Archive for February, 2014

clamorThere are plenty of things I like in Gerry LaFemina’s novel “Clamor,” which is the story of a 39-year-old punk rocker going home for his father’s funeral. But it’s one of those books that I like just as much for what’s not in it. More on that presently.

When I was reading it, I found myself remembering a question that a black friend of mine once asked me more than a decade ago. Why don’t white people respect older musicians?

I told her that I don’t think that’s true. These days, older musicians such as Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello are regarded more as revered elder statesmen than creaky relics. But I could see where she was coming from.

In thinking of the musicians that white people are into, she was probably thinking of rock stars. (And for the time being, I’m not going to go into the oversimplified but certainly not meritless assertion that white people simply appropriated rock music from black people. That’s a big can of worms.) And the template for rock stars was forged, with some overlap in adjacent decades, in the youth-obsessed 1960s.

I remember a time not so long ago (By my standards. I’m no spring chicken myself.) when the mere act of getting older was considered a kind of failing on the part of rock musicians.

Back in 1989 when the Rolling Stones were on their Steel Wheels tour, a lot of my peers were making dismissive cracks about “Steel Wheelchairs.” As if the fact that the Stones were in their 40s — their freakin 40s! — meant they were far too old and decrepit to continue their careers, and it was pathetic of them to even try. I can’t see anybody harboring that attitude toward a painter or a writer. Or a classical musician, for that matter. (more…)

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Space girlTechnically, I guess I’m a science fiction writer. I mean, I’ve written exactly one science fiction story, and that was a parody. But what the heck, I wrote it and it’s going to be published in a forthcoming anthology.

As a writer, I identify more with the rubric “speculative fiction” — a blanket term encompassing science fiction, fantasy and horror. Still, I’m a lifelong science fiction fan. Maybe “lifelong” isn’t strictly accurate. Let’s just say since I was old enough to read.

Hands down, the best part of actually becoming a published author has been the chance to meet and interact with other writers, including some science fiction writers I admired as a kid. I’m old enough (47, for the record) to remember a time when science fiction was considered the purview of a small subculture of weirdos. Say what you will about the genre, but that certainly isn’t the case anymore. I’d be hard-pressed to think of an aspect of popular culture that hasn’t been directly or indirectly influenced by science fiction.

And as it’s become more mainstream, I’d like to think that the popular image of science fiction creators and fans has changed as well. Hey, guess what? We’re not all a bunch of sexually and socially stunted dorks.

As I said, I’d LIKE to think that’s what’s happened. Then I see something like this. And it makes me wonder if the science fiction community is truly free of that image. Or if it even deserves to be.

“Girls wanna join our club! Eeewwwww! Yucky!” Seriously guys. Grow the fuck up.

For the record, I can’t see any of the science fiction writers with whom I’ve interacted saying anything like that. Indeed, I’d make a point of NOT interacting with them if I ever heard them say something to that effect.

Still … call me a traitor to my kind, but this makes me suspect that maybe some guys urgently need to be shoved into a gym locker for old time’s sake.

TeelHere’s an earlier post about my meeting with Teel James Glenn — author, stuntman, martial artist and all-around awesome individual. Teel agreed to an interview with “Chamber of the Bizarre.”

Here’s the abridged version of his bio:

Teel James Glenn
Winner of the 2012 Pulp Ark ‘Best Author of the Year.’ Epic ebook award finalist. P&E winner “Best Steampunk Short”, finalist “Best Fantasy short, Collection” Author of bestselling Exceptionals Series, The Maxi/Moxie Series, The Dr. Shadows Series, The Bob Howard Series and others.
visit him at Theurbanswashbuckler.com
And here’s the interview:

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your background?

A: I was born in Brooklyn though I’ve traveled the world for forty years as a stuntman, fight choreographer, swordmaster, jouster, book illustrator, storyteller, bodyguard, carnival barker and actor. One of the things I’m proudest of is having studied under Errol Flynn’s last stunt doubles and continue to teach swordwork in New York.

I have had short stories published in Weird Tales, Mad, Black Belt, Fantasy Tales, Pulp Empire, Sixgun Western, Fantasy World Geographic, Silver Blade Quarterly, Another Realm, AfterburnSF, Blazing Adventures and scores of other publications. (more…)

I’ve got a lot of friends who are A) talented, and B) smart asses. That’s a dangerous combination. It started when a co-worker shot a picture of me working out in the office gym. I thought it was pretty funny, so I posted it as my Facebook picture.

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So my friend Jose decided it should be a meme, and my friend Travis took him up on that suggestion:

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And …

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Then my friend Peg broke out the Photoshop. (For background, my friends give me a hard time about how sappy I get around animals, especially kittens.)

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And then finally, my cousin Mike — the mad genius of Photoshop — produced this composition titled: “Look, I made a Congressman …”

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This past Saturday, I attended my first meeting of Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers in a while. As I’ve mentioned (whined about?) in some recent posts, I’ve been really busy lately and a lot of things got put on the back burner.

The meeting is in North Jersey and it’s a nearly two-hour drive for me. But it’s worth it. The group is made up of a very talented, professional and dedicated group of writers, and I always take away something valuable.

At this meeting, the guest speaker was Teel James Glenn. The guy’s pretty much a walking encyclopedia of things I consider to be cool. He writes books that are intentional throwbacks to the classic pulp era of the 1930s, of which I’m also a fan. Some elements of The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report were intended as a homage to classic pulps, including the tough-guy detective hero and the gang of masked villains.

Teel is also a martial artist, professional stuntman, and fight coordinator for movies. He’s got a particular specialty in sword fighting. I picked up his now out-of-print (but not for much longer, as a reissue is on the way) Them’s Fightin’ Words!: A Writer’s Guide To Writing Fight Scenes. I know we’re not too far into 2014 yet, but that still pretty much made my year. Hell, he’s even into sleight-of-hand.

Check out his Website, The Urban Swashbuckler. (Come on! How freakin cool is THAT?)

Anyway, he said something about writing that really had a big impact on me, and helped me get past something I was struggling with in the novel I’m currently working on.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles, writing manuals, and critical think pieces about popular culture that stress the importance of two elements in fiction: A flawed hero and a compelling villain. (more…)