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02-27-04: Rot Till You Drop With Kate Christensen

'The Epicure's Lament' and the Joy of Rot

Kate Christensen at KUSP.
Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kate Christensen, the author of 'In the Drink', 'Jeremy Thrane' and 'The Epicure's Lament'. 'The Epicure's Lament' is filled with writing that you'll want to read aloud. Told by Hugo Whittier, a grumbling curmudgeon who is consistently fascinating, 'The Epicure's Lament' is a masterpiece of bleak, black humor. Kate talked to me about Hugo's love of rot and told about ducks being hung upside-down until their internal organs liquefy and deliquesce through their beaks dripping on to the ground below. What I think the readers will find fascinating are the consistently dark, black-humored characters who literally take over her novels. She also talked about the antecedents of her novel, Michel de Montainge and MFK Fisher. For someone who writes about the kind of people that you really love to detest, Kate herself is eminently non-detestable. The strain of darkness that runs through 'The Epicure's Lament' is consistently hilarious and constantly enjoyable. So is Kate. Spend a half hour with her and I'm sure you'll agree that we have a writer whose twist is equal to her talent, producing a salubriously pitch-black literature. The interview is now online in MP3 and RealAudio formats. Listen up and you'll learn the recipe for garum, a Roman delicacy made from rotted fish guts. You know you need to know this!

02-26-04: Noreascon & Hugo Noms

Online Hugo Voting

Here come the Hugos.

While I've said I'm not likely to go to Noreascon 4, that doesn't stop me from at least suggesting nominations for this year's Hugo awards. As a member of Torcon 3, I aapparently get to help nominate for this year, and I fully intend to do so using the online tool provided by Noreascon.

The question of what to nominate is something that will take time and input. I'd be happy to hear from readers what they think worthy of Hugo nomination, and of course, I have my own ideas. Readers looking for a decent set of suggestions as to what to nominate for Hugos would do well to look at the Emerald City website. Cheryl Morgan is really on top of the science fiction world, and can certainly help narrow down the incredibly wide field. As it happens, I'm about to step into my Hugo reading time, since I have not yet managed to read lots of the best works from last year. As I hear from readers, and get my reading done, I'll have to hurry. The deadline is midnight, Eastern Standard Tribe, er time of March 25, 2004.

0-00-04: Garish, Ghoulish and Great

Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Life, by Beverly Gray, Corman Staffer Tells All!

An agonizing coffee tablee book.
Like many an Agony-column reader, about the time I was first discovering the thrills of genre fiction, I was first experiencing the thrills of genre film from via the work of uber-producer Roger Corman. So when I saw this unauthorized bio on the shelves of KUSP, I snagged it without an iota of guilt. At precisely the age I was enjoying the salacious rewards of Mickey Spillane covers, Vampirella comics and grinning-skull-on-fire Lancer paperback editions of H. P. Lovecraft, I was also spending my Saturday afternoons watching 'Dementia 13' on Channel 11's Chiller, and later on Creature Features. 'Dementia 13' was the work of a youngish director named Francis Ford Coppola. But there were numerous other movies as well; 'The Beast With 10,000 Eyes', 'Attack of the Giant Leeches', 'The Creature from the Haunted Sea' and 'Planet of Blood', a movie that really scared me, which featured John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Dennis Hopper and even Forrest Ackerman. The "monster on a spaceship" theme is cited as an influence on 'Alien'. Roger Corman played a major part in permanently warping my mind.

Beverly Gray has worked for Corman as a story editor and development executive, assisting Corman on some 170 productions. Hired as an English post-doc for her credentials, she left the company, was rehired, then laid off by Corman. She interviewed more than 80 of Corman's colleagues to put together this book. It covers his career in chronological order, from 1948 to the year 2000, and includes over 70 pages of notes, a filmography, and a list of the work of the giants he's ushered into the business. As such, it can pass for a coffee table tome or a sit-down-and-read-it experience. While I'm not the most avid moviegoer or all that interested in movie people, if I were to be, then Corman would be at the top of my list. And once I get my coffee table back -- sans Jimmy Hoffa -- this book is going to live there with my JK Potter collections.

02-24-04: Catching Up with FT and New MMPB British Fantasy

Drugs, Drugs, Drugs & Flying Saucers

No, my subscription to Fortean Times has not lapsed. It's just that it's been such a busy book season that I've not yet had a chance to bring you reports on the latest issues. Yet the two last issues, FT180 and FT181, just out, are chock full of the kind of things that my readers absolutely must know about. Let's take a quick look to ensure that you want to drive in the rain to the bookstore and purchase the damn things, or even go ahead and subscribe. I must say though, it would be nice if they let you know when your sub was going to expire. But it's kind of a loose operation there, and at least they get the issues to me. They're a total favorite in my house. I can't keep the kids away from them, and who would want to, what with such child-appropriate and friendly issues such as  DRUGS. DRUGS. DRUGS.

"Free Your Mind" with the Fortean crew and a cover that should go down in history. It's not the kind of thing they'll happily stock in the high school library, however. But the DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS issue has some fascinating stuff. Yes, and those tantalizing headlines don't even cover the best stuff. I was totally captivated by Jeff Koyen's article on Salvia divinorum. This lovely little plant, when smoked at a high temperature, induces a sort of instant otherworld that needs to be read to be believed. And since Koyen, like any good follower of the Jekyll school of medicine, practiced as he preached, you get a gripping first person perspective -- and what a perspective -- on the effects of this little-known herb. Look kids, don't try this at home. Because no major political-contributing industry, like the alcohol or tobacco lobby, is going to make a red cent if you do.

Crash-pad FT-style.
Phew! And that was just last month! This month, we're crash-landing saucers and dealing with dead aliens. It's CSI Roswell with a look at the Aztec, new Mexico UFO crash of 1948. Hitler-loving Dr. Gee, the non-anonymous source behind Frank Scully's famous UFO book "Behind the Flying Suacers" was a man with a thick FBI file and lots of aliases. If you love your UFO conspiracies dense and ludicrous, this is your cup of alien java. This issue also covers the rapidly-becoming-tiresome subject of Diana conspiracies. Presumably, Elton John didn't make enough money off of WonderWaif, so a new generation of sensation seekers is answering the clarion call. And finally -- more interesting to me -- there's an article on the shape-shifters of the Marquesas Islands. What more can you ask -- great cover art and the two-headed turtle. Yes, that's an actual two-headed turtle, not an oblique reference to two issues of FT.

New British Fantasy

A feast for readers.

While American audiences tend to get fed a steady diet of standard heroic fantasy, the UK publishers offer something that's really pretty different. Yes, you can read an excerpt chapter from the eternally forthcoming fantasy by George R. R. Martin over at *.*. Sate your thirst thusly, and don't spring for bargain basement imitators, because they're clamoring at your doorstop. If it's the chapter he read us at Worldcon in 2003, it's a pretty rockin' deal. I enjoyed it immensely. I only hope I have time to play catch-up reader before this part four is dropped on our doorstep.

But the UK publishers are offering something really different. At Worldcon 2003, Torcon, I guess, I met Miller Lau, a charming young lady, at the Liz Williams Kaffeeklatsch. She's just released the third book in a series that couldn't be more different from the kind of standard heroic fantasy you find filling the shelves on this side of the pond. 'Lore Bringer', in spite of the Mammoth cover, involves the Sidhe, otherworlds, Navajo elders and a spirit walk in Scotland. Crossing from one world to the other, they are confronted with flayed men who kill with their touch. Not a nice reception but the kind of thing I like to read about in my copious spare time. Yes all this and not a swordquest in sight.
Miller Lau and Michael Cobley offer excellent new choices for British fantasy.

Meanwhile, Michael Cobley's 'Shadowkings' has a sequel, 'Shadowgod'. Here we have fantasy UK-style; dark and dense with evil, demons and mirrorchildren. I remember being piqued by curiosity when the first novel, 'Shadowkings' came out. The ever-reliable Alien Online compared it with Erikson's saga, which itself is often compared with George R. R. Martin's saga. And while we're back to being compared to Martin and the heroic standard, at least we've got there via some well-received work.

Thanks Les Edwards!
And finally there's the kind of fantasy that makes my best reading of last year list; that would be Ian R. Macleod's 'The Light Ages', now available in an Edward Miller (Les Edwards) anointed cover in mass market paperback. Now, I'm calling this novel fantasy as a matter of convenience, so I don't have to add another row to this damn HTML table or wrench my readers out of their contemplative state. That's because, properly speaking, 'The Light Ages' is science fiction, not fantasy. It might be mistaken for fantasy because at the heart of the novel is the concept that aether, the force that makes magic, has been identified and mined for nearly two hundred years as this novel starts. But Macleod's treatment of aether is strictly science fictional, which contrasts nicely with his wistful, nostalgic tone. This is a beautiful novel, with a coming sequel that we eagerly await. Moreover, you get the ever-lovely work of Les Edwards to grace your shelves until the time you are able to afford to buy an original.