Monday, November 21, 2011

News of the Day: Tin Tin Can Update, NaNoWriMo, Fender Stitch, The Weird & More

This will probably be my last post for the month of November. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I'll be spending much of it in my hometown. I'll be back in December with the year-end Best Of lists. In the meantime, I'll leave with these (hopefully) juicy tidbits:

Tin Tin Can
We've nearly finished the mixing the process of the record. By the end of this month, it should be on to the mastering phase, and hopefully in your hands shortly after the new year! A lot of the artwork has already been sorted out, and we're throwing around titled for the record. It'll be 9 songs. We're all very excited to get this out. It's been one hell of a ride.

I've faltered a bit on this front, but not because I didn't like what I was writing. There are definitely elements that need to be fixed. To be honest, I'm not sure I like the narrative voice, which means I'll need to start from scratch, but I'm okay with that. Since Clarion, that's usually how I write. I will get 6-10K words written and realize the voice isn't quite right, then in "revision" (in quotes because sometimes my revisions are a complete overhaul of the story), I'll fix it. A few sentences usually remain an the overall concept is similar, but I have to find the right voice to tell the story in. This is what makes writing so much fun! (On a side note: Once I've completed this novella/long short story, my sister Mandy Monk, a gifted artist in her own right, will be doing drawings for it. Very excited about this too!)

Fender Stitch Magazine
A new online magazine has opened for submissions. It's called Fender Stitch, they pay pro rates, and have an interesting, interactive experience for reading on the internet. Elliot Turner, the owner/editor of site, is a friend of mine and I'd like to see this thing really take off. So, any of aspiring and/or pro writers out there, go their site and submit!

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange & Dark Stories
This anthology covering 100 years of Weird Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, is out now from Corvus Books in the UK, which you can buy here. Though it isn't scheduled to be released until 2012 in the US, you can purchase it here and there is no shipping fee. This is a must-have for fans of Lovecraft, Borges, Kafka, Krohn, and lovers of anything Weird in general (and for those who just like to see how a genre, if you can call it that, evolves over time). The Vandermeer's have also started a fantastic site dedicated to chronicling All Things Weird (including a wonderful comic on Reading the Weird by Clarion chum Leah Thomas):

Upcoming Fiction from Yours Truly
I will have stories out in New Dawn Fades Anthology from Postmortem Press (available around Black Friday), Shimmer (forthcoming in 2012), and a review of Tim Pratt's Briarpatch forthcoming in Bull Spec #7. Expect updates as these become available.

If this doesn't get you through the holidays and all that turkey and tofurkey, I don't know what will. Have a good'n. See you soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Unstuck Magazine

The inaugural issue of Unstuck Magazine remains true to its name: these twenty-odd stories and poems have come unglued and float, however precariously, in the firmament, in "otherness," in worlds almost like our own but somehow, someway...skewed.

Take, for instance, Sharona Muir's "Air Liners," concerning invisible "bioluminescent" microbes formed during the act of lovemaking; or Helen Phillips' exhilarating "R," where the lives of twins Rose and Roo diverge in mysterious and unexpected ways after they experience, for the first time, the sensation of wind. Zach Savich builds "a bridge with nothing on either end" in his poem "My Ideas Have Set Nothing on Fire - Yet." Imagine witnessing the end of the world from a continent-sized garbage dump in the middle of the ocean as the characters in Matthew Derby's "Dokken" do; now imagine that this is the happiest moment of your life.
Neatly wrapped-up endings do not fit. Instead, these pieces toy with and subvert form, structure, and what's expected from a story. Rennie Sparks's excellent nonfiction piece, "The Eel," offers the reader this insight: "All we can ever know for sure is that the things we remember, real or false, are flags stabbed into the dark fog of the brain." Is there a better statement of what this issue of Unstuck stands for? It is movement free of predictability, the story or poem allowed to go where it will.

There are, however, moments of almost-revelation here; of glimpses into "our" world, the recognizable, the root of tangible experience. In Judson Merrill's "Inside Out" a prisoner escapes into the ventilation ducts of the prison only to meet the big land spider that dwells there. An uneasiness descends on this story and refuses to let up; yes, it gets weird and weirder by the end, but there is something terrifyingly human in the narrator's fear and lonesomeness, of being trapped in small spaces, of never getting out.

Many of the stories in this collection also deal, in some way, with that stickiest of mysteries: death. Macabre opener, "Monument," from Amelia Gray explores what happens when townspeople gather to tidy a graveyard and something goes terribly wrong. Rachel Swirsky imagines what love is like in the afterlife in "Death and the All-Night Donut Shop." In Matthew Vollmer's "The Ones You Want to Keep," the tragic events of a couple's honeymoon sends the narrator to the brink of madness. Each comes at their subject differently - Gray using the mysteriousness of death, Swirsky a bit of humor, and Vollmer the tragedy of continuing to live after the one you love is gone - never forcing the kind of deeper understanding so many stories try for (and most often fail at); instead, letting the various elements coalesce, the shape of the meaning different in each reader's brain.

Yet, for all the grim-reaping, there are also stories full of life here. The narrator of Karin Tidbeck's brief but exquisite "Cloudberry Jam" grows a "carrot-baby" in a tin can, and a strange new creature is brought into the world. That the end is full of a unique sort of longing and deep sadness only illustrates the hope of life. The same may be said of "Peer Confession" by John Maradik and Rachel B. Glaser. Here, a young girl must choose between the church she's known (and the painful, unfashionable braces she wears) and Church Hello - where practically anything goes, including braces-free boys and promiscuity. Is life all about the moment, this story seems to ask, or can we love life even with a little pain?

Perhaps just as interesting is Matthew Domiteaux's artwork which acts as bookends between the stories and poems. Mostly abstract, the drawings add texture and deepen the mood of each piece while preparing the reader for whatever is next. In particular, the wave-like drawings that separate the verses of Kaethe Schwehn's "Sea Air Breezy; Nothing Dreadful," mirrors the length-descending lines of each consecutive verse while heightening the sense of dread.

Ultimately, Unstuck has managed to gather a collection of stories and poems that relate and play off each other in exciting and often surprising ways. If there is one thing that ties these stories together, however, it is not a common theme but an intimate attention to detail and a sense of wonder of the world we live in or might live in, even if only briefly. Highly Recommended.

-Dustin Monk

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: Claw & Eye

The following is an excerpt from the novella I'm writing for NaNoWriMo. This is a pretty rough draft and already I can see where certain things need to change, sentences need tightening, bigger and bolder descriptions necessary, etc. In the interests of sharing and seeing how 1,667 words a day looks like (at least for me), however...well, here you go then:

Claw & Eye
By Dustin Monk

Worship of the ascendant eels begins beneath the city, in the Temple’s underground pools. Here is this man, Baldahlbrus, wearer of bowler hats, long coats, various beards (tonight is matted gray), with a limp he got fighting, and who dreams most every night of hiding in the thick, oily stalks of burningroot while around him the sounds of dying and short blasts of rifle fire carry on the wind, feeding an addict to the ascendant eels’ babies. The phosphorescent baby eels—who look like cold, white leaves and are sometimes called drifters because of the way they seem to float in the water when not eating: aimlessly, causeless—now nibble at the body like an angry mob, floating over him, illuminating his yellowy hair and knobby fingers and open, dead eyes with their phosphorescence. Their tiny, sharp teeth are stained ruby red.
            The addict must’ve died in the morning. Already his body stinks. Or maybe the stink is from the luminescent nerves twisted and knotted and thick as tree roots pulsing, clinging to the walls. The nerves smell like curdled milk.
Baldahlbrus stinks too—he smells of gasoline and vomit—but he will not bathe in this pool. The drifters will eat the living as heartily as they eat the dead. He watches. After a time the baby eels drift away from the addict’s carcass. What is left—shreds of meat and gristle and bone—sinks beneath the muddy green waters. He does not want to think about the amount of bones littering the bottom of the pool or what sort of monster they have formed.
He has knelt throughout the feeding. Now, he stands, feels out the limp in his leg, pulls his bowler hat closer to his eyebrows, straightens his long coat. The nerves along the walls pulse messages in bluish-gray but he cannot decipher what is said. Perhaps the message is: not so long ago we left and we are not coming back because we are dead. It might say that.
            His boots echo loudly on the stone tiles of the cavern dumb priests built to worship the ascendant eels in the bellies of their home. No one worships them anymore. He walks up the winding steps, click-clatter-clatter-click-clatter. Part of the roof of the grand chamber of the Temple has caved in. Large chunks of ceramic tiles lay scattered across the floor. Half-dead nerves—their ends the color of charred bodies, which Baldahlbrus has seen enough of—snap and fizzle like blown-out fireworks. Sister moonlight shines upon the gaping mouth of an ascendant eel painted on the floor. Once there were great sermons held in this chamber; a great many people knelt on the mouth of the eel. Now it glistens, lonely, as if mocking Baldahlbrus. I will devour what I please. Whatever was once treasured in this place is gone: chalices, painted windows, golden and gray curtains, the holy bowl.
            He pushes open the large wooden doors of the grand chamber, exits into the inner chamber and washes his face and hands in cracked clay bowls he’s found abandoned in alleys and filled with river water, and limps through the Temple’s smaller entrance into—


Nerve City. Night. Argana a pinkish pearl in the sky, looking down upon her thrumming, bleeding city, the cruel crater of her heart shimmering in streetlamps and in the eyes of addicts. Her twin Argala hangs behind a cloud in the shape of a frown. You were always the forlorn moon. Baldahlbrus gets out in it. Buildings rise like stark, bluish-gray tendrils—like thickened, widened mirror-others of the same nerves that cling to their facades—almost as if they too long for the ascendant eels’ return. The cobbled streets bustle in the dark.  Baldahlbrus steps around horse-pulled carriages, shit, and broken bottles. He averts his eyes from passersby: it is not good to know too many. Yet, he is not oblivious. Shadows stalk alleyways: half-illumined dealers form question marks against corners of buildings. Do you? Do you? Do you? Addicts get cold in the night too. In front of the brothel is Carakhi playing viola. Bevendraj’s eyes bulge as she looks at a huge clump of dirt in her hands. On the other side of the street, accosting passersby like the idiot he is is Galat, showing off his new silver tooth. A spiky-haired addict Baldahlbrus doesn’t recognize, shuffling back and forth in front of an abandoned grocery store, asks if he’s got it. He doesn’t.
In all the books he has read—and he hasn’t read that many—this is exactly what the end of the world looks like. It isn’t the end of the world, it is the beginning. It is the beginning of the world. That is a loop he gets easily caught in. The world spins as it sometimes does when he limps too fast and Baldahlbrus wishes Maj was here. He liked to lean on her and she let him sometimes. She hadn’t minded his limp either. Yes, I am in love with her. Almost as much as I am in love with getting so high the drifters talk to me. This isn’t how I find her. This isn’t my pining. She was a girl and I was a boy, once, and we were both soldiers and, hiding in the burningroot, we sometimes held each other. That is the kind of love I know.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weird Fiction Review Launches! Now You Know Where To Go

Weird Fiction Review: Your Non-Denominational Source of the Weird launched today, the "brain-child" of authors/editors/friends Ann & Jeff Vandermeer! Why the exclamation point, you ask? Because this is awesomely exciting news! From the (I would assume, tentacled) desks of the Vandermeers:

"Hugo Award-winner Ann VanderMeer until recently edited Weird Tales Magazine and has co-edited several anthologies with her husband. Jeff’s last novel, Finch, was a finalist for the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award. Together they edited the just-released The Weird: A Compendium of Strange & Dark Stories (Atlantic/Corvus), a 750,000-word, 100-year retrospective of weird fiction.

The site kicks off today with the following features:

---Exclusive interview with Neil Gaiman about weird fiction:

---First episode of exclusive “Reading The Weird” webcomic by Leah Thomas:

---Translation of Thomas Owen’s short story “Kavar the Rat” by Edward Gauvin:

---The full Table of Contents for The Weird compendium, with notes:

---Weird Gallery, Featuring the art of New Orleans artist Myrtle Von Damitz III:

Come back later this week and next for: “Weirdly Epic: A Century of First Lines,” exclusive interviews with Kelly Link and Thomas Ligotti, a feature on artist/writer Alfred Kubin, Kafkaesque entertainments, China Mieville’s “AFTERWEIRD: The Efficacy of a Worm-eaten Dictionary,”  and a feature on classic Weird Tales women writers. An ongoing “101 Weird Writers” feature will also begin next week. will initially focus on features related to The Weird compendium, but its primary mission over time will be to serve as an ongo­ing explo­ration into all facets of the weird, in all of its many formsa kind of “non-denominational” approach that appre­ci­ates Love­craft but also writers like Franz Kafka, Angela Carter, and Shirley Jack­son – along with the next gen­er­a­tion of weird writ­ers and inter­na­tional weird. Writer Angela Slatter serves as the managing editor."