadow’s point of view or Wednesday’s, depending on how you look at it.

“Think Snow” is basically an instrumental, a mood piece. I incorporated lots of textural elements, atmosphere, and environmental sounds, which is something I carried throughout most of this EP. In the same way an author sets the tone and voice of a piece of fiction, a musical producer uses tools and effects to keep the sound of a record–its tone and voice–consistent.

“Carousel” is about the metaphor of the world’s largest carousel in the House on the Rock, and the cyclical nature of gods in Gaiman’s work, as well as the relationship between Shadow and his former (and possible future) incarnations.

“The Ballad of Essie Tregowan” is intentionally an anomaly in the group of songs as it is a lighter, upbeat tune, framed as a Gaelic drinking song and written from the fair folks’ point of view. There are moments in American Gods where Gaiman gives the reader a glimpse of a different time, not necessarily integral to the plot. In these vignettes the feel of the narrative shifts a little, which was what I was aiming for here. I did a bit of research into Cornish dialect for the lyrics (and likely butchered it during the appropriation, which is in itself what makes this song quintessentially American in nature.)

“Keeper of the Peace” is a musical theatre/rock opera styled piece centered around the mostly unspoken (and mostly unrealized—by Chad) conflict between Chad Mulligan and Hinzelmann, and focusing heavily on character and point of view. It culminates in a musical scene that is parallel to the Lakeside climax in the novel.

Finally, “Believe” focuses on one underlying theme through the book, framed mostly though the scenes with the buffalo man. I had considered using this song as the opening track–or chapter, if you will–of the EP, but felt it worked better as an endpiece. It is a closing argument, a resolution in contrast to the dark and energetic foreshadowing of the opening track, a song of symmetry and equilibrium both in structure and in tone.

This was a fun and rewarding exercise, and I feel on more solid footing with non-comedic songs once more. Maybe it’s all about confidence and practice, and we all know how important those are as an artist. When I turn my attentions back to writing fiction, I can almost guarantee I’ll dip my toes in the water with some fan-fiction, not only to get the gears turning and operable for more original works, but because it can be fun.

As a final note, I felt the material was good enough to release, so I did, though I’m not charging for the EP. It’s fan-fiction. If you like the songs and want more like them, or simply want to support an artist following his muse through the darker corners of her fancy, then you can set your own price and call it a donation or a patronage.

http://www.mikeymason.com/2013/04/but-seriously-folks.html?m=1

Hoppin’ for Nalo Hopkinson

Where is Nalo Hopkinson in my reader-satisfaction world? I felt as good after finishing Brown Girl in the Ring and The New Moon’s Arms as I did after finishing Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks and after finishing all three of the Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative series in rapid succession.

It has been a *long time* since I’ve actually been satisfied by a read. This was delicious and perfect and exactly enough. I didn’t need any more or less, and I am closing the book happy. Nalo Hopkinson is the storyteller I’ve been longing for. It was the weirdest reading experience I’ve ever had, and true for both books. I finish, and then I don’t really feel the need to read anything else for a while. WEIRD, huh?

Odd reading behavior for me, but I started The New Moon’s Arms at midnight and finished it at 4:45 am. I usually sip lightly at my books, but this one I consumed whole hog.

There were some attributes to Hopkinson’s writing style true to both books that I really enjoyed.

The first is dialect. I love that Hopkinson includes dialect and doesn’t try to dumb down or explain the lingo as we go along in the story. It’s rather a sink-or-swim, and it’s delicious. We’re creatures of language, and it doesn’t take long before I’m thinking in these new grammatical ways, just from reading,

“It looks like she tear ducts get leave behind when she jook out she eyes, Ti-Jean thought.”

Or

“Eshu, is we here tonight: me, Gros-Jeanne, and me grand-daughter Ti-Jeane, and her Baby-father, Tony.”

But the dialect is not here just for flavouring or authenticity. The patois changes according to whom the character is addressing, who is taking part in the conversation, and what the conversation is about. While Gros-Jeanne, the grandmother who is pretty much stuck in her flavor of English, Tony can formal-up and relax his English to suit his surroundings.

The other writing attribute that did me in for Hopkinson is her characterization. Her people are neither good nor bad, but just folks doing their just folks thing, likeable people who sometimes do unlikeable things, or make dumb mistakes, or bust out with a stupid thing she shouldn’t have said, or are pig-headed on an issue. Just…like…me. (*koff*) But the thing with Hopkinson, is that she lets us know *why* this character made this dumb mistake, or is stubborn on this one issue but otherwise level-headed and progressive. There’s a reason behind everything here, and every character in the story has a part to play in the plot.

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Hopkinson had me doing the involuntary Cheese Chip Deadlift. I realized I had eaten half a bag of the stupid things without realizing what I was doing while reading Brown Girl. Now that’s good writing, hey?

Now, for a brief description of these two books that I’ve read and enjoyed.

Brown Girl in the Ring is a post-apocalyptic style tale, about a gal stuck in inner Toronto after the economy has collapsed and most people have left. It’s difficult to get out of the city, cars are rare, etc, and someone is preying on people for their organs. Ti-Jeanne is young, a new mom, trying to dump her boyfriend and her feelings for him, and living with her grandmother who is the local healer and a Voudoun priestess. Ti-Jeanne has inherited some of these powers, too, it seems, and she doesn’t quite know what to do about them.

The New Moon’s Arms starts with a funeral. One of the attendees loses her undies mid-mourn, and it just kind of goes from there. Calamity is 50-something, and if I’m not at least a little like her when I’m that age, please just push me off the roof. She has an ability to find lost things, or things just sort of manifest to her…including a washed up sea-people child and an entire cashew orchard. Calamity just rolls with the bizarre, though, and keeps on with her life: falling in love, pissing people off, and trying to figure out what’s up with this kid suddenly in her life. There’s a lot of family history, of course, including a seal skin that she and her daughter find on a dare when exploring the mysteriously-manifested cashew orchard. New Word: freezerversity.

I dunno if you’ll like Nalo Hopkinson. But if you like non-stop story, rich and full characters with punkitude and not-always-benificent-magic set in a world likely different than anything you’ve read or visited, you might fall in love with Hopkinson like I did. I plan to read everything she has written and then on to everything she recommends.

Her next book coming out (mid-March) is Sister Mine, and it’s already on pre-order for me with The Book Loft. No, you can’t borrow it. Is MINE! Get your own, punk.

P.s. When you get to reading Hopkinson, be advised that however the e-editions came about, they did a real scan and chop job. They are mostly OK, but some instances of the text being out of order. Advise finding paper copies.

P.P.S. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SEAL SKIN, NALO?

Joe R. Lansdale keeps me up at night

It’s 4:12 a.m. and I’m on page 133 of Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale.

This is not uncommon, actually, this business of Joe Lansdale keeping me up at night.

I like his nuggets of digestible, chewable wisdom, like Flinstones’ vitamins, such as the opener for this novel: “When you grow up in a place, especially if your childhood is a good one, you fail to notice a lot of nasty things that creep beneath the surface and wriggle about like hungry worms in rotten flesh. But they’re there.”

Next, I plan to beat y’all over the head with Nalo Hopkinson. That’s a sledgehammer you may be more susceptible to, as–while Lansdale is strictly not SF/F*–Hopkinson is lovingly, delicately, most definitely SF/F. Be prepared to withstand the Raging Hoarde of my latest author crush.

*not the books I’ve read, yet. There is a timey-wimey Steampunky Weird West thing that I haven’t dived into.

Wool Hipster

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/12/13/wool-author-hugh-howey/

It’s not often that I know about anything before it’s cool. But I knew about Wool before you did, I bet. My hubs found a small link on reddit and passed it onto me. A cheap set of 5 books for the kindle about some neat sci-fi story that Ridley Scott is rumored to be interested in. I am very interested in Ridley Scott and his fantabulous sci-fi, so I tried the book I’d never heard of.

It was amazing. I devoured all five of these in like two weeks, mostly on a road trip with two young children (both under 4) and during the summer when aforementioned four year old and his one year old little brother were climbing all over everything including me. The story made me cry, for pete’s sake. Honestly, this story was every single thing I wanted from it and more. I feel like I Discovered Something Important, that this is only the beginning of someone’s very successful writing career and for once I was along for the ride.

I also blabbed about this book to anyone within ear shot! You have to read this. Now. No, NOW. Stop doing what you’re doing and and read it! I don’t care if your book/movie/project/game/class/job is ineresting read it right now you won’t be disappointed! This Howey guy is gonna be huge! I emailed poor Beth countless times and who knows how many annoying “zomg this book is teh bom” postcards I sent.

I am the only one I know that has read them, so far. I have one friend who is reading it now but just the one and last I heard she was only on book 2.
So now that he is being published by the massive and powerful Simon & Shuster, don’t be surprised when, later this year, after you tell me how awesome this book is, I go all hipster on you. I’ll smile knowingly and say, “Oh I read that last year, before it was mainstream.” and sip my coffee.
Cuz I did. And it’s amazing. I strongly recommend it. ;-) You won’t be disappointed.

It’s too cold!

Chupa and The Dresden Files, graphic novel style.

I need to curl up in a cozy place with a cat, hot tea, and a pile of Dresden Files. Let me specify:

This is Chupacabra. I bottlefed him on goat milk. He likes to slobber on me and whatever I am working on. So while he may get to sit and slobber on my Reminiscence pile of Jim Butcher, he will NOT get to sit with me on my first read of Cold Days, coming out next week.

Oh, and here is a great interview through Sword and Laser with Jim Butcher talking about The Dresden Files, his Codex Alera series, and his new project in the works.

Dresden Homework

Ahhh! I’m totally behind on being prepped for the release of Cold Days this coming Tuesday.

I’ve been re-readingaudioing the entire series over the last year, while embroidering or quilting or hand-crafting.

Now mostly thru White Night, I’m anxious about finishing Ghost Story in time for the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of Cold Days. Listening times have expanded to include cooking, driving, cleaning, and carrying shit up and down the stairs, Marsters’ voice shouting from my ass back pocket.

Am I going to make it? Hum… I might have an extra day–til Wednesday–because I ordered my copy from a small bookseller and they will be mailing it to me. Still, I’m feeling a bit like a student with an overdue assignment.

However, in this case: FUEGO!

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I (heart) Joe R. Lansdale

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Happy Halloween, guys and ghouls.

For your Halloween present, I’m giving all of you an author new to me: Joe R. Lansdale.

(note: this is one of my very rare reviews)

I first encountered Joe R. Lansdale in that used bookstore I showed you pictures of a while back. I picked up Mucho Mojo out of the mystery section because the name rang a bell, but darn if I could remember why.
At the bottom of a stack of books I’d bought at the same time, all of which turned out to be my typical “open and toss”,  gloomy, lonely, unable to sleep, wracked with anxiety (do you feel sorry for me yet? heh-heh!) I opened up that Mucho Mojo at midnight and finished it at five a.m. Serious.

Joe Landsale has written about eleventy-billion books, won about 12 billion awards–including the Bram Stoker award–and yet, knowing that I was unfamiliar with his work, couldn’t place why his name was familiar to me.

Mucho Mojo is the second in this series he does featuring Hap and Leonard. The very elementary synopsis is: two buddies stumble into and solve a local mystery.

There are three things I love about reading a Joe Lansdale book:

1) most importantly, the writing flows so effortlessly from the page and into my eyes and carries me away from this place. It’s that rare experience of starting to read and being unable to stop.

2) he doesn’t shy away from racial issues, prejudice, civil rights, theology. He is honest, blunt, brutal, and he lets people in  all their wretchedness be the scariest thing in the world. I had never encountered anything like this before. You need to read it for yourself because I don’t think I can give it justice. It’s not guilt inducing or lectury. The characters discuss their differences in opinion and experiences, and thus Lansdale opens up my mind to new information and yet the characters are not talking heads, vehicles for Lansdale’s soapbox. The characters are gripping and real people, and their opinions are their own.

I have found that many authors write in a way that shows to me that they’re afraid to offend anyone, or a group of people. All peoples can be assholes, and I found that Joe Lansdale’s novels don’t allow us to feel sorry for A Person just because they are [insert stereotype here]. Hap is a 40 year old white guy. Leonard is African American and gay. They are inseparable, the best of best friends. Leonard has troubles with the local populace, but so does Hap, for example, walking into a bar where he is very not welcome.

Maybe I read *too* much fantasy, but these characters really took on some issues that I find terrible and frightening. Oh, and the house next door is a crack house. I’m reading this and thinking, “Gosh, here’s an author who can discuss these issues without shying away from the dark corners and also not be an ass burdened with his own superiority complex.”

2.5) the New Word quote I posted last night, a quote from The Bottoms, is an example of exactly how detailed he can get, looking into those dark corners. It has been my reading experience that authors will cover the event described in that quote with some vague “a bad thing happened”.

3) he’s funny! These books would be unbearable if he didn’t lighten the action with humor. The people say funny things, and they get into funny situational humor, too. The banter between Hap and Leonard had me rolling.

4) Lansdale can change his narration style to suit the novel he’s writing. The one I’m TAKING TIME AWAY FROM READING IN ORDER TO SPEND AN HOUR ON THIS POST FOR YOU, DEAR READER is The Bottoms, a story that takes place in 1933 east Texas. The book is narrated in first person, with a dialect and grammar of someone from that time and place.

(that was four things)

Where had I heard his name before? Oh, YEAH! Subterranean Press has a crush on Joe R. Lansdale and they’ve published several of his novels in their super nice deluxe editions.

This, for example, is some of his situational humor:

“Another staple of Marvel Creek was a band of roving hogs that belonged to Old Man Crittendon.

“The hogs were tolerated most of the time, but once a big one got after Mrs. Owens and chased her down West all the way into her house. Being as how she was a little on the fat side, the general talk of the men around town — who didn’t care much for Mrs. Owens because she was a Yankee and apt to remind folks constantly that the North won the war — named this momentous event The Race of Two Hogs.

“Anyway, Mrs. Owens’s husband, Jason, who wore a beard and dressed in stiff clothes, shot the hog on his front porch with a shotgun, but not before he blew off the porch steps, knocked down a support post, and dropped the roof on the hog and himself. The hog recovered, Mr. Owens didn’t.”

from The Bottoms, Joe R. Lansdale

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