Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pontypool Changes Everything Limited Edition!

Only two more days for you to order the limited edition hard cover, Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess.

Get it before September 2nd!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


The Wowio promo of Major Karnage has sadly come to a close, but guess how many people downloaded it?


Wowio says they're very happy with the number, and it nearly quadruples their previous record before The Choir Boats.

Thanks to everyone who downloaded!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Audio Interview with Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay, author of In the Mean Time, interviewed over at the Spoken Word! He talks about Narcolepsy, Nose Operations, Writing and how he hates the interviewer, John Armstrong.

Click here to go listen! (You have to click on the tiny green play button for it to play).

Hair Wreath Reviewed!

Solid review of The Hair Wreath and Other Stories by Halli Villegas:

The Hair Wreath and Other Stories

Halli Villegas, ChiZine (Diamond, dist.), $15.95 paper (266p) ISBN 978-1-926851-02-0

Villegas's debut collection offers 19 tales that nicely blend ordinary characters with sudden and unexplained supernatural threats, but it eventually suffers from having too many similar stories so close together. "His Ghost," disturbing on multiple levels, tells the tale of an obsessive man in search of his muse. "Salvage," a haunting set on a spaceship, is efficiently creepy. "An Unexpected Thing" is a solid, straightforward revenge story with a nasty undercurrent. Assorted pieces focusing on the fragility of relationships and urban and suburban alienation--"Meadowdene Estates," "Winter," "Neighbours," and "Peach Festival"--blur together, but "D in the Underworld," in which a woman searches for her missing daughter, rises above the rest. Fans of creepy, nongory horror will appreciate this collection despite its redundancies. (Oct.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book of Tongues Reviewed!

An indepth review of Book of Tongues from Macabre Republic:

This first novel from long-renowned short-fiction writer Gemma Files reads like Deadwood by way of Tim Powers, William Burroughs, and Clive Barker. Like Powers's pirate novel On Stranger Tides, A Book of Tongues melds fantasy and history (Files includes the real-life figure of Allan Pinkerton as one of the characters in her tale of magic-wielding outlaws in the post-Civil-War American West). Like Burroughs's The Place of Dead Roads (a phrase that Files employs in her novel), this genre-bending work features homosexual gunslingers in its cast. And like Barker's The Hellbound Heart, the book involves a love quadrangle, numerous betrayals, and a trip to the underworld that leaves one man skinless.

But all this is not to suggest that A Book of Tongues is simply derivative. Files exhibits incredible originality, particularly in the system of magic-making that she maps out. Mages aren't built for peaceful coexistence, given their vampiric hunger for each other's power--a situation that creates some spectacular conflict between characters. Also, one of the ways a person's latent talent for "hexation" can express itself is as a result of suffering a grievous bodily harm. The Confederate soldier/preacher Asher Rook undergoes such growing pains when he survives a hangman's rope and transforms into a formidable hexslinger. His pocket Bible is now his "Bad Book," whose words he literally spreads, to deadly effect: when he blows on the opened tome, "the text lift[s] from those gilt-edged pages in one flat curl of unstrung ink, a floating necklace of black Gothic type borne upwards on a smoky rush of sulphur-tongued breath."

A Book of Tongues is no facile shoot 'em up (or hex 'em down). Files's outlaws are prone to deep introspection, and their relationships to one another are shaped by complex motivations. Likewise, the novel is intricately plotted, its non-chronological storyline looping back and forth like some rodeo lasso-trick. (As the first installment in a projected series, the book lacks any real resolution. Files ends on a note of impending apocalypse, and points towards an epic showdown between hexslingers.)

In essence, the book follows the machinations of renascent Mayan/Aztec deities determined to restore a bloody empire built on human sacrifice. Admittedly, I've always struggled with such mythology, experiencing a sense of cultural disconnect that no doubt starts with the gods' unpronounceable names (which can sound like someone gargling on glass while battling a bronchitic cough. "Chalchiuhtlicue"? "Coyotlaxqui"? Your guess is as good as mine.). Files, though, does an excellent job of incorporating exposition and of developing the Mayan/Aztec deities as characters. Even when these figures do not appear in the flesh but instead speak inside humans' heads, their perspective is helpfully delineated by boldfaced/italicized type.

Indeed, A Book of Tongues is an unabashedly graphic text, in multiple senses of the word. The sex is explicit--the detailed scenes of cowboy coupling will be too much for some readers, even those weaned on Brokeback Mountain. The violence is brutal--at one point, a main character has his heart ripped out and devoured (and survives!). The imagery, meanwhile, is never less than arresting. Files's considerable descriptive talents are on full display in this novel, as can be glimpsed in the following passage:

Up from Mictlan-Xibalba, a crack came extending by slow degrees, like the first small tear in a rolled snake's egg--splitting, re-splitting, fine and flexible as dead woman's hair. Meeting on its way with the same artesian wellspring Rook had teased forth once before, it washed the earth beneath their feet free of salt to form a mucky circle 'round himself and the woman, roughly twelve feet in diameter, like it'd been measured out with a pair of coffins for compasses.
Then the crack's furthest finger opened up a smallish hole right in the off-centre of this depression, through which--while they both watched, with similar fascination--a dark tendril poked and furled, coiling the way kudzu does, pumping with evil juice. A quarter-breath, and it had swelled cock-thick. A half-, and it bloomed big as as a big man's wrist. Three breaths later, a young sapling.
Bark like unclean fur, leaves quill-sharp, pine-needles from a giant's Christmas wreath. The tree spread itself out above them, its low-slung limbs hung with vines so heavy they reminded Rook of nothing so much as serpents. But its fruit did shine: satin-silvery, casting light down on the woman's face as she stared upwards, mouth open, wondering--a thin rain of glitter, spores heavy with sleep, and dreams.

[opening of Chapter Fourteen, p. 155]

So does A Book of Tongues ultimately warrant "Most Wanted" billing? The answer is a resounding yes. Gemma Files's fantastic excursion into cross-genre territory is not to be missed. The Western has never been weirder, wilder, or more wonderfully written.

Click here to buy Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

What's behind the curtain?

WOWIO and CZP are partnering to bring you this exceptional title — it’s a satirical SF novel that hit the bookshelves just this week. And you can have it… for free!

This WOWIO edition is special in another way — it contains bonus audio featuring a reading by the author that’s not available in any other eBook. You can buy it on WOWIO, or spend a bit more to get it in paperback.

Or you can download it for free.

All you have to do is come to Facebook and be WOWIO's friend, and we’ll get you a download link. If you’ve already “liked” WOWIO on Facebook, you can come get your free download, too!

Grab it now, it’s only available for free until Wednesday, August 25.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ChiZine Titles available from Amazon UK

TORONTO, Ontario (August 10, 2010) – ChiZine Publications (CZP) has made the eBook versions of their titles available on amazon.co.uk, the UK version of Amazon.com.

With UK-natives such as Tim Lebbon, Philip Nutman and Simon Logan on their growing roster, CZP co-publisher Brett Alexander Savory felt it important to give these authors' home market greater access to their work: "Tim and Phil have a significant following in Britain, and Simon’s been taking Scotland by storm. With the growing popularity of the Kindle, this seemed like a natural step forward."

Savory says the move also solves the issues of currency conversion for customers from the UK.

But this decision not only reflects CZP's attempts to reach beyond North America, but its support of the eBook format. "Though we pride ourselves on limited edition hardcovers and high quality trade paperbacks, we're embracing eBooks," says CZP co-publisher Sandra Kasturi.

Kindle editions of CZP’s titles can be found on Amazon.co.uk as well as through the CZP site at www.chizinepub.com.

Brett Alexander Savory, Co-Publisher
ChiZine Publications

About ChiZine Publications
ChiZine Publications (CZP) is an independent publisher of weird, subtle, surreal and disturbing dark fiction. It is the book-length, print version outgrowth of ChiZine (www.chizine.com), an online professional market in operation since 1997 focused on the same type of story material.

All of CZP’s publications are hand-picked by co-publishers and Bram Stoker Award-winners Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi.

Monday, August 9, 2010

PW reviews Sarah Court!

Publisher's Weekly says...

"Davidson (The Fighter) delivers a dark, dense, and often funny collection of intertwined tales that are rewarding enough to overcome their flaws. The five families in the squirrel-infested homes on the titular street are made up of broken and dysfunctional characters. Patience shoplifts for a hobby; daredevil Colin has no sense of fear; hit man Jeffrey was raised in a foster home and might have Asperger's, synesthesia, or some entirely different neurological weirdness; Nick still rankles from the years his father forced him to try his hand at boxing; and Donald is trying to sell a strange box that he says contains a demon. Davidson delivers his story at a leisurely pace with only a hint of gonzo gore, aiming for readers who appreciate nonlinear narrative structure, flawed characters often unsure of their own motivations, and an evocative sense of place." (Oct.)

More information about Sarah Court here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why More Kindle Sales Over Hardcovers on Amazon Is a Good Thing

by Matt Moore

Amazon announced recently (July 19, 2010):

Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.

This is good news. Ebooks give readers a quick, easy and (hopefully) inexpensive way to not just read books, but discover and try new authors.

However, I’m wary of how publishers will react. Some publishers fear that ebooks released at the same time as hardcovers take away from sales of the highly profitable hardcovers. As well, there is a belief that demand for ebooks and hardcovers if released at the same time are equal, so the price of ebooks relates to its perceived demand rather than cost.

Now with Kindle sales surpassing hardcovers, publishers might feel justified in delaying ebooks or keeping prices elevated to make up for what they perceive as a shortfall in profits. Yet if publishers want to improve their bottom lines, they should drop the prices of ebooks and release books in ebooks and hardcover formats simultaneously.

Hardcovers Are Money Makers

Hardcovers have higher per unit profits than paperbacks. Publishers know that big name authors have a built-in audience who are willing to pay a premium for the latest book. This is the reason why paperbacks come out a year after the hardcovers—publishers give the audience the choice: buy the expensive hardcover now, or wait a year and save.

I don’t fault publishers for this approach—they are in business to turn a profit. My issue, though, is they’re mistaken impression that releasing an ebook at the same time as hardcover will eat into hardcover sales. What publishers do not understand is they are two different markets.

Readers of Hardcovers vs.Those Who Read  ebooks

Hardcovers are for serious, committed fans. They want to read the story right now, but also want the book—its weight, cover art, and whatever other goodies there might be inside. And later, they want it up on their shelf where they can see it… or allow others to see that they have it.

People who read ebooks want convenience. Bringing a paperback on the bus or to the beach is easy. Bringing the equivalent of many paperbacks in one small device—a device where you can preview and buy new books from anyplace with a wifi signal—is easier. For those who value convenience, a hardcover is a bulky, cumbersome object that gets in the way of trying to read it.

Publishers Don’t Understand These Markets

Yet publishers get this confused. They seem to think a committed fan will now opt for an inexpensive ebook rather than a hardcover. Or, they might think the casual reader will pay for a hardcover if no ebook is available. Neither of these is true, but with this news from Amazon, publishers may think “We can’t risk hardcover sales. We should delay the release of the Kindle version. Or, increase the price so we make up the profit from lost hardcover sales.”

Publishers Have An Opportunity

But the increasing sales of ebooks is actually good news for publishers and should result in good news for readers of ebooks.

Lower eBook Prices

With ebooks growing in popularity, publishers should be lowering ebook prices. There is a large market out there interested in ebooks, but are hesitant to buy a reader and then incur additional costs of buying ebooks that cost as much a paperback—better to just buy the paperback. By lowering the price, readers can make up the cost of the ebook device in the price difference between the ebook and paperback. Though publishers may make a lower per-unit profit, the increase in units sold will increase overall profit.

Further, with more casual readers buying ebooks, publishers can lower the print runs on paperbacks, which have a higher per unit costs than ebooks.

Release eBooks and Hardcovers Simultaneously

Releasing an ebook at the same time as the hardcover might improve hardcover sales. Imagine a new novel you’re interested in comes out in hardcover and ebook. Not willing to spend $25.99 on the hardcover, you buy the ebook for $5.99 (which is lower than the price of the paperback released next year). You read it and love it. You want to go back and re-read it, savouring the experience. Rather than read the book one small screen at a time, you buy the hardcover.

Now imagine if the ebook came out a year after the hardcovers. There might not be any hardcovers left in stock, denying the publisher that additional sale.

Two Audiences—Committed and Casual—Allow Buzz to Grow

By allowing committed fans (who buy the hardcovers) and those who are curious (who buy the ebook) to read a book at the same time, publishers allow for greater buzz to build from those two audiences, who each bring different perspectives. If the buzz is positive and loud enough, it might convince someone who is waiting for the paperback to go out and buy the hardcover.

By day, Matt Moore is a project manager and communication specialist in the information technology field. By night, he is a science fiction and horror writer with work in On Spec and Tesseracts Thirteen and an upcoming e-book published by Damnation Books. By later at night, he is the marketing director for ChiZine Publications, a small Canadian publisher. Raised in small-town New England, a place rich with legends and ghost stories, he lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He blogs at mattmoorewrites.wordpress.com.
By Matt Moore

When a prank goes wrong, three teenage boys are locked in the basement of a remote house by a man they know only as "Silverman". Given a gun loaded with one bullet, their captor instructs them to play a game: Before the next morning, one of them must choose which of the other two will shoot and kill the third. Play the game and the two survivors can go free. If they don't, all of them will die. As morning approaches and hope of being found and rescued fades, each boy must decide if he'll work with the others to try to escape and risk being killed, or save himself by playing Silverman's Game.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Broken Pencil Reviews Chimerascope

Broken Pencil reviews Chimerascope by Douglas Smith. One thing to note is that Chimerascope is a collection of short stories, and not a novel.

"Douglas Smith takes some of his (for the most part award-winning) stories and presents them to us in the form of the novel Chimerascope. Before or after each story, Smith gives personal commentary on his inspiration or what he was trying to achieve and although interesting, it is sometimes nice to be able to deduce for yourself the hidden significance in a story. That said, Smith is obviously a gifted writer in the genre of science-fiction. From the ancient deities and their centaur and nymph friends hanging out at a bar on Toronto island and mingling with the locals, to an autistic child finding solace on an alien world where colours in the sky speak to him in a way that no human can, to a massive house that holds the remnants of humanity -- Smith paints his worlds so well that you are transported within a paragraph or two and remain in transit until the short story ends -- a challenging feat to be sure... "

Read the rest here.

Buy the book here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Merril Flea Market

ChiZine Publications will have a table at a science fiction/anime flea market on September 11th at Beaton Reference Room in the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge St. This event in support of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy.

Hope to see you all there!

A Book By Any Other Name

By Helen Marshall

The recent bidding wars over eReaders have spawned a series of articles in newspapers and online journals predicting the demise of the book and looking with interest, excitement, nostalgia, foreboding, and regret to the age of digital books.  As a book historian by training, and one who specializes in the period right on the cusp of the transition from manuscript to print, I’ve been watching curiously to see how it all pans out. Books are going through growing pains, a kind of shaky puberty: their hormones are all over the place; they are experimenting with new identities; there’s a great deal of angst and worry from their parental publishers who both look forward to a new age of cheaper printing costs, less environmental damage, and fewer warehouse fees, but also who also wonder what kind of friends their baby will make at school and whether they’ll be needed at all.

In many ways, it’s a time of crisis; but as with all such growing pains it’s the transition that hurts most and the status of the industry before and after may well look the same – even if we lose some players and gain others. It’s a big shake-up, a chance for reading to reinvent itself, to establish what needs to be kept and what can be thrown out with the trash, or, to be more eco-conscience, recycled.

But are books – the kind made from paper and glue that you buy at the drugstore – really dead? I think not. Books as cultural and physical artefacts are still ingrained so deeply that our subconscious will have a hard time letting them go. Can you imagine swearing on an eBook of the Bible? If you walk into a stranger’s house, will you shuffle through the files on their Kindle? Books have status. They have weight. They have beauty. They have authority.

Certainly, eReaders will chip away at the edges of that over time, but the fact remains that books and eBooks are two very different things: they encourage different kinds of stories, different reading practices, different reading experiences. The Guardian recently published a piece, “The Art of Slow Reading.” It suggested that the interactivity of texts, our ability to cycle quickly from partial text to partial text, was damaging our ability to absorb larger chunks of text. All we process is the bite-sized (or byte-sized). In medieval studies, we compare the phenomena of intensive and extensive reading: if you only have a very limited number of books, you read them intensively, again and again, until you have a very deep understanding of the text. That’s what medieval monks did. Reading extensively requires you to access numerous texts, but to have a less substantial grasp on individual content. Society has been moving increasingly toward extensive reading patterns (when it moves toward any kind of increased reading pattern at all). It seems to me that eReaders will likely continue to push us in this direction – certainly, some reading will improve: the inclusion of dictionaries, glosses, character summaries will no doubt mean that the text is easier to interact with. But it may also play havoc with an author’s ability to control narrative flow.

This has, in some cases, proven to be a problem for the publishing of poetry. Billie Collins, in a recent article in the Associate Press, had a real problem with the way that eReader screens displayed the line-breaks of his poems: "The critical difference between prose and poetry is that prose is kind of like water and will become the shape of any vessel you pour it into to. Poetry is like a piece of sculpture and can easily break," Collins says.

It’s not just poetry that faces this problem. Prose writers – really attentive ones, anyway – use all sorts of features of layout to control the pacing of their books: white space, indentations, paragraph size. Read Dan Brown and you’ll find short, snappy paragraphs (much like Twitter feeds!); read Robert Shearman’s new book and you’ll find denser blocks with dialogue internalized so as not to break up the text flow. Layout matters, and eBooks aren’t quite there yet precisely because they are too interactive, too changeable, too prone to reader alteration.

There’s something about low-tech that can be useful. Here’s a chilling example. Most university libraries are spending less money on hardcopies and more money on digital databases because they are easier for both staff and students to access and they require less housing space. The problem is that digital databases require annual subscription memberships. As libraries dump their hardcopy budgets, what they find is they must devote more and more money to maintaining the subscriptions. If you buy your full library on an eReader, and donate your paperbacks to the Salvation Army, what happens when you need to upgrade? The Digital Age requires constant upkeep.

My point, though, is not that eBooks are worse than paperbacks; that they are somehow inferior in the quality of the product that they deliver. They aren’t.  But they aren’t a simple upgrade either. They offer us new possibilities for reading and writing. Video didn’t really kill the radio star, and even if the book is dead, I predict it will have a long afterlife.


Helen Marshall spends the majority of her time pursuing a Ph. D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto where she gets to travel across England to examine fourteenth-century manuscripts. Of course, her fascination with the making and writing of books extends well into the present. Her poetry has been published in ChiZine, NFG and the Ontarion Arts Supplement. "Mist and Shadows," published originally in Star*Line, appeared in The 2006 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Poetry of 2005." "The Gypsy" and "Crossroads and Gateways" both received honourable mentions in the 2009 Rannu Fund Contest, while four other poems were short-listed. She also works as an editor and slush reader for ChiZine Publications.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sandra Writes a Review

Sandra Kasturi, co-publisher of ChiZine, has a written a book review for the Globe and Mail!

She reviews Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James.

Catch it here!

Great Review of Thief of Broken Toys

Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon was reviewed by Wayne Simmons.

"..This is a beautifully written adult fairytale which, for me, echoes a lot of Asian horror cinema which I have enjoyed through the years. It’s a genre tale of sorts yet easily defies pigeonholing. Ultimately, this is a story about heartbreak and the ways people cope with loss – some distract themselves, others try to atone. There’s no heavy message or resolution for such, only a journey, and thus proves both emotionally engaging and satisfying..."

Read the rest of the review here.

Buy the Book here.

Stephen Graham Jones: A Cornucopia of Dark Wonders, Part Four

This is part four of the interview.
| Part One | Part Two | Part Three |

MM: I hear your story collection from Prime isn't your only new book coming out soon. What else do you have in the hopper?

Looking like It Came from Del Rio will be hitting in October, from Trapdoor, an excellent new publisher out here in Colorado. Some of the stuff they have in the works, man – I told Chris Matney [Trapdoor's founder] yesterday that I kind of suspect Trapdoor's going to be the Taco Bell of this version of Demolition Man we're living in. That they might be the ones to win the fast food wars, I mean, the ones who figure out how to move around in this e-book phase of things. Instead of being scared of it like most places seem to be, they're pushing it farther, harder, better. So excited.

And, as for It Came from Del Rio, it's an epistolary South Texas zombie novel. This touching story of a father and daughter finding each again, coming to terms with what one's done, what one now is. And, I say it's a zombie novel, but not the shuffling, brain-eating kind. Though I like to do that as well, of course. Who doesn't? But Del Rio, the 'zombie' in it, his own head kind of gets worn down, just by, you know, living, non-living, all that, so he has to fight this giant rabbit, steal that rabbit's head. Series title: The Bunnyhead Chronicles. I love this novel so, so much.

Also, just this week I'm signing a two-book deal with Dzanc, for some non-horror stuff. Hardly normal stuff, though. The first book, due out in 2013, it's Flushboy, a teen love story about this kid working the window at his dad's drive-through urinal, The Bladder Hut. We've all been there, right? Taking bank tubes of warm, sloshing urine, depositing it in the vats, knowing that if you don't keep the pressures adjusted, then those vats are going to boil over, wash you away.

The second book ¬– this is 2014 – is Not for Nothing, a second-person noir set not just in any small town, but in the small town I grew up in, Stanton, Texas. I've done a lot of fiction where I just make places up as I go, get all fast and loose with geography and history, all of that, but in this one, every building's not just real to me, but a kind of hyper-real, all laden with everything I know's happened there across the last forty years. Our grumbly hero here's Nicholas Bruiseman, an ousted homicide detective being forced to return to his hometown, solve some cases he wants no part of, as they're making him look into a past he thought forgot. But, in places like Stanton, the past is never gone. You live in it, day by day.

And, I guess that's four books on the way, yeah? Hopefully a couple more. My 2012's all empty right now. But I've got all these other novels too, each of which I love – Seven Spanish Angels, Zombie Bake-Off, The Least of My Scars, one I can't say the name of out loud (set in Stanton too), another with the best title ever, which I also can't say out loud as I'm right-now rewriting it for the third time, and another (werewolves, excellent title) that I just need to steal some months to get down on paper the right way. So, yeah, hopefully more'll be happening.

MM: Sounds like you keep busy! Where online should readers go to find out more about your work, and of course, to buy your books?

SGJ: I guess Powell's and all the on-line places have my books. And of course the different publishers (FC2, MacAdam/Cage, Nebraska, Chiasmus, and, soon, Prime and Trapdoor – Trapdoor's It Came from Del Rio – and one more that I can't quite say out loud yet). And my site's usually got links. http://demontheory.net

MM: Will you be a guest at any conventions in the next year?

SGJ: Yeah, MileHiCon here soon, in Denver. Doing a festival out in Minnesota in October. Probably more, and more.

MM: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered so far?

SGJ: A few weeks ago I was on a panel about writing, and the talk veered towards writing and community, and I realized – had known all along, I guess – that it's in horror that I've found the best sense of community. That best group of people all supporting each other, sharing the same cool interests, hoping each other makes it. Which, that's not why I write horror – I can't seem to help writing horror, even though it terrifies me each time – but it definitely helps. So, thanks to all the writers I've met out there, and'll keep meeting. Always an honor. I'm so lucky that this ridiculous thing I keep trying to do puts me in contact with such good people. I wouldn't be anywhere else.

MM: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stephen Graham Jones: A Cornucopia of Dark Wonders, Part Three

Click here to read part one, and here for part two.

MM: Your most recent novels are The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti and Ledfeather, both published in 2008. In today’s culture it seems like every novelist wants to get into screenplays and movies. Are you working on turning any of those novels into screenplays? Which of your novels would make especially good movies, and why? Hey, maybe a Hollywood producer will read this, ya never know…

SGJ: I have one novel, Zombie Bake-Off, which I've also written as a screenplay. And it works, I think. Another that I'm working on now, I wrote it as this huge-o novel, then decided it was too bulky, so used a screenplay transfer to try to slim it down, ferret out the dramatic line. And did, I think. So now the plan is to suck it back across to a completely different novel than the original. And, this one novel I have, Seven Spanish Angels, it'd be fun on screen. So long as Jennifer Lopez could be in it. And All the Beautiful Sinners, I sucked it into a graphic novel script, and, in doing so, kind of stumbled onto all this fun visual stuff happening, which kind of suggests to me that it might work on-screen. Nolan Dugatti wouldn't, though, I don't think, and Ledfeather, I'd have a hard time trusting it out, and Fast Red Road, it'd make a great Heavy Metal kind of cartoon. Not something I could adapt across, though.

Really, I think novelists are the worst for adapting their own stuff. Just because every little thing matters. They're too intimately involved with what pulling on this or that string means forty minutes later. Better to let somebody who hates the story have a go at it, I say. Maybe they'll fall in love with it along the way, even. If you've written it well enough in the first place.

MM: You maintain an active Facebook presence. Most successful writers these days work very hard to keep in touch with their readers by interacting more online. Has interaction with your readers changed any aspect of your writing – for example, the topics you cover in your stories or books?

SGJ: Hasn't changed anything, I don't think, though of course it takes discipline to write when there's so much fun stuff happening just an alt-tab away. Trick is to make the stuff you're writing even more fun, I think.

MM: According to your Wikipedia page, “At public readings he's said that his short story ‘Bestiary’ isn't fiction.” Tell us about that.

SGJ: Just that where I grew up – outside Midland, Texas – you spend a lot of time shooting stuff. So that story, for me, it's just kind of an apology to all those buried and blown-apart animals. None of the eaten ones, but, yeah, all the ones that I just wanted to see closer, I don't know. Maybe it's what you were talking about earlier, that loss of innocence thing. At a certain point – way too late to undo any of it, of course – I kind of cued in that this really wasn't any way to live in the world. In any world. So now I just try to shoot things for the freezer, because getting that high-meadow grass secondhand, it's got to be better for you than all the glowing stuff in the food at WalMart. Unless of course elk have some secret discount store up on the mountain.

MM: Let’s find out a little more about the man behind the books. Tell us about your early years. Did you grow up in the country … a town … a city?

SGJ: Country. Place called Greenwood, mostly. West Texas. Dry, hot, pretty fun. Grew up working cattle and plowing cotton and moving from house to house, trailer to trailer. And playing a lot of basketball. And building and unbuilding all these series of trucks. Riding pumpjacks, running from dogs, hiding sick rabbits in my bathroom, having all kinds of encounters with snakes. Having nobody live within bike distance, usually. Running through the pastures at night. Mesquite, barbed wire, quail. Old sheds with intricate drawings of prison floorplans in them. Sandhill cranes blotting out the sky once when I was twelve. Driving to town to stand behind Long John Silver's at nine on Friday nights, so we could have all the fish they were going to throw out. Copenhagen, Motley Crue, headlights in the dust that never settled. Sleeping on top of oil tanks, or in the cool furrows of fresh-plowed cotton fields. Meteor showers. Truckbeds spilling over with pie melons, to lob into caliche pits. Butane pumps popping all night. Coyotes everywhere. Racing trains, turning our headlights off in the fog, listening to old peanut-eating men tell stories at the gin. That kind of stuff.

MM: What’s a typical day in the life of Stephen Graham Jones like? Are you married, and if so, does your wife get to read your books before everyone else?

SGJ: Yeah, married. And no, my wife doesn't read my stuff before it's published. She could, but, I mean, I write so many that what's the point, right? Best just to hit the stuff that makes it upstream, gets to be a real boy.

MM: You have a lot of demands on your time: your writing, your family life, fan interaction, and your day job at the university. What do you do to blow off steam … or get away from it all? Or do you even need to do that sort of thing?

SGJ: Used to be it was basketball, but now my driveway's all stupidly slanted. Then it was hackysack, but that led to microfracture surgery for my knee. Now I guess it's road biking. Just because, on a mountain bike, I'm always trying bigger and less-sure jumps. So it's best if I just try to race the clock out on the asphalt, I think. Though I also love pawn shops, garage sales, anywhere there's junk. I want to draw it all close, hold onto it forever.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the final portion of the interview!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stephen Graham Jones: A Cornucopia of Dark Wonders, Part Two

If you missed it, click here to read part one!

MM: Which of the stories in your new collection is your personal favorite? I know that’s like asking a dad which of his sons is his favorite – but hey, you probably have a favorite, right?

SGJ: Man. Maybe "The Meat Tree," I guess. Because that's me in the story, yeah - it's me in all the stories, even "Lonegan's Luck," set in 1890 or whenever – but because writing that one, I've always kind of secretly suspected that, if I ever learned how to write a novel, it was in "The Meat Tree" that I learned it. Stories aren't just about cool things happening, about characters making hard decisions. You've got to have a voice to deliver it. Before "The Meat Tree" I'd done a lot of stories that had real and decent voices, but "Meat Tree," for me it's where voice synched up with a layered story in a way that still feels so right to me. But the lead story, "Father, Son, Holy Rabbit," aside from how different it is now from when it ran in Cemetery Dance, I still don't think I'm done with it. Really, I kind of suspect every story I've told, or will tell, it's there, in that. And I'm not done with it.

MM: I love your book Demon Theory, since it plays so cleverly with horror-movie concepts. Are you an avid horror movie viewer? Do you watch the latest releases, or prefer the classics?

SGJ: I'm an omnivore, I guess. Even on the selection committee for a horror film festival right now. Old, new, made for three thousand or wide-release. I pretty much love it all – though, I should say, I'm also terrified by it all, and almost always so grossed out I have to look away. My favorite genre of horror movie's of course the slasher. Just taught a class on them. Can't get enough – can't wait for Scream 4. I tend to shy away from possession or ghost movies, though. Just because I'm going to have to sleep eventually.

Love vampires and zombies, aliens and predators, and especially werewolves. Not so much into the gross-out contests, though. Or, I mean, I can't even watch Southpark while I eat, because it grosses me out. And also because laughter and macaroni aren't the best mix. But I love the old, say, Peter Jackson overgore stuff. And duct-taping a head back on in Decampitated, say. But Triangle, man, that was beautiful, wonderful, excellent. And so was Harpoon. And, tonight, if I get around to a DVD of my own, it's going to be either The Flesh and Blood Show or The Ant King. If I had the complete run of Harper's Island, though, then it might be another marathon like that. Just because I like to be happy.

MM: Demon Theory entertains on two levels: through the main story told in the body of the novel, and also through the many revelations conveyed through the footnotes. How did that project evolve? Did you say to yourself one day, “I’m going to write a novel with a heck of a lot of footnotes!”…?

SGJ: No, I originally meant for the footnotes to be just for me. To back up: I slammed Demon Theory out in 1999, right on the heels of finishing my first novel, The Fast Red Road. My plan was to write something the complete exact opposite of Fast Red Road. That meant different voice, different style, different content. But still about what I love. So, since Fast Red Road had been – still is, for me – about this one particular truck I love love love, then I needed to pick something else I loved for this next project: horror movies. It was obvious. Back then, to unwind from Fast Red Road, I'd been watching two or three horror VHS's a night, pretty much. Just going down the shelf, taking whatever was next. And – I don't think I've said this out loud, ever – Demon Theory, when I started it, my main delimiter for it was that all the dialogue be spoken. Because, back then, I thought that was my weakest non-trick, dialogue. I was always paraphrasing, doing it some indirect way. But the reader needs to be in-scene, needs to be involved real-time like that on and off. So I took this one guy Con to a party, to see what would happen. And, as it turned out, what would happen would be a three-wheeler wreck at the core of everything. Which, that's a trick directly from Fast Red Road, where, each time I hit that what's-next wall, I'd just mine my own life.

It's what I accidentally did with Demon Theory: that three-time-happening three-wheeler wreck? That's me. And I felt, really and truly, like I was dying then, thought maybe I was dead somehow, just walking around. Three times I went under those tires, though, like Jenny. But kept getting back up. So, yeah, Demon Theory started out being me trying to do the opposite, me trying not to get labeled an 'Indian' writer, me trying to teach myself dialogue, but, like with every story I write, it wound up being me trying to make sense of the world, me trying to shape my personal narrative such that it made sense.

As for the footnotes, though, they were originally my way of checking myself, of saying where I was stealing this from, why I was doing that – more Fast Red Road carryover: in that one, I embedded all these song lyrics, so, this time, I wanted to call myself on that – but then they just kind of warped into their own thing, this understory that was the real story. Can't imagine Demon Theory without them, though, if the story doesn't work without them, it's a failure, yes?

Anyway, what sucked was that I stole Thanksgiving from my warehouse job in 1999 to finish it, and did, and then, in January of 2000, my friend gives me an early look at this interview he was doing with this unknown guy, writing this novel with all these layers of footnotes, this horror novel that was going to change everything, bring scary stories into some kind of legitimate arena, all that. I read the same of House of Leaves he shot me and it kind of broke my heart. So I went back, stripped out all the fun apparatus I'd had on the original Demon Theory – all these levels of different-typefaced reviewers, and a whole another trilogy of nevermade Italian movies that Demon Theory was robbing, and on and on – and finally MacAdam/Cage took a chance on it in 2006, though by that time I'd already used the title I originally wrote it under, All the Beautiful Sinners. I kind of dig the 'Demon Theory'-title, though. And, though to me, Fast Red Road, it's practically autobiography, still, Demon Theory's where I buried my heart.

Stay tuned for part three...