Chapbook Odyssey

Anybody remember chapbooks? Also known as chapter books, or chapel books?

Well, before self publishing was a big thing, they were a thing. And therein lies a tale. One that, I’m sad to say, makes me feel a little old. But here goes.

Chapbooks were basically a collection regular eight and a half paper sheets, folded in the middle, with a cardstock cover, and stapled in the middle (saddle stapled). This resulted in a 5×8 publication, which was digest sized. Small press and zine publishers used the format, and before the advent of eBooks, computers, modern printers and POD, it was the route to self publishing. Some of them were quite nice with glossy covers and high end art. Some of them were works of art by themselves with handmaid paper, and hand sewn fabric stitching.

I first came across chapbooks at a local bookstore, McNally Robinson. Three collections of sci fi poetry and short stories by a local film maker, Perry Stratychuk. Back then I was doing a fanzine for a local sci fi club, and I was intrigued enough to interview him. He was a nice guy, he worked for the National Film Board, and he’d written, produced and directed a ‘no budget’ post apocalyptic sci fi epic called ‘Roc Saga.’

That was my introduction. Something off the beaten path, something cool. But not something I was interested in following. At that time I was writing short stories, lots of them, and sending them out steadily. Self publishing seemed like a dead end – I’d get a few copies in bookstores and…. so what?

Then shortly after, in September, 1994, the World Science Fiction Convention came to Winnipeg.

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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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Dawn of Cthulhu and other stories….

Are you a Lovecraft fan? Can you pronounce Cthulhu? Do you recognize the guy with the tentacles? Azathoth? Yog Sothoth? Leng? Mountains of Madness? Shoggoths? Innsmouth?

If any of that meant anything to you, the answer is ‘yes.’

If it didn’t, stick around, you might find this interesting anyway.

Or you could go back and read my blog post, H.P.Lovecraft and Me. Seriously, it’s worth reading.

Anyway, I’m a writer, and something of a Lovecraft fan. I’m not blind to his shortcomings either as a human being or as a writer, I certainly don’t endorse them. Lovecraft’s strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a writer both deserve attention and consideration. There are things that can and should be condemned, but at the same time, I think that nuance is appropriate. In the end, all our ancestors were monsters, and all their works are tainted. Yet we live in the world they made, and we build our houses upon their rocks.  There’s a blog post I’ll get to.

But Lovecraft did do some things well, Lovecraft was influential, and deservedly so. I certainly have, in some ways, been influenced.

I’ve actually written two major Lovecraft stories.

I will caveat that – not major in the sense of setting the genre on its ear, winning awards or even getting much notice. But major in the sense of being very large works, the two stories together probably run better than 25,000 words, and which, I think have unique but effective and interesting twists on the mythos. Maybe someday they will get some notice.

One of these is called Life, Love and the Necronomicon, its psychological horror exploring the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred and his world. You can find it in Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs.

The other is The Secret History of the Cthulhu Cult, one of three long stories found in Dawn of Cthulhu. I don’t think I need to explain what it’s about. The three stories are about Cthulhu, Lost Continents, and Muppets.

Yeah, you heard me. Muppets.

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The Mermaid’s Tale: We Got Reviews!!!

I got reviews. Not of The Luck, not yet. I’m hoping for those, and I’m planning on running it by the few famous (semi-famous?) people I know in hopes of getting a plug.

But for The Mermaid’s Tale, I have reviews. Normally, I just stay away from those things. It’s a ‘no win’ situation. If you get a bad review, well it ruins your whole day. If you get a good review, then you end up believing it, you get a swelled head, start thinking you’re special, and it’s just feeding your ego. I’ve got enough of an ego, maybe too much of one. If you get a mediocre review… well, who cares? So there’s no good outcome from reading your reviews, I try not to.

But here I am, trying to sell the book to you, and promote my upcoming book, The Luck, and hell, even sell you on all/any of my other writing. I’ve got a whole web site and blog devoted to it – so hey, narcissism central!

So anyway, I thought I’d delve into reviews and share some excerpts of comments with you. Not the entire review (unless they’re really short), because that’s the property of the author.

***

Michael Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption.

“This book is violent and brutal and haunting and beautiful. If I could give this a sixth star I would.”  

I think that this is actually the official plug for The Mermaid’s Tale. I suspect that Fletcher is the most semi-famous person to have reviewed me. Fletcher is actually an absolutely brilliant writer, definitely out of my league. I picked up Beyond Redemption on a trip to Australia and was absolutely rivetted reading it back home. It was just amazing, a powerhouse tour de force of imagination, horror, empathy and sweetness. I was in awe. So seriously, this is a writer that you need to go well out of your way to find.

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