Archive for April, 2012

Running my mouth across the net

As Mo*Con approaches, my writing productivity moves toward zero, including blogs for the most part.  However, here are some blogs and articles I’ve popped up in recently (READ:  if I can’t write, I can at least talk about writing):

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: African & African-American Steampunk!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of what is now called Steampunk – a mash-up of fantasy and science fiction that embraces a fantastical past while incorporating a spirit of progress, exploration and do-it-yourself ingenuity…My next search was Black authors of Steampunk, which did not yield much, however it did take me to an article written by an incredible writer by the name of Jha – who I later discovered is one of the leading authorities on Steampunk, Jaymee Goh – whose informative and inspiring work helped me to find other Steampunk People of Color.

In a search for black writers of steampunk, I was one of several writers interviewed.  So make with the clicky-clicky to see what drew me to steampunk and what future steampunk projects I’m working on.  And you can still read my story “Pimp My Airship” online.

Gallery links residents to urban neighborhoods

As you pass by the Harrison Center for the Arts on 16th and Delaware, initially you may be confused. What was once the historic First Presbyterian Church now houses various art programs, local artists and art galleries.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the Harrison Center in that space makes perfect sense as the center strives to foster awareness and appreciation for arts and local culture.

The Harrison Center for the Arts is the Broaddus family’s first stop during our city’s First Friday events.  I was interviewed by The Indianapolis Recorder the nation’s fourth oldest-surviving black newspaper, in Calvin Fletcher’s coffee shop, my current favorite writing spot, about having an eye on moving to one of the city’s up and coming arts district.

Diversity in Writing: Multicultural Characters in Speculative Fiction

In taking us beyond the world we inhabit, one containing familiar people, places, laws and social mores, and technology, writers of speculative fiction face challenges both similar to and different than writers of more “down to earth” contemporary or historical genres. For speculative writers, as for many, the story often begins with a character. Yet, are there unusual methods involved with creating characters like a young man infused with superhuman strength, a laboratory-crafted creature, a rescue operation starship commander or a time-travelling soccer mom?

I was one of several authors whose brains were picked (joining Chesya Burke and Carole McDonnell).  Among my quotables:  “It’s to the point where I go into an urban fantasy expecting not to encounter minority characters other than in a ‘magical Negro’-type capacity.”  But not once did I describe myself as writing “magic ghetto realism”.  This time.

The above picture was from an article on the St. Luke’s Singles group.  I have spoken to that group on a couple of occasions and Christ Thornsberry is awesome.  “We appeal to so many different people,” said Thornsberry, a lay director of adult ministries at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on the Far Northside. “We promote healthy relationships. What’s healthy for me might not be healthy for someone else, and vice versa.” [Click here for the article on his singles’ group]

Oh, and today’s my birthday.  I share it with fellow scribes John C. Hay and Brian Knight!

Road to Mo*Con VII: Guest Blog by John Edward Lawson

With Mo*Con around the corner I thought it’d be a good time to introduce yet another one of our guests.  John Edward Lawson, founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, along with Chesya Burke and myself, are putting together the essay anthology, The Miseducation of the Writer.  Here’s more about that (as well as what he’s looking forward to about Mo*Con).

***

We behave as if life is free, but it is not. It comes at a cost. When the price seems too high many of us tell ourselves we will one day lease to own, but does that day ever come?

Wait. Let me backtrack a bit.

The inimitable Maurice Broaddus has asked me to provide insight into a collaborative project of ours, the Miseducation of the Writer anthology (a name he came up with–catchy, isn’t it?). The anthology features writers of color providing commentary on what it means to be an ethnic-other in the speculative fiction industry. Our contributors have exhibited bravery in their life choices, and determination, so much so that as an editor I am inspired by their stories; I hope readers feel the same.

The project was conceived at ReaderCon last July. It actually came about through discussions in the final minutes as we were preparing to find taxis to the airport. Mo and I were hanging out with the intoxicating Chesya Burke. Mo was already busy scribbling down thoughts on another potential project we hatched, when Chesya and I got into a feedback loop that led to her suggesting the three of us edit an anthology together–because none of us had enough writing and editing commitments already, right?

My personal interest in the subject of authors of color is a convoluted one. I am, of course, a multiethnic author and editor myself, but for whatever reason I spent most of my career not wanting to “use” that. To make it “on my own” as an individual, as opposed to part of a collective identity. Um…why? Looking back on it now I couldn’t tell you. There are some observations I can share, however, related to the buildup of overwhelming dread I’ve experienced as an editor.

Raw Dog Screaming Press, run by my wife Jen and myself, has always prided itself in diversity of content. We bring books into the world that other publishers turn away because they don’t conform to expectation. At first that was enough for me. As time went by it became painfully obvious we were publishing work from a very narrow subset of society. Other publishers didn’t seem to be much better off.

In short, a project like Miseducation of the Writer is still necessary because there seems to be poor self-governance in the publishing world, especially among those who are accustomed to being considered “different” due to our taste in entertainment. Too often we don’t strive to be inclusive; we’re so busy exploring fictional cultures we don’t have time to for real-world cultures we are unfamiliar with–or that we believe readers are unfamiliar with.

As children we dream we’ll be whatever we want, be part of “the solution,” be admired. Later, as adults, when we read novels or watch films we desire to be revered and mourned like the protagonists or, more to the point, to be worth revering and mourning. Then we reach a certain age where we must listen to our hearts. When listening to our hearts what do we hear? Is it a war drum, or a mouse tap dancing? Are we shucking and jiving for the pleasure of others, or pursuing the goals that would fulfill us spiritually? Do we sell out or do we stay true?

And now, the hard part: which answer would you prefer to tell yourself, to tell your childhood self, to tell your children? The answer is fluid…every day we wake up with the choice to either “do” or “not do,” all over again. If you’re interested in Mo*Con then you’re likely interested in the arts, and by taking such an interest–either as an artist, being involved in the production end, or providing monetary support through purchases, sponsorship, etc.–then you’re already being proactive. You are making a difference. It may not seem like it, especially when comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others, or the “importance” of your field next to the world’s troubles. However, if everybody in your position–artist, editor, collector–woke up tomorrow and stopped, what kind of world would we have? One with no visual legacy, no songs, no stories to pass on. No culture. So, really, every little action is important.

And this is one of the many reasons I admire Mo. Despite being one of the busiest humans on the planet he makes time, via Mo*Con, to give us a platform for interacting, being involved, being proactive. Bettering ourselves by bettering our respective scenes, and through them maintaining and improving our broader culture. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at Mo*Con, to making new ones, and to contributing in some way.

And, most of all, I’m looking forward to the food. I heard the food at Mo*Con is off da chain and out da frame. I advise you to arrive early to ensure a plate for yourself, because all my “save the world” antics give me one rowdy appetite.

Coming Soon … The Cracker Trap

Trust me on this one:  you will want to pick up this issue.

Altered States – Indy Underground Reading

THE WRITERS’ CENTER OF INDIANA presents the Altered States Indy Underground Reading at the Irving Theatre.

On Wednesday April 25, in the Irving Theatre, Indianapolis, IN, at 7:00 p.m., the Altered States anthology release event will feature keyboardist Monika Herzig performing music, and authors Karen Kovacik, Craig, O’Hara, and Alyce Miller reading their short fiction on the theme of change.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. for music and mingling, the reading will begin at 7:30 p.m., and socializing and music will resume after the reading. The Altered States anthology, author books, Herzig CDs, and Sun King or another featured beer will be available for purchase.

The Irving Theatre is located at 5505 East Washington Street, Indianapolis.

The short fiction anthology Altered States: Sci-fi and Fantasy Stories About Change explores the human experience of change in strange forms.  Things are not as they appear, or not only as they appear.

Monika Herzig, a touring jazz artist, teaches about the music business at IU Bloomington.  Karen Kovacik, Indiana’s current Poet Laureate, directs the Creative Writing Program at IUPUI; Craig O’Hara, fiction writer, teaches writing at Ball State University; and Alyce Miller, fiction writer, lawyer and animal rights activist, teaches creative writing, literature and special topics courses at IU Bloomington. Amy Locklin, the anthology editor, currently teaches creative writing at IUPUI.

The mission of the Writers’ Center of Indiana is to nurture a writing community, to support established and emerging writers, to improve written and verbal communication, and to develop an audience for literature in Indiana. Programs, services, and venue selection reflect its commitment to nurturing the practice of writing and the appreciation of written expression among diverse segments of our community. Originally part of the Free University, the Writers’ Center of Indiana was founded in 1979. Now located in the Indianapolis Art Center’s Cultural Complex in Broad Ripple, the Center offers classes taught by some of Indiana’s best writers and a variety of literary events.  The Indy Underground Reading Series began to be held at community locations in 2005.

For further information about the Writers’ Center of Indiana, call the Center at (317) 255-0710 or visit http://www.indianawriters.org; for further information about the Irving Theatre, call (317)-356-3355, email info@attheirving.com, or visit http://attheirving.com; for further information about the Altered States anthology and artist bios, contact the editor Amy Locklin at alocklin@gmail.com.

Station 25

In case you aren’t coming to Mo*Con, I thought I’d help spread the word for a local poetry event.  Station 25 is a meeting place of neighborhood artistic expressions.  Here’s more info:

Road to Mo*Con VII: Guest Blog by Mike Altman

Mo*Con VII will feature one of our largest art galleries to date.  In addition to new work by Michelle Pendergrass, Kristin Fuller, and Steve Gilberts, it will also feature work from local artiste extraordinaire, Mike Altman.   I invited him to talk a bit about his process and how he connects to God through it.

Guest Blog by Mike Altman

I am fond of saying that growing up, “I never wanted to be anything other than an artist. I never said policeman, fireman or male nurse” as many young men do. And then I cap the statement off with a “Well. I did want to be Batman.” Some days I still do.

The creation of art and all the trappings that come with it are something that has always come naturally. Mrs. Buffalino in eighth grade explained that a fine artist would be studied 20 years after their death, and a commercial artist would get to buy lunch. I chose, to no surprise to anyone who has seen my waistline, to be a commercial artist. Since of course the whole Batman gig was already taken.

A few years into the whole commercial thing I became pretty tired of folks, paying folks mind you, telling me what color to make things and where to move one object or another about on my creation. I remember working for a certain Art Director that would, as she was selecting or rejecting my pieces for print, would say we’ll take this one, we’ll take this one, oh this one is baby dorky…

We had a chat.

These creations are my blood and sweat and sometimes tears.

Oh, ok that may be a little dramatic. But they are definitely something that emanates from within me.

Something that has been created, with God’s gift of talent, by me. I value them and the talent to create them. There is a special kind of link with God and the ability to create something from a blank slate. Now before you get out your paper and pencils to write me a chastising letter telling me that I am not God and so forth, let me say relax. I know that I am not.

It is incredible to be able to draw a guy with a mustache and a girl in a red dress and a dog that smiles and can talk, and…well, the list goes on. I understand why God made fish at the bottom of the sea that nary a soul will ever lay eyes on. I understand why God created such a spectacular spectrum of color. (Sometimes that blue will just not work, and this one will.) I know the feeling of rendering a whole world with back-story and history and possible interactions and futures…all on a Macaroni Grill’s paper tablecloth. It is good to sit back and look at the creations and say “it is good”.

So any way I was saying that I was getting a little tired of folks adding their ingredients, right? So I started painting. Just for pleasure at first. Then after I had about 23 pieces in my studio I thought to myself that maybe I should see if a gallery would be interested in exhibiting my work. They were. It sold.

Years later I find myself straddling a very fun line between two disciplines of art that, well you really shouldn’t be able to make a living at either of them. My two worlds very much inform each other. There is definitely some graphic influence and good design in my “fine” art and some painterly expression in my “commercial” work.

I like to say if you write me a check and publish my art in a magazine or book, then I must be a commercial artist. If you write me a check and hang the work over your couch then I must be a fine artist. Basically what it boils down to is that you write me a check. I still want to eat lunch, and Batman never sticks around long enough to pick up the bill.

ROAD TO MO*CON VII: Guest Blog by Nate Southard

I am off in Houston, Texas for the Texas Library Association conference.  Luckily, I thought this would be a great time for an introduction of one of our guests of honor for this year’s Mo*Con.  I’ve already written about how he inadvertently inspired my recent novella, Bleed With Me, so I asked him to write about some of the themes that tend to pop up in his work.

HUMANITY IS A FUNNY THING

By Nate Southard

Hello, everybody.  The incomparable Maurice Broaddus has asked me to write a bit about the themes that pop up in my work.  When he asked me to do this, I’ll admit I panicked a bit.  I’ve never considered myself terribly good at critical analysis.  Throw in the wrinkle of discussing my own work, and I get this quick jolt of terror, followed by a dark feeling that I’m going to find an entertaining way of sounding like a pompous twit.

So now that I’ve cut my own legs out from under me, let’s begin.  Also, hi.  I’m Nate.  I write things.  Usually scary things.

When I first decided I was going to give this writing thing an honest try, I knew I would be working primarily in the horror genre.  After all, it’s the one that’s always beckoned to me, and I knew I wanted to write the kind of stories I liked reading.  The interesting part is that I decided back then I wouldn’t write about monsters.  All of my villains would be real, flesh and blood people.  I had no desire to write about zombies or vampires or ghosts or any other kind of creature that didn’t exist in the real world.

Funny how things work out.  In no time at all, I found myself neck-deep in creatures, falling in love with the gruesome, weird, and mysterious.  At the same time, however, I found myself writing a lot about humanity and what it means to be a person.

My first published book was a nasty little revenge novella titled Just Like Hell.  There are no supernatural elements in it, and to this day it remains the most brutal and uncompromising thing I’ve written.  Several publishers passed on it because its lack of anything otherworldly made it too extreme.  In the book, a closeted gay high school football star is kidnapped, along with his lover, by other members of the football team.  The treatment they endure at the hands of these angry, ignorant sadists is nothing short of horrific.  The story was inspired by two things: the inhumane treatment a friend of mine endured when he came out of the closet, and a study I read that stated a vast majority of gay rapes are committed by straight men looking to put their victims “In their place.”  I was disgusted by these things, and I think that might be why the trio of jocks who serve as Just Like Hell’s villains are the most monstrous characters I’ve created.  The ability of one person to treat another so horribly is so alien to me, but it happens.  Sadly, it happens every day.

My novels continue this theme in various ways.  I don’t want to go into my novel Red Sky, as discussing that without tossing around spoilers feels all but impossible.  My recent novel Lights Out, however, is a different matter.  Lights Out, which is a novel about a maximum security prison attacked by vampires, confronts the questions of humanity and what makes a person either human or monster in a slightly different manner.  The heroes of the novel are largely criminals.  Some are murderers, and some are worse.  Not one of the prisoners in the novels fictional prison is wrongly imprisoned.  They’re guilty of their crimes, and more than a few are unrepentant.  Still, many of them manage to band together to protect their lives and their humanity against a threat that is greater than all of them.

Occasionally, you see this theme creeping into other popular works.  In both the original comics and the big screen adaptation, Watchmen featured a human race on the brink of war that is brought together by the promise of a greater threat.  It’s a nice reversal of a theme we see far too often: that man is the real monster.  I know I’m more than a little guilty of this myself, considering the villains in Just Like Hell, but I’ve lost count of how many novels feature both supernatural beasts and this concept that mankind is much worse that anything that goes bump in the night.  Almost every popular zombie novel or film has featured this concept in some form or another.  There’s the motorcycle gang in Dawn of the Dead, the military in 28 Days Later, the Governor and his community in The Walking Dead, and so many more.  All of them point to this vague idea that mankind isn’t worth saving, that humanity is a worthless principle.  I beg to differ.

In a lot of ways, this idea that man is the real monster and that nothing can supplant humans as the dominant form of horror on the planet is terribly depressing.  We see it every day.  All around us, we see signs that mankind wants nothing more than to find new and impressive ways of hurting ourselves.  Racism, sexism, religious persecution, and a whole host of other forms of hatred rear their ugly heads on a daily basis.  You’d think we could combat these things.  You’d think we could look around and say, “Hey, we’re all just humans.  Maybe we should set this baggage aside and try to get along.”  Maybe someday.  After all, stranger things have happened, and humanity’s a funny thing.

A Special Autograph

Angry Robot put the Knights of Breton Court trilogy up for charity auction for Con or Bust.  [Quick aside, the trilogy will be released as an omnibus this fall.  Here’s a peek at its cover –>]  A dear friend of mine swooped in and outbid everyone with the caveat that I had to do a special autograph for her.  It’s funny:  we were only actively in each other’s lives for the two years we worked at the same lab (back in my previous life as an environmental toxicologist).  But sometimes you encounter people and there’s the immediate connection of family (I was even a part of her wedding).  I hope she likes this…

In King Maker

Once upon a time there was a grumpy old troll.  Content to stay in his dark, dank cave, going about the work trolls had to do.  Day after day, the same tasks over and over again, the life he had resigned himself to, which only made him grumpier.

Then one day a princess stumbled upon his cave.  The princess enjoyed exploring caves, an odd hobby for princesses, but she wrong life from every opportunity presented to her and appreciated the mystery of caves.

In King’s Justice

The grumpy old troll did his level best to ignore the strange interloper, which proved difficult to do as the princess had her own mind about how things should be.  She strung lights in the cave to brighten it.  She decorated the cave with vibrant colors and glitter.  She loved glitter as any princess should.  She fussed about the troll like a gadfly—organizing his area even labeling his tools—ignoring his half-hearted attempts to swat at her.  And despite himself the troll learned to smile.

In King’s War

Before the troll knew it, the princess had drawn him out of his cave, into her world of blue skies, surrounded by the beauty of the forest with begrudging effort, the troll learned to see the world through her eyes.  She helped him remember  the joy and terror of chasing after one’s dream with the boldness that comes with youth.  Though they squabbled often, they realized they had become brother and sister, family they had chosen.  And the troll waited by her side until her prince finally arrived and she was off to her next adventure.  But the troll never looked at his cave the same way.

And he never swept away the glitter.

Personalized autographs can be a lot of work.  I hope everyone doesn’t expect me to put in this much effort.  At some point, I should probably worry more about my signature and identity theft, but if someone wants to steal my history of bad credit, more power to them.

Break Glass in Case of Emergency III

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Break Glass in Case of Emergency post, you know, my version of “stones of remembrance” to remind me of truths for those dark times when I get all lost and tangled up.  Well this time the reminder came from my youngest son.  Besides him informing me that I’m “as gangsta as My Little Pony”, for Easter, he wrote me this note*:

Dear Dad,

Do you know who loves you?  If you guessed mom, you are right.  If you guessed Reese, you are right.  If you guessed your son Malcolm, you are right.

I love you so much because I know you love me, too.  You know become I come into your room and hug you and talk to you.  That’s how you know I love you.  I know you love me because you always hug and kiss me every time you go somewhere.

I hope you know that the rest of your family loves you, too.  And your beloved wife loves you a loooooooooot.

So you will have a good Easter with part of you r family and we all love you a lot.  We can’t ever tell you how much.  Happy Easter, Dad.

Love Malcolm.

Personally, I love his use of the word “beloved”.

*Because my sons spend way too much time around Alethea Kontis, the page is outlined with Xs and Os.