Dog Sees God, and so should you!

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DOG SEES GOD: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

The Oakland Center for the Arts will present Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead on March 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 28, and 29 at 8 pm, and March 16 at 2 pm.

 

This is an “unauthorized parody” that features the Peanuts gang – all grown up! Written by Bert V. Royal, this dark comedy takes place ten years after the events in the fifty-year-running comic strip. It begins with CB’s account of the day he had Snoopy put to sleep…and goes down hill from there!

 

 

Cast members include Gary Shackleford, Alecia Sarkis, Brooke Slanina, Denise Glinatsis, Suzanne Shorrab, Ric Panning, Greg Mocker, and Amato D’Apolito. The production is directed by Robert Dennick Joki. This show contains mature language and adult situations.

 

 

The Oakland is located at 220 West Boardman Street in downtown Youngstown. For more information about the Oakland, visit oaklandcenter.com. Reservations can be made by calling 330-746-0404.

Are you up to it?

If you haven’t read it, go out now and purchase the new issue of Harpers magazine. Ursula K. Le Guin has the most perspicacious (not to mention a bit angry) essay on the state of reading, and the book, and the social bonding capacity of books, and their capacity to house cultural information and memory, and how capitalism applied to publishing in extreme undermines the very function of books: a commonwealth experience, rather than one of personal profit or self-interest.

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A favorite passage:

Besides, readers aren’t viewers; they recognize their pleasure as different from that of being entertained. Once you’ve pressed the ON button, the TV goes on, and on, and on, and all you have to do is sit and stare. But reading is active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness–not all that different from hunting, in fact, or from gathering. In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it–everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not “interactive” with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.

Datlow’s issue of Subterranean

pic_subterranean007_b.jpgI’m reading the Ellen Datlow edited issue of Subterranean lately, and am having a really good time. The magazine could easily be the core of an awesome horror anthology, which is of course one of Ellen Datlow’s specialities, so it’s no surprise to find exciting, well-written and disturbing stories in this issue. Here’s the lowdown on the stories I’ve read so far.

 

“Vacancy” by Lucius Shepard

Shepard’s specialty is the novella, a form mainly found these days in speculative fiction. And he does deliver the horror – a Lovecraftian style with, in this story, Filipino variations. But his real strength, and this is especially true in “Vacancy”, is his naturalistic detail, his grasp in his stories set in this country of current American customs and dreams.

Cliff Coria, the central character, is a used car salesman on the Florida coast. The sunbaked world of motels, car lots and oceanside bars is as nicely evoked as in any realistic detective novel. Then as an added bonus of reading about Coria’s prior life as a Hollywood actor B movie division (well, really C or D movie before he’s through) and his fateful time in the Philippines working on a series of remarkably skuzzy horror films. It’s all interesting but in some ways the curse Coria finds himself under is less terrible than Shepard’s account of the American Dream on the rocks. It’s handled quite nicely.

“Holiday” by M. Rickert and “Pirates of the Somali Coast” by Terry Bisson

These two stories, in some ways, have the same theme, the same mix of innocence intertwined with depravity. M. Rickert works variations on themes of scandal and child abuse. The son of a man imprisoned for crimes against minors finds himself haunted and seduced by the ghosts of small girls when he should be writing a book about his father. Disturbingly enough this begins to make sense. Which is even more disturbing. One thing Rickert will always do in her stories is turn the screw until you think it can’t screw any tighter, and then she’ll screw it once more for good measure.

Bisson reminds us that childhood innocence is a legal concept – his pirate obsessed pre-adolescent male is capable of crime but not capable of understanding its reality, what it means. I thought of Treasure Island and Jim Hawkins and how at the end of that story we’re really not sure the pirate life is not the one for him.

“King of the Big Night Hours” by Richard Bowes

Rick Bowes has been writing stories from this central narrator’s point of view for the past year or so, a writer telling horrific stories set in New York City post 9/11 mostly. In this story he explores the rash of suicides that occurred at NYU’s library, and the effects it has on students, faculty and staff, as well as recalling the tale of a security guard known as the King of the Big Night Hours among university employees, a mysterious man from Jamaica who the narrator recalls in relationship to the dark events occurring recently. As usual, Bowes gives us a portrait of New York that few writers of place can match.

I’ll say little about Jeffrey Ford’s “At the Bottom of the Lake” except it’s a real writer’s writer’s nightmare.  I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, a meditation on the imagination and its horrors.

This is as far as I’ve gotten, but I’m looking forward to reading Anna Tambour’s, Lisa Tuttle’s, and the cowritten story by Joel Lane and John Pelan. The price of the magazine, though, has already been satisfied by the stories I’ve read thus far. Check it out.

All about me…

Over at The Swivet there’s a reallllllly long interview with me, and is also giving away copies of One for Sorrow if you answer one question for Colleen in the comments. Hey, free books, what’s not to love?

And the so-called Barzak World Domination Day has begun, thanks to the evil machinations of one Matt Cheney over at the Mumpsimus, where there is also a Q&A with me (much shorter than the one at the Swivet). Matt will eventually be collecting links to the various factions, religious sects and militias that he contacted over the past week to participate in this world domination day, and so will Brooke over at the Stage’s blog. Until then, you can also check out Gwenda’s blog, where I’ve written something essayist (jeez, am I long-winded!) and Colleen’s blog, where she has really cool photos! There are others I’ve run across already–wow, you guys are fast!–but I’m almost late for school, so later!

There goes the neighborhood

The Lutheran church across the street from my apartment building set up a little performance area tonight, with a backdrop cloth that said “Elvis Lives”. When the sun went down, fifteen cars showed up, then people got out of their cars with folding chairs and arranged them about fifty feet across the parking lot from the Elvis Lives platform. Someone turned multi-colored lights on the backdrop, and then Elvis came out and sang Elvis karaoke. Everyone sat in their chairs. No one clapped or got up and danced, except for one heavy-set woman who kept venturing out, shaking her booty, clapping, who would occasionally turn around to the other audience members and try to encourage them to come closer towards the parking lot Elvis. No one did. Elvis complained a little in a light-hearted way about their bad manners. He sang a few more songs. I was sitting on the front stoop of my apartment building, catching a breeze and watching the surreality occur across the street from me. A black girl carrying a plastic sack of groceries in her grip was walking down the street toward me. When she came to the spot on the sidewalk in front of me, she stopped, looked over at the Elvis impersonator and the zombie crowd of Lutherans watching him, then turned to me and said, “There goes the neighborhood,” and carried on her way.

Realms of Fantasy

cover.jpgDoug Cohen, slush reader for Realms of Fantasy, is having an ongoing discussion over a series of posts on his livejournal about the status of speculative short fiction magazines, focusing on the one he knows best, the one he works at, which has led from a post about the slow death of short fiction venues to a retrospective look at the beginning issues of Realms of Fantasy, and has brought him to the question of asking readers what, in fact, they want in a speculative fiction magazine.

I think it’s very cool that Doug is journaling about such issues so publicly. You won’t see something like this being done very often, and it’s because there are really far too many people with far too many varied tastes to actually give every single person what they want in a magazine. In one post, Doug talks about how some people accuse genre magazines of publishing too many stories that would mainly only be appreciated by other writers. But as I’ve said in a comment to Doug already, if this were true of Realms of Fantasy, whoever says that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. From its inception, Realms as been focused on fantasy, and fantasy of all varieties, publishing in each issue high fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, mythic fiction, and more. In fact, I’ve heard this same argument before, that magazines publish too many stories of interest only to writers, but usually when I hear this it’s not in connection with Realms. If there are people who would accuse the editor of Realms of that, they really don’t know what they’re talking about, as if this were true, stories from that magazine would appear on the Nebula Award nomination list more regularly. The Nebula Award is voted on by the writers of the genre, and sadly the writers often ignore the stories in that magazine. So if anything, perhaps Realms of Fantasy is more of a magazine for readers than writers, if you want to use that as a measurement.

Having said that, I would also like to say that the whole reader/writer story debate is a little silly, in my opinion. Writers are readers, and many readers are writers. When I write, I write stories I’d like to read. And because I’m aware that as I’ve aged and matured and gone through many phases in my own life, I sometimes write stories that I know my 18 year old self would love versus my 24 year old self, or my thirty year old self. There’s that saying about how some books and stories you have to read at certain ages, and I think that’s true. And as a writer, being aware of that, I know not everyone of every demographic is going to like every single thing I write because sometimes I’m writing for different age groups, or different audiences. The thing is, there’s room for all of those audiences under one roof. And I think Shawna McCarthy at Realms of Fantasy has done a really great job of selecting a wide variety of fantasy that people of diverse backgrounds will enjoy. I know I have since I was 19 years old and came across issue 3 of the magazine, the first issue I found, and discovered Charles DeLint for the first time. His story “The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep” excited me. I’d never read urban fantasy much before that. And I went out looking for his work at the bookstore later on that afternoon. I haven’t read a lot of Charles’s fiction since around age twenty or so, but it was really essential to me when I did find it. It opened up new doors. And that’s because I found it in Realms of Fantasy. They’re having a subscription drive right now, and you can get a free issue by subscribing, so why not check it out for yourself?

You can stand under my umbrella

A return to a mood I have not felt in a while.

Recently I have been sort of obsessed with the song “Umbrella” which is sung by the very popular Barbados-born Rihanna. And when I say popular, I mean popular. You go to this woman’s myspace page and look at how many “friends” she has. Over 900,000. That just sort of blows my mind, people myspacing so much that you can get over 900,000 people under the same virtual tent. But back to my recent obsession with “Umbrella”. Like most Rihanna songs, it both attracts and repels me. I love the general tune, and the sentiment of the lyrics really grab me, but Rihanna herself sings them in way that feels less sincere than the lyrics themselves. At least, this is the case for “Umbrella”. In another case, the lyrics are kind of a problem as well as Rihanna singing the song in the first place. Such as “Unfaithful” a big hit of hers when was it? Last year or two years ago? I’m not sure. I’m not going to look it up either, but you know, in the recent past. The problem with “Unfaithful” is that the singer is basically feeling bad and guilty because she Can’t Stop Having Sex With Other Men and can see how this hurts her boyfriend so much that he is slowly dying. She says, “I don’t want to be a murderer.” And yet it seems to me like she’s saying, But I Can’t Stop Having Sex With Other Men! What a dilemma! Boyfriend slowly dying, sex with other men, I don’t know, which is more important?

It’s easy to forgive a song like “Unfaithful” because the song itself is so utterly flawed and stupid because of the basic narrative of the lyrics. I just can’t sympathize, you know? But songs like “Umbrella”, which has actually quite touching lyrics, irk me, because I love their essence and become irritated because they feel less “felt” or “sincere” when in particular being sung by Rihanna.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my Rihanna bashing here, it’s done with love. I can’t help but like the girl, I guess. She’s so cute and despite her not being the person I think best for some of her songs, she has an interesting sound in the way of commercial music. And she’s from Barbados. Awesome.

When it comes to “Umbrella” though, I find myself kind of crushing on Scott Simons’ version, which I found the other day and have been obsessing on in a happy way, as opposed to my frustrated obsessing over Rihanna’s version. In any case, I’m playing the Scott Simons version of the song over at my Myspace page, and you should go take a listen. You can also follow the link to Rihanna’s Myspace and listen to her version and also the aforementioned terrible song “Unfaithful”. I’m charmed by Scott Simons’ version. I will now go stand under his umbrella.

More Happy Things

First:

The finished copy of the book came today!

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Me acting like a grade school boy with his spelling bee award or something to that effect.

And second:

guardian3.jpgThe Endicott Studio’s Journal of the Mythic Arts has its Summer YA issue live now. They’ve got fantastic stories, poetry, art and essays over there, so go take a look. My story “The Guardian of the Egg” is reprinted in the issue. It originally appeared in Salon Fantastique. Now it has artist Greg Spalenka’s work illustrating it, and it’s really fantastic. I love it. The girl with the tree growing out of her head has only been visually represented by one other artist, and that artist doesn’t actually know it. I took inspiration for the story from Leonora Carrington’s painting, “The Giantess” along with the story of Daisy Head Maisy by Dr. Suess. In any case, go take a look at the issue. It has work by Gwenda Bond, Jeffrey Ford, Holly Black, Steve Berman, Terri Windling, Midori Snyder, Will Shetterly and Catherynne Valente, among others. You can’t get a quarterly publication for free that’s better than this one, I think. So take advantage of it.

Lastly, pictures from mine and Tony’s trip to NYC this month are in my Flickr box in the sidebar. We did a lot of sightseeing. Some of the pictures are really nice, thanks to the sights we were seeing. My favorites are the ones at the Cloisters, but I love the memories of the dark piano bar we visited called Marie’s Crisis.