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01-10-03 : Almost (A)Live at Spookycon

It's quiet....too quiet...

I'm attending my second "real" convention, and enjoying Spookycon, though it's a whole different deal than Worldcon was. Actually, the quiet part is very nice, since attendees have time and space to actually talk to one another. I managed to make it up to San Francisco by 1 PM. Getting to the hotel was actually rather easy, and parking, though no bargain at $23mumblymumbles per day is at least convenient.

I really wish, in retrospect, that I had done this for Worldcon, where I spent so much time driving, to the point of my well-publicized accident. Of course, I've had my share of automotive follies here as well.

I checked out the dealer room, which featured Alan Clark, selling copies of 'Imagination Fully Dilated 2'. It amazes me that collection like this can get published and sell in times like these. But, like the first, it's fantastically beautiful and filled with stories by name-brand authors.

The main event of the first day was a panel featuring David Schow, Geoff Cooper and Ramsey Campbell. I've heard of Cooper, but haven't read any of his work recently. The topic was 'What's all this about horror, then?', or something like that, with persistent types like myself and one other very articulate fellow in the audience trying to help the participants keep the discussion moving. Schow was was funny, at one point observing trenchantly that "'Rosemary's Baby' was the atom bomb and 'The Exorcist' was the fallout." It's interesting to note how many writers cite Ira Levin as a primal influence -- Chuck Palahniuk talked about him as well in his interview. Schow had the highest praise possible for the virtues of online publishing, saying he had made more money from short fiction sold to legitimate online venues than from short fiction sold elsewhere. He particularly praised

The big event of last night was a mass signing at Borderlands Books. It was a very nice store with a vast selection, from which I took a copy of Charles G. Finney's 'The Magician Out of Manchuria' by Charles Grant. It was beautiful, illustrated, pristine, and only twenty bucks. Pretty good for a book-aholic to get out that cheap. But there were a few distractions, including unexpected guest Simon Clarke, author Vampyrrhic, Darkness Demands, The Fall, and a host of bloody horror novels. My predilection to order his stuff has permanently colored what Mark Ziesing thinks of me. As you might expect, he's one hell of a nice guy.

On the other hand, getting to the signing was literally a case of hell on wheels. Up until the start of this convention, the weather here in Northern California had been positively summerish. It was warm, sunny, beautiful. As I left the morning of Spookycon, it began to rain, and it was raining as I left the garage of the hotel trying to remember the incredibly complex directions to get to the bookstore.

One of the vendors had given me a thumbnail sketch, but when I had the garage guy enhance it for m, he added in all sorts of turns that were required because there are so many one-way streets in San Francisco. I launched myself out into the rain and found I could not see the lines on the streets, barely painted over the tram tracks. When I finally got in the vicinity of the bookstore, I got sidelined into a one-way street going in the exact opposite direction that I wanted to travel in. Only through some unknown bit of luck did I find myself on the correct street, and I parked two blocks away and walked in occasionally howling rain.

Curiously enough, I found myself walking past Leather Tongue Video, the store where I bought tickets to see the Survival Research Lab show in what -- 1994? I had made a special trip back then to SF to buy the tickets. To find that shop in the black, rain-soaked, wind-torn night was somehow reassuring.

The signing itself was well-attended, and books were bought. I quizzed one convention attendee about he bag of books and found Schow, Clark and Campbell. Well, if you come to conventions and find yourself buying excellent books, then you've certainly done yourself a favor.

I tried to find a restaurant in the area that I had been to and enjoyed on the way back, and managed, against all odds to drive right past it when I had already given up and was clenching the steering wheel, just trying to get back to the hotel. Alas, no parking. What did I expect, anyway?

What I did find was that I was driving in Bus Only lanes, and hemmed in by more one-way-no-turn streets that a character in a horror movie. Upon my return to the hotel, I went downstairs to join about 7 other guys watching the kind of horror movie that gives horror a bad name, 'The Convent', hosted by Mike Mendez. My back rebelled after too long in one of those rubber-chicken-special convention seats, and went upstairs to read Jordan's latest until 1.20 AM.

This morning's conversation with Ramsey Campbell was supposed to be a taped interview for Fine Print, but they were jack hammering below. We rescheduled for the morrow with the thought that the jackhammerers would not be working on Saturday morning. But Ramsey did pass on some interesting reading suggestions. He suggested Barrington Bayley, who writes 'philosophical science fiction' and has titles from Wildside and some POD titles as well.

Sarah Smith's 'A Citizen in the Country' turned up in the Reading Group list online. It sounds pretty intriguing.

He also mentioned Sarah Smith, an intriguing writer whose novel 'A Citizen of the Country' popped up first in my Google search.

Well, I've got to get back to the convention. More journals later. Let me know if there is anything *you* want to know.

01-09-03 : Tor UK Aims for World Conquest

Here's the cover of one of the three titles launching for Tor UK this year. If this title and cover does not grab you, how about this:

"Outlink station Miranda has been destroyed by a nanomycelium, and the very nature of this sabotage suggests that the alien bioconstruct Dragon -- a creature as untrustworthy as it is gigantic -- is somehow involved.

Sent out on a titanic Polity dreadnought, the Occam Razor, agent Cormac must investigate the disaster, and also resolve the question of Masada, a world about to be subsumed as the Line of Polity is drawn across it.

But the rogue biophysicist Skellor has not yet been captured, and he now controls something so potent that Polity AIs will hunt him down forever to prevent him using it.

Meanwhile on Masada, the long-term rebellion can never rise above-ground, as the slave population is subjugated by orbital laser arrays controlled by the Theocracy in their cylinder worlds, and by the fact that they cannot safely leave their labour compounds. For the wilderness of Masada lacks breathable air … and out there roam monstrous predators called hooders and siluroynes, not to mention the weird and terrible gabbleducks."

When Neal Asher deploys the gabbleducks, I will be there. You should as well, but you'll likely want to read 'Gridlinked' and 'The Skinner' (one of my top ten, no twenty, no twenty one) first.

Next up we have a "lyrical fantasy". Yep, that first gave me a bit of the willies, but when I found out the premise, I was much more interested....

Here's the blurbology:

"The Meq are a rare and ancient and enigmatic race who originated in the Basque Pyrenees. While some of them may be hundreds - even thousands - of years old, they retain the physical appearance of twelve-year-olds. Over the course of time they have played witness and catalyst to some of the most glorious and shameful events in history.

This is the story of Zianno Zezen &endash; commonly known as "Z" - and it commences in 1881, on an ill-fated train journey through the Rocky Mountains. Rescued by a bearded stranger, befriended by orphans, beguiled by kin and burdened by revenge, Z begins his quest to understand the Meq, their purpose, and their secrets. From the midwestern city of St. Louis all the way to China, Africa, England, and many points in between, Z's pursuit is a classic adventure of spirit and imagination.

This first novel of a trilogy introduces a race of people who behave entirely like humans, yet always, first and last, remain themselves &endash; the Meq. Never predictable, full of insight, marvel, and surprise, it is a beautiful chronicle of endless discovery. And, as the young at heart know, it is never too late for that."

Yes, you might worry about that young at heart -- I'm as old as the goddamned hills these days -- but the premise has lots of promise. We'll see if the text lives up to the potential. Steve Cash was a songwriter for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils -- and he's stayed at home raising the kids, writing songs and reading ever since. I like that portion of the resume.

And finally, there's this -- small picture as I don't have the final cover yet....

But, now (one hour later) thanks to the magic of the Internet and the dilligence of those folks at Tor UK, we have the real cover -- and it's rather nice. This is one I'm definitely looking forward to.

They also described this as fantasy. Again, at first my heart sank a bit. But the blurbology tells a different story....

"The Final Conflict is about to erupt on Hove's bowling green

A diabolical book spoke of shellfish falling from the sky, and men in skirts on Brighton beach, and all the while a monster, unstuck in time, clattered around the universe …

The Prophecy has come to pass, and eternal night is over! For the first time in over a thousand years, the sun rises over the battlements of Castle Limbo, and the King realises he's in big trouble. For he is one of the few to have read the full text of The Prophecy -- and the awful fate predicted for him should a newborn child survive until its first birthday.

So now the Great Terror is about to commence. And to add to the King's troubles, his long-banished brothers, the fiendishly cunning Gildroy and the totally hideous Norval, are planning their murderous come-back …

Meanwhile, a different type of mayhem is erupting on Brighton seafront … where newsagent and fantasy enthusiast Rex Boggs is about to emerge as the unlikely hero in this time of chaos. It all begins with giant garbage-eating clams - and spacewoman Serena Kowalski - plummeting to earth …

Otherwise it's just another day of fun at the seaside."

Andy Secombe is an actor who had some success in a movie titled 'Star Wars'.

OK, now to my mind, twenty years ago, these titles would have been marketed as horror, 'The Meq' fitting in with the Anne Rice vampire vibe, and Secombe's novel mapping into the 'Good Omens' vibe. Today they're fantasy. Whatever label you want to slap on them, they look intriguing and the Asher to my mind has a good chance of being one of the best novels of this year.

The Tor UK roster includes Justina Robson and Phil Rickman. That's some hot stuff. Could they conquer the world? If nought else, it's a fascinating match up with Victor Gollancz's titles -- which you'll be seeing here shortly. Call your credit card companies and get them to raise your limits. Do your part to both help lift and escape from this sagging economy.

I'm off to Spookycon in a few hours. I'm lugging the iMac, the printer, the DAT, two microphones and a box of ten DATs for the duration. I've even arranged with my Web Hosting company, to have local dial-up access while I'm there. Very nice of them. So I should be able to make some updates as the convention progresses.

01-08-03 : More Shores

My thanks to Sandy at Books & Books in Calgary, Canada, who also sent me a scan of this wonderful cover. If you're in town, stop by and pick it up, just to give your kids nightmares.

01-07-03 : Graham Joyce's & Mark Ziesing's Latest

Graham Joyce's Latest


This just arrived yesterday from Cold Tonnage. It's the latest Graham Joyce novel about a family of seven sisters living in Coventry, England. I'm hoping to have a new columnist take a look at this and a couple of other books. We'll see if this comes off. Joyce is a novelist of consistent high quality. I buy his books get lukewarm about them, then when I actually read, find that they're fantastically good.

Ziesing's Latest


This also arrived yesterday from Mark Ziesing. It's the latest catalogue, which includes mention of a new novel by Simon Clark, Jeff Noon and a host of Leisure paperbacks that look pretty interesting. Miss this opportunity to separate yourself from a vast amount of money at your own risk.


01-06-03 : Schedules and Comments, Pullman RealAudio

Schedules and Comments

I'm currently pondering who much I can realistically put up on this website in the upcoming year. My hope is to put up at least a couple of 'classic' reviews per week (like today's look at M. Gira's powerful but pungent 'The Consumer'), and two to four columns per month. But if events here at the onset are any indication, it's going to be something of a challenge. I'll be at Spookycon from 1/9 through 1/12. The hotel has no wired-up ethernet access to the Internet, so if I'm able to update at all, it will have to be via a dialup that I arrange specifically for the conference. I'm not sure I can (or want to) do this, as it could be both painful and expensive. I'm also not sure about the lug-abilty of the iMac I use to do this whole shtick. It's an absolute first-gen iMac, and I'd really hate to muck it up. Any thoughts? Email me.

BBC Pullman RealAudio

At the 2002 Worldcon, I happened to see one Mark Leeper, long known to me as one of the premiere reviewers on the internet from the days when the messages were transferred by mules dragging UUCP packets over the backbones that spanned the nations. I rudely introduced myself to him and managed to get added on to his mailing MT Void list, wherein he (and Evelyn Leeper) distribute some of the best reviews of movies and books you can hope to find. You can subscribe by sending email to: Via MT Void special message, I got this update, worthy of your interest:

"The first of the Pullman HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy [NORTHERN LIGHTS, U.S. title THE GOLDEN COMPASS] was played on Saturday (4 Jan) and is available for the next few days at:

It is two-and-a-half hours long. Next Saturday (11 Jan) that same address will hold book two, and on 18 Jan, book three. (We don't know if the older chapters will stay available, so don't wait. Mark says they generally don't.)

is the main page for the series." Thanks Mark and Evelyn!