There Are No Doors in Dark Places

I’m going to talk about my collection of short stories: There Are No Doors in Dark Places.  It’s part of my trilogy of horror along with Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and What Devours Always Hungers.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing with this blog. Seriously, angry rants about Covid-19 and black lives matter, or biographical sketches, philosophical questions, thinking out loud as to what I’d do with Doctor Who or Robin, or really obscure reviews, it’s whatever seems to occur to me at the moment.

I’m sure that there are other writers out there with blogs that are just laser focused on the exigencies of writing, or the cutting edges of techno-pop culture, or whatever the hell. There’s blogs full of deep insightful book reviews, sophisticated discussions of the going’s on of the book industry, or a niche about comics.

Me? Who the hell knows?

I just write about… Whatever.

I’m I don’t really have much of anyone reading this stuff. That’s kind of liberating. I write, compulsively. If it was a successful blog, readership and everything, regular followers, I would probably need to be more focused, more narrow.  I’d have to get my shit together. But here, I just write whatever.

Some people talk or think in terms of their writing careers.

For me, writing is not so much a career, but more a personality disorder.

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Lovecraft’s World

Back when The Mermaid’s Tale came out, I was attending a Sci Fi Convention called CanCon in Ottawa, Ontario.

Interesting story there. One day, I get an email from Lorina, my publisher, asking about the book launch for The Mermaid’s Tale. I replied back, that it sounded like a terrific idea, I was all for it. Then I learned there was actually a book launch scheduled at a convention called When World’s Collide in Alberta. Terrific! But then I found that When World’s Collide was sold out, both the convention and the hotels. I missed my own book launch. Kind of ironic, or something.

So I thought what the hell, and went to CanCon. It was nice. The problem for me is that I don’t attend these things regularly enough to be able to take full advantage of them.

If I have any advice for young writers, it’s this: Go to conventions regularly. You don’t have to go to all of them, but pick a few, and go a few years in succession. The first time at a particular convention you’re just getting the lay of the land. I think it’s the second or third time, maybe even fourth, that you can actually take advantage of the potential opportunities. Hell, if you go there three or four years in a row, then you may just keep on for the hell of it.

The first year, it’s up and down. You go to panels, you sign up for things, you say hello to random strangers. It’s all hit and miss

So anyway, at CanCon, I attended an absolutely terrible panel on Lovecraft and Racism.

How terrible was it?

Let me put it this way: One of the panellists, in the minutes before the panel actually started, had to google Lovecraft on her phone. Well, that’s a good sign. That’s preparation.

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Rethinking It: Robin, Year One

How about something a little different? Robin, Year One. This is another one of my “Hey, if I could get my hands on a Franchise – Doctor Who, Space Force, Stargate, etc., here’s the cool thing I would do!”

Yeah, it’s never going to happen. But they’re fun ideas to play with. The thing with being a writer is everyone asks you ‘where do you get your ideas.’ But the thing is, ideas are only the start. It’s what you do with them, where you take them, how you develop them. Behind any story, any novel, there’s this whole background. The story is like the tip of the iceberg, or the front of the stage. But there’s all this stuff underneath the water, or behind and below the stage, premises and assumptions, choices, arcs directions. There are all these elements which give the story shape, structure, energy. It’s all this backstage stuff that gets worked out, which really makes a story interesting… or uninteresting.

Call it backstage at the writers mind. The thing I like about these sorts of exercises, is that the reader actually knows the end product or at least the shape of it. People know Doctor Who, or Godzilla, or Stargate. People know who Batman is. So I can take that, spin, work it, and say “Here’s an interesting line of ideas, premises, arcs.” And I think that you can relate to it a little better than some random idea, you’re closer to being able to see what the end result would be.

So, Robin,Year One. Or Batman and Robin, Year One.

Here’s something I’ve been kicking around.

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The Agent’s Merry Go Round – Part One

So….  here I am looking for an Agent again. I’ve got Princess of Asylum.  Bloodsucker has been submitted to a Tor Imprint. The Mermaid’s Tale’s rights have reverted back to me, and The Luck was contracted but never published. That’s four novels in play.

Might as well bite the bullet. What am I going to do? Write another novel? I’m actually working on two right now. Release another ebook? Four or five are done and in the pipeline. Seriously, time to suck it up, and go for it.

So…. Agents?

It was, and still is, a catch 22. To get an Agent you needed a book deal with a publisher. To get a book deal you needed an Agent. Round and round we go on the merry go round, no way on.

How do you find one? Well, back in the day, when I was first trying to break through, there were publications. SF Chronicle and Locus for the speculative fiction genre, there was Writers Digest Magazine, there was an Annual Directory of Publishers and Agents. I had subscriptions, I bought the Directories. It was all like reading tea leaves, it was all inscrutable and frustrating. Names of Agents who had sold novels to publishers, but they were names in a vacuum, phrases connecting here to there in emptiness.  Even the Directories were frustrating, the Agents write ups, or interviews in magazines being maddeningly frustrating.

Back then, when research involved buying directories, combing through trade publications, searching for interviews and references, it was maddeningly vague.

You know what some writers did?  They’d go through books checking the dedications and the acknowledgements, hoping to find the name of the writer’s agent.

“Special thanks to my Agent, Anonymous Blandy, without whose help this novel would never have seen publication.”

The theory being that if these were books that you really liked, which were written similarly to yours, then you could guess this agent might like your stuff.  But what were you going to do, irritate the staff at Bookstores as you worked your way with pen and notepad through the Sci Fi section. Grab your own table at the library and stack em up? Or just go through your personal library? How many books did you read in a year? Twenty? Fifty?  Or search through review for books you thought might be enough like your style and subject matter, then search out the books themselves, check if they’re complementary, then search out the author, and hopefully, get a lead on the author’s agent.  Sometimes, the search for an Agent was this Rube Goldberg Odyssey.

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Bloodsucker – A Sneak Peek

“Melissa is a street kid who believes she’s a vampire.  As she cruises and feeds among the low lifes of a decaying city, she encounters hookers, drug dealers, homeless people, perverts, predators, musicians, artists and social workers, all of them just trying to get by.  Meanwhile, trio of young serial killers are cruising for fun. And elsewhere, a black lab has been exposed and secret investigators are on the trail.  Melissa tries to cope with her new nature by setting limits and moral standards, but as she progresses, she crosses line after line.  Eventually, her journey leads her back to the secret laboratory, and the revelation that she’s not a vampire, but something worse….”

BACKGROUND

Bloodsucker is my first novel, way way back.  Not much to say… I’d been writing short stories for years.  I had dozens of stories. The market for short stories was  crap, and I figured that I’d developed enough as a writer to try something more ambitious.  Simple as that.

Actually, there is more.  When I moved out to Winnipeg to go to law school, it was my first time in an even semi-large city. I was far from home, and on a very limited income, I didn’t know anyone out here. Eventually, I ended up living downtown in the Exchange district in the middle of what turned out to be the red light district, in an old low end building, owned by a divorced entrepreneur and his sons.

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The Fall of Atlantis and Other Stories

That’s obviously not Atlantis on the book cover.  If anything that’s Anti-Atlantis, with it’s central sea in there, surrounded by land and ringed by mountains.  That’s an almost complete inversion of Plato’s idea of an Island nation out in the Atlantic.

The picture is Greenland of course.  But not the Greenland we know, it’s Greenland without the ice.  This is a topographic radar map of Greenland’s elevations. It plays a little trick on us – blue is the colour designated for sea level elevation, so everything on the radar map that’s coloured in blue is at sea level elevation or lower.  The green parts are just above sea level.  The reddish brown represents mountain country.

It actually gives you a decent idea of what Greenland was like, or would have been like without all that ice.  Not a perfect idea, there’s a thing called ‘Isostatic Rebound.’ Basically, most of Greenland is under two miles of ice.  That two miles of ice is compressing the bedrock. Take it away, and Greenland will probably lift.  But I suspect that mostly, that lift won’t dramatically change what we see  I think it’s a fascinating map. It’s filled with possibility, potential. It’s so much better than most homegrown fantasy maps.

That’s the explanation for the Map that isn’t Atlantis, on a book titled Fall of Atlantis.

In a sense, like The Dawn of Cthulhu, this is a book about world building.  It’s speculative fiction of the plainest, barest kind, taking ideas like ‘What would Greenland be like without the Ice?’   Or ‘What’s a plausible pathway for the Romans to get to the New World?‘  And  just spinning them out and extrapolating.  No plot, no characters, but fiction all the same.

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Fascism – An Axis of Andes sneak peek

EXCERPT

The Rise of Fascism in Ecuador in the 1930’s

The thing you have to understand about fascism is that it isn’t an ideology at all.

It’s theater.

It’s all about dressing up and marching around and shouting in unison. It’s about being mad as hell and not taking it, whatever it is, any more. It’s about right and wrong, traditional virtues, manly men, womenly women, nervous but alluring sheep. It’s simple solutions to a complicated world, the innate superiority of tribe and fixing the world with a sock to the jaw of some craven jew/marxist/indian/etc. etc.

Fascist ideology is almost always a contradiction in terms. What a fascist believes, what a fascist does is self serving and fluid, fitting the needs of the moment.

There is no real theory. Theory is for eggheads sitting in their ivory towers, contemplating the world, passively studying and forming theories.

Well, while the eggheads sat there and studied, the Fascists were about action. They would go out and act, and let the eggheads study that. And while the eggheads studied, they would act again. Fascists would remake the world, through the sheer power of will and action.

Fascism was not about thinking, it was about acting. It was not about reflection or ideology or theory, it was about passion.

It was all nonsense, of course. But Fascism had the advantage of looking good with all its shouting and bluster and appeals to blood and virtue.

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Your Heroes Were Monsters

I’ve been meaning to write about Lovecraft and his racism. I think that maybe there are interesting things to say about that subject. Fair warning, this essay will be rambling and meandering. I’m working through ideas. Take it or leave it.

But instead, what set this off was Isaac Asimov. I think if you’re an average lay person, you’ll probably go ‘Who?’

But if you’re a science fiction nerd, he’s practically god. Born in 1920, Asimov was a biochemist, eventually a professor of biochemistry. Selling his first story in 1939, he was an incredibly prolific science fiction writer, with a career that spanned literally hundreds of stories, dozens of novels, the Foundation Future History series, right up to his death in 1992. On top of that, he was a critical editor. His name was on a leading science fiction magazine. He wrote mysteries. He moved into non-fiction and became a science populariser and general writer. He’s credited as the author of over five hundred books. That’s stunning.

Within the sci fi community, he was incredibly active, friendly and popular, and accessible. He was a charming guy, not retiring like Clarke, not arrogant, not weird. Just fun to be around. Any narrow field is rife with backbiting, with feuds, with dirty deals, and people getting screwed over or doing the screwing. But not Asimov. Everyone seemed to like him, no enemies, which is remarkable

He cultivated this avuncular, charming public image – the fiendishly intelligent, but friendly and approachable guy, with muttonchop sideburns and black rimmed glasses. Not threatening, not intimidating, just… likeable.

Not the best writer in the world, but a hell of a guy, and as I said, practically a god in the Science Fiction community, and well liked.

Also, it turns out, he was a serial harasser, a regular groper, who constantly sexually propositioned women, whether his advances were wanted or not. He groped breasts, he groped ass, he put his arm around women, he didn’t ask permission, he just did it. For some it was welcome, for many it wasn’t, but he just didn’t care. He reveled in it, he wrote a book called the ‘sensuous dirty old man’ about his career and joy in sexual harassment.

None of this was a secret. He was a staple at conventions. Everyone knew he did it. Men, women, women who’d been groped and accepted it, women who’d been groped and didn’t like it. Everyone knew. The behavior was there, no question, and it was normally unacceptable even for the standards of its time.

So now, finally, twenty-eight years after his death, Asimov’s reputation is finally crashing.

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Rethinking It: The Inhumans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Spiderman? Great. Captain America? Terrific. Iron Man? Brilliant. Even the Hulk and Captain Marvel have their favourites.

But then we come to the Inhumans. This was the MCU’s big fiasco. There’s a lot of history with the Inhumans, and it’s pretty much all crap from start to finish. Let’s work backwards.

The Inhumans appeared in theatre as an MCU movie notable for being cheap looking, plastic, with mediocre special effects, costumes, and sub-par acting. After a couple of disastrous week or two in the movie theatres, it played on television as the pilot to an eight episode series. Now this isn’t the first time that a television pilot was released theatrically. Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica got that treatment. But it’s generally not a good idea.

The subsequent series was basically more of same – crap CGI, crap characters, crap costumes and acting. It might have had a moment now and then, but it was shabby. And it undercut itself – Medusa the lead inhuman with the octopus tentacle hair got her head shaved. Karnak, the ultimate martial artist got a concussion and lost his skills. So these ‘special attributes’ are barely introduced then written out? The series died hard no one cared.

Behind the scenes, it seems like the Inhumans were the pet project of Ike Perlmutter, who was one of the people behind the MCU. The general consensus is that Kevin Feige is the brilliant pilot of the MCU. Perlmutter was the racist, sexist, cheapskate troll who was eventually forced out of the movies and exiled into the television branch, where he could only mess with Agents of Shield. He also pushed the Inhumans there to.

Why did Perlmutter push the inhumans? Because way back in the day, when Marvel was having a hard time, they sold their most lucrative property, the X-Men. Now that they’re a big thing, they can’t get the X-Men back.

The X-Men were about mutants, regular people who got all these fantastic weird powers and amounted to another race alongside humanity. That’s pretty much the same basic description as the Inhumans. So Perlmutter basically figured that the Inhumans could be replacement X-Men.

Not quite.

Okay, let me show off my Nerd Cred by giving you a little of the background of the whole Inhumans shtick.

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Retroverse, Sneak Peek

Retroverse:  The Secret History of Outer Space

So what do we have here?  This is my other Coronaclypse Project.

Here’s how it started. Way back when, I was working for this small law firm. My boss went nuts, after about a year, I decided that it wasn’t going to get better and quit the firm. I took a job working in house for an Indian Band and moved up north.  It was a good job, loved the work, loved the people I worked with.

But… the downside was that I’d basically moved away from my wife, from my life down in the city, our friends, etc.  My mother in law had just had a stroke a couple of months before. So she couldn’t come to join me for two and a half years.  Come a long weekend I’d take the twelve hour bus ride down, and then take the twelve hour ride back. But even with the phone and visits, it was pretty lonely.

I had some time on my hands.

Anyway, one night, I was watching a Late Night Double Bill – This Island Earth and Queen of Outer Space.

This Island Earth involves aliens in the 1950’s who call themselves the Metaluna, who try to trick a bunch of scientists into being a think tank for them.  It turns out that that the Metaluna are at war with another alien race, the Zagons, who are bombing them out of existence.

Queen of Outer Space involves astronauts in the 1980’s who get hijacked to Venus which is ruled by space amazons.  Turns out that the Venerians  a generation ago had an interplanetary war with a neighboring planet called Morda, they won, but they’re still bitter.

It was late at night, I was bored, and kind of fuzzy, so I ended up wondering  “What if its the same war?”  What if the interplanetary war from This Island Earth was actually the same interplanetary war referred to in Queen of Outer Space, just seen from two different points of view. What if these two movies were in the same universe.

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