01-06-11:Ray Garton Reads "Second Opinion" at SF in SF on October 23, 2010
"Do you know what it's like to cut up your best friend with a hacksaw?"
Leave it to Ray Garton to start out story with this line. Garton does not even know that there is top to go over. I can remember my first discovery of Ray Garton, the cheesy paperback of "Live Girls," which, by the way, I believe that I still have. And that was relatively late in the game, actually; he'd built up his reputation with previous cheesy paperbacks. But Garton brings such a sense of intense purity to his work that it's hard to think he's anything but a quintessential American writer. With a serious violent streak.
Of course, Ray Garton is the nicest man in the world when you meet him. And as you can hear in John Shirley's entertaining introduction, he's one of the most highly regarded writers of horror fiction. Watching him read his story was a great lesson is contradiction. Here's this guy who looks and talks like the nicest English teacher you'd ever meet. He's well read, intelligent and has a very interesting background in religion in his personal history.
Then he starts to read a story and your hair spends the next thirty minutes growing greyer as the result of Garton's gift for terror. And he really does understand terror well for a writer with a penchant for gore and violence. Sure you may see a man cut up his best friend with a hacksaw somewhere in one of his stories, but Gartonb knows how to bring you to that vision with a maximum of fear and understanding.
01-05-11:John Shirley Reads at SF in SF on October 23, 2010
"What could be glowing, sulfurous yellow, within the water of a pool hidden beneath a lighthouse?"
John Shirley was the master of ceremonies at the October SF in SF Halloween Celebration, but happily he did not excuse himself from reading at least a portion of an unhappy story he has written. Perhaps I am being presumptuous, having only heard a portion of Lovecraftian derring-do, with a good side order of ichor. But I must admit, the prospects for any character who has the unfortunate luck of being in a John Shirley story are not good, unless you're the reader — or in the audience at a reading.
John Shirley has been one of my favorite writers for just about as long as I have been seriously collecting books; which looks to be about 25 years now. His collection for Scream/Press, 'Heatseeker' is still among my favorites. But what is interesting about this reading, beyond the compelling story itself, is how it casts a light on those, now very old, but still very powerful short stories.
The story that Shirley reads is a Lovecraftian tale, drawn in part from the life of Lovecraft. You'll hear Shirley say just what you need to hear — no more, then you'll hear his reading of a new story for 'Black Wings II,' a Lovecraftian anthology edited by S. T. Joshi. (You can find Mario Guslandi's review of 'Black Wings' here.)
But as I listened to Shirley's newest story, I began to think about those very cyberpunk stories in 'Heatseeker.' One of the reasons I liked the book so much was the deep sense of horror that Shirley brought to his science fiction. But it was only now that I realized the Lovecraft influence on his science fiction, and that the horror in both styles of story stems from that ability to channel the endlessness of the universe into a place where readers can gaze at an abyss that gazes back at them.
I'm thinking here particularly of "Under the Generators," which, in retrospect, seems like the sort of story that Lovecraft would have loved, if not written. You can hear John Shirley doing what he does best — reading his wonderful short story — by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
01-04-10-11:Rain Graves Reads Poetry at SF in SF for Halloween, 2010
"I've decided to let you all in on a little secret that I'm working on."
Listening to her poetry, one would not think that Rain Graves is big on secrecy. Her work thrives in passionately over-the-top emotions and murderous action. So it's not surprising that she spills her secret before she can even get into a reading of her poetry. The truth of course is that poetry itself is a spilling of secrets.
Graves' performance at SF in SF's Halloween celebration was appropriately frightening. She didn't mess around and gives little introduction to any of the poem she reads. Some were read from 'Barfodder: Poetry Written in Dark Bars and Questionable Cafes' (Cemetery Dance ; January 19, 2009 ; $20), and, one would presume, written in the bars and questionable cafes that are so easily found in San Francisco. Some even serve as the settings of her poems. Some.
Poetry cannot be simply read aloud — at least not by Graves, and certainly not these poems. They are the kind of work that readers will speak aloud as they rise form the page, as gases, as a pestilence of fat flies, as words freed from this world, sent to the next, and then brought back against their will.
Generally, I package the interviews I do at SF in SF separately from the readings, but in this case, I've added the interview on at the end of the reading. Due to time constraints — I was literally being hushed and pointed at to get Graves on stage so she could read — I could only get a very short interview with the author. So this podcast is a two-fer.
"I meant to spend all of November and December search through the old data sets, and I will admit to having looked at baby name books and developmental biology books..."
The storm was supposed to be epic. I'd been in Southern California for two days; on the way down, I literally drove through 400 miles of rain. But Wednesday was posed to be the worst of the worst, with flooding freeways, mudslides, even tornadoes. Accordingly, I left for Pasadena early. That proved to be a wise choice, because even though school was out, the streets were incredibly parked up. Mike Brown named one of his discoveries The Flying Dutchman ("Dutch" for short), and I thought I might share that fate.
I finally stopped and asked someone who happened to be in one of he Cal Tech offices where Mike Brown's office might be ("across the street," at least I was in the right place!) and where I might park ("Two blocks away." Yikes!) The weather had been extremely changeable; one second it would be brilliantly sunny with huge puffy clouds, the next, it was raining so hard you could barely see to drive. I imagined trudging two blocks in the pouring rain with my gear and cringed. I waffled, driving around in circles. I used language I could not use on the radio. I waffled more — which paid off. I saw a car leaving a spot across the street from Mike's office, and once they left, I ran a put my mic stand suitcase in the space, then went through the convoluted driving required to get there. Dutch no more, and even almost on time.
Mike Brown looks at one of the Schmidt plates from his first search.
It was quiet on the campus itself, and Mike was in his office working away. I set up and we sat down to talk. The conversation was easy — he's been interviewed a gajillion times, and he knows his stuff. I got to see some of his Schmidt telescope plates, including one with a little red dot next to a discovered object. It was as fun and as easy as interviews can get
I have to admit I was a bit worried, as I thought I had run a bit short. I really had no awareness of the time; it was something to do with his easy delivery and the office we were in, which had a huge window through which I watched with one eye the changing weather, which I'd be spending the next seven or so hours driving through. Fortunately, it was not raining when I finished, and I got my gear to my nearby parking space without facing the rain. But within five minutes of getting on the freeway, I found myself in a storm so severe I could barely see. It didn't stop me from going to Tommy's Hamburgers on Rampart — the Original Shack. On the drive home, I saw six rainbows and drove through alternating bouts of fierce sunshine and pouring rain.
08-21-15: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Senator Claire McCaskill is 'Plenty Ladylike' : Internalizing Determination to Overcome Sexism [Incudes Time to Read EP 211: Claire McCaskill, Plenty Ladylike, plus A 2015 Interview with Senator Claire McCaskill]
Agony Column Podcast News Report : Emily Schultz Unleashes 'The Blondes' : A Cure by Color [Incudes Time to Read EP 210: Emily Schultz, The Blondes, plus A 2015 Interview with Emily Schultz]