Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

horrorWell, it’s been a long haul. Been dealing with some stuff. (See last blog entry.) But somewhere in there, the Oct. 31 release date for my short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take Requests,” crept up on me. So I guess now’s as good a time as any to blow the dust off this blog and post something. A while back, I found some two-sentence horror stories on the web. Here’s an example:

“The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.”

Here are some more.

Since then, I’ve made kind of a Halloween tradition of posting my own two-sentence horror stories every year. This is the 2016 edition. Be forewarned. Bone-chilling terror awaits:

  • “Don’t apologize to me for your foul mouth,” my new cubicle-mate says. “Apologize to Jesus.”
  • A new congressman is elected in your district. InfoWars endorsed him.
  • “I’ll be here for the next four weeks,” the contractor says. “Have you heard the one about the two blacks and a Jew in the gay bar?”
  • Your daughter says things are getting serious with her boyfriend. He has a “9/11 Was an Inside Job” bumper sticker on his car.
  • “We’ll get started in just a minute,” the woman at the front of the room says. “But first, we have a fun team-building exercise for you.”
  • I hand her my phone to show her the picture I just took. She starts scrolling through the rest of my pictures.
  • “Welcome to ’90s night!” the DJ says. “Who remembers the Macarena?”

 

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My father has died.

Posted: July 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

In my last post, I promised to update this blog more regularly.  I have not because my father, Phil Joyce, died on June 22 and I’ve been busy arranging his funeral services, settling his estate and caring for my mother. I debated with myself whether or not to mention this. I never intended for this blog to be about my personal life. I’m not trying to hide anything about my personal life, and there’s nothing wrong with that type of blog. It’s just not what I’m going for with this one. But ultimately, I decided that in light of the fact that I’ve used this blog to compose eulogies to artists I didn’t even know personally, I should at least mention my father’s passing. I will provide a link to an article about him that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I furnished most of the information for it, and I thought the writer did an excellent job. I would prefer not to add anything to it. Not because I don’t have anything to add. On the contrary. I have so much that I wouldn’t know where to start. I could write for days, weeks and months. Produce volumes of text. And it wouldn’t be enough. So I’ll leave it with this. He was a great man. I loved him. I miss him. But it was time, and he was ready. Here’s the article:
http://articles.philly.com/2016-06-27/news/74031397_1_marimow-assistant-sports-editor-inquirer

For a while now, I’ve been doing something on my personal Facebook page that a lot of my friends seem to find entertaining. Quite a few of them have suggested that I start including it on my blog, so I’ll give it a shot. You may have seen “Throwback Thursday” on Facebook, where people post old photos of themselves. I started finding random, goofy pictures on the Web — usually from the wonderful “Awkward Family Photos” — and posting them with accompanying captions for Throwback Thursday. At first, I pretended they were old photos of me. As time went on, I discarded that. Some captions I wrote in the first person, and some I didn’t. Anyway, I’m going to start sharing some of them on the blog. Since we’re coming up on Halloween, I guess I might as well start with the Halloween-themed ones. Hope you enjoy them.

In retrospect, Dad’s basic idea wasn’t so bad. New in town. Wanted to let people know about his urology practice. Since it was close to Halloween, thought that a mass-mailed brochure featuring a group picture of us in Mom’s hand-sewn costumes would be quirky and memorable, and show that he’s a family man. I guess his big mistake was trying to save on printing costs by going with a black-and-white reproduction, so people couldn’t see the orange color. Once the complaints started coming in, he went so far as to send out another mass mailing explaining that they were pumpkin costumes. But by then, it was too late. For the next few years, we were widely known throughout our town as The Scrotum Family.

Awkward pumpkins

Rena MasonNote: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the third part of the piece, along with my original introduction. I’ll be running contributions from the other writers who participated in the days ahead.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.

I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

Rena Mason is the Bram Stoker Award® winning author of “The Evolutionist” and “East End Girls.” A former O.R. nurse, an avid SCUBA diver, world traveler, and longtime fan of horror, sci-fi, science, history, historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers, she writes to mash up those genres with her experiences in stories that revolve around everyday life. For more information on this author visit her website: renamasonwrites.com

As Robert Heinlein didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a sci-fi author, not all female speculative fiction authors are also writing some form of romance, paranormal or otherwise. With more organizations and companies promoting women, such as Women in Horror Month highlighting women in all aspects of horror, Nightmare Magazine’s “Women Destroy Horror” issue, Eli Roth’s The Crypt app highlighting women in horror, and the Horror Writers Association offering scholarships for women horror writers, along with more women stepping up to support one another in representing the genre rather than using a more popular or more accepted label for their works, women’s roles in the genre can only improve.

Note: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the second part of the piece, along with my original introduction. I’ll be running contributions from the other writers who participated in the days ahead.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.
I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

ELLEN DATLOW

Ellen Datlow hard at work in front of her booksEllen Datlow has been editing sf/f/h short fiction for over thirty years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and currently acquires and edits stories for Tor.com. She has edited more than sixty anthologies, including the annual “The Best Horror of the Year,” “Lovecraft’s Monsters,” “Fearful Symmetries,” “Nightmare Carnival,” “The Cutting Room,” and “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” (the latter two with Terri Windling).
Forthcoming are “The Doll Collection” and “The Monstrous.”
She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre”; has been honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award for 2014, which is presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field.

 

I’ve been editing short science fiction, fantasy, and horror since 1980. When I was promoted from Associate Fiction Editor to Fiction Editor of OMNI Magazine, there was some blowback against me for not emerging from fandom (which was overwhelmingly male and from which most of the sf editors up to that point came). There was some silly talk by a few male writers who criticized the entry of female sf editors into positions of power. These women — again, most of whom did not come out of fandom — were assumed to have had no experience in the genre, although we were all longtime readers of sf/f and we all worked our way up from the bottom.
I’ve been involved more with fantasy and horror than science fiction for a number of years so I’m not as familiar with who is writing what in science fiction these days. But my perception is that fewer writers are writing science fiction at all. Saying that, there are certainly many excellent female writers of science fiction and if a male editor chooses an entire sf anthology with stories only by men it means they just aren’t looking beyond their old boys network comfort zone.

colour of magicInterrupting my feature on woman speculative fiction writers to acknowledge the passing of Terry Pratchett — one of the great ones.

I was a fan. Not a huge one, I must admit. In general, I don’t go in for obsessive fandom about any writer or cultural phenomenon. There’s just so much good stuff out there, and it’s always struck me as a shame to limit your focus to one book series, TV show, music group, etc. But I’ve read a number of his books over the years, and was always impressed. In fact, I like to think he shaped my sensibilities as a writer.

Here’s the deal.

I  love jokes. The sharp one-liner. The meandering anecdote filled with hilarious asides. The witty off-hand remark. Even groan-inducing puns and standard-issue “a guy walks into a bar” fare when presented in a certain context. I greatly enjoy exchanges among funny people, where the jokes are flying left and right.

Yet for all that, I find few things more tedious than one of these “joke-off” (phonetic similarity intended) situations. That’s when somebody brings the conversation to a thudding halt by abruptly saying something along the lines of: “Alright, a giraffe walks into a proctologist’s office …”

Everyone else is obliged to sit there silently until the joke-teller brings it in for a landing, probably via a punchline you saw coming a mile away. You do the fake laugh thing out of politeness. Ha. Funny. Can we get back to the conversation now?

Nope. Somebody else says: “I got one! This guy’s on golf course. And a leprechaun comes up and says ‘I’ll give you three wishes.'”

And so it goes. On and on. Labored set-up. Obvious punchline. No organic connection to anything else going on. Just an inherent demand for exclusive attention to some verbal entertainment that isn’t particularly entertaining. And all the while, I’m silently pleading that we can put an end to this and get on with our lives.

I have a similar reaction to humor that’s nothing but a series of disconnected jokes strung together. The “Scary Movie” series is a prime example. Or — sorry, fans — much of “Family Guy.” To me, the jokes have to be in service of something. A solid narrative, like “The Simpsons” at its best. A character arc, like “Community” or “This is Spinal Tap.” Social commentary, like “South Park.” Even well-done absurdism, like “The Kids in the Hall” or “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Terry Pratchett was a master at that.

In good humorous stories, the jokes have a solid narrative foundation to back them up and give them structure. Even without the humor, the story would ideally be able to stand on its own. Pratchett took it beyond that. In the best of his work, the humor, characterization and narrative were all inextricably intertwined. Each an essential component.

I first encountered Pratchett when I was a geeky and fantasy-fiction-obsessed teenager. “The Colour of Magic” from 1983, the first book of his Discworld series, was available as a selection from the Science Fiction Book Club. The concept sounded like a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” for high fantasy, and I was intrigued.

I ordered it and found it … good. Full of funny lines and situations. Well-drawn characters. Plenty of in-jokes and riffs on fantasy tropes for fans like myself. And a decent adventure story to back it all up.

I didn’t read any more Pratchett for the next couple of decades. My interest in fantasy fiction waned when I hit college age, and I felt no particular inclination to check out his stuff.

I was in my mid-thirties when I was at my local library, searching for a book on CD to listen to during a car trip. I saw one of his books, and was a little surprised to discover that Pratchett was still writing about Discworld. I’d thought of “The Colour of Magic” as an amusing novelty that might merit a sequel or two, but no more.

I checked it out of the library, expecting a diverting if lightweight read for the car trip.

Wow!

I was astonished at how far he’d come as a writer. It was one of the books dealing with the Ankh-Morpork City Watch — essentially an urban police thriller set in a fantasy universe with dwarves, werewolves, orcs and centaurs. And it worked beautifully. It wasn’t just some exercise in winking, arch humor based on police thriller cliches enacted by elves and trolls. It was a genuinely good story with a complex, gripping narrative, engaging characters, and something substantive to say about the nature of racial tolerance. For all that, it was still really freakin funny.

I picked up a number of his books after that, and was impressed each time. One of the elements I most admired was his propensity for taking fantasy creatures such as vampires and golems, and making them actual characters. Not abstract representations of evil, or enigmatically magical beings. Just regular folks trying to get through the day (or night) and make a living. (Or … you know.)

In doing so, Pratchett gave his works a warm-hearted humanism that (for the most part) didn’t descend into preachiness or cloying sentimentality. Maybe that neighbor who seems so mysterious, threatening and different from you isn’t such a bad guy after all. At least give him a chance.

And he managed to thoroughly entertain his readers in the course of delivering that message.

As far as literary legacies go, you could do a lot worse.

Starting Up the Blog Again

Posted: February 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

Hey folks. Getting back to this blog after a month-long hiatus. Had a loss in the family. Just didn’t feel up to working on it. I guess you have to move on sooner  or later, right? Not generally into the whole grieving on the Internet thing. I don’t think mourning should be a public spectacle. But I feel like I at least need to acknowledge what happened, in light of the fact that I’ve used this blog to write long eulogies for people I didn’t even know personally. So I’ll say this. My sister was an extraordinary person. She did a lot of goods things. Here’s a link to her obituary.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?pid=173685731