Wednesday, August 25, 2004

WHY SHOULD I CUT YOUR THROAT?

Later this year, Monkey Brain Books will release my definitive nonfiction collection Why Should I Cut Your Throat? Excursions into the Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror--300 pages culled from 15 years of reviews, essays, articles, and new journalism-style convention reports, with an amazing cover by Scott Eagle.



I'm happy to have this collection out. It's kind of a companion piece to my short story collection Secret Life, covering the same general time period. With all of this work "codified," so to speak, all of my major writing from 1988 to the beginning of 2004 is in print. Now I can focus on the future, including the new novels I'm planning on starting on later this year.

Here's the table of contents:

PREAMBLE
Why Should I Cut Your Throat When I Can Just Ask You For The Money?

CAREER AND CRAFT
Rum Runners, Tiny Castles, And Allergies
Leviathan Overview
Sudden Hummingbirds, Sudden Dislocations: The Interstitial Experience
City Of Saints & Madmen: The Untold Story
A Short Essay On Teaching Creative Writing
Scott Eagle: The Interview
The Best Fireworks Display You’ve Ever Seen

INTERLUDE
World Fantasy Convention 25: 1999

REVIEWS
The Circus Of The Earth And The Air
Pulphouse #18—The Jesus Issue
Lorien Lost
Longing For Blood
F&SF—January 1997 Issue
Read This #1: 1997
Shadow Bones
The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: A Top 40 List
Read This #2: 2000
Island of the Sequined Love Nun and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Silent Children
Look To Windward
Thraxas
The Scar
Light
Toxicology
Observatory Mansions
Read This #3: 2002
In Springdale Town
Trampoline

INTERLUDE
Vanishing Books, Fake Diseases, and Alien Babies: A Myopic View of ReaderCon 14 (2002)

CRITICISM
Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet
The Death of the Imagination?
Horror: Alive Or Dead? A Discussion of the Current Horror Malaise
Cordwainer Smith: An Appreciation
Barry Hughart’s Slight Flaw
The Infernal Desire Machines Of Angela Carter
Angela Carter : A Personal Appreciation

CODA
Anarchy, Surrealism, Dead Authors, & Ambergris


As for the context behind the title of the collection, I offer this excerpt from the title convention report--Georgiacon 1990. A group of us out late at night in downtown Atlanta, looking for a place to eat...

Eventually, we stumbled upon a box-sized Domino's Pizza joint—a coffin, with the China Syndrome “control room” protected by bullet-proof glass. Shifty-eyed delivery boys sidled shell-shocked out of a steel-reinforced door on their bicycles, as if expecting to be robbed, raped, and killed upon their departure.

As we ordered and then waited for our pizza, we all sweated profusely. It felt like Hell, which is to say it felt like Calcutta on a breezeless day. For the first time I understood why I’d brought a passport from Florida into Georgia.

About five minutes later, an angry black man in jeans and t-shirt entered the Dominoes box and asked us if we could spare some money. He held out a dollar and said, “I need just one more to get a burger at McDonald’s.”

“We spent all our money on pizza,” Dan told the man, from his vantage sitting in the only chair.

“Don’t lie to me!” the man said, up close and personal, spitting in Dan’s face. “Don’t lie to me! If you don’t want to give me money, say no. Just say no.”

Dan looked up at the man and said, “No.”

Stunned silence.

Great. Conveniently, we had given Domino's the opportunity to kill us through the bad temper of a customer rather than the usual delivery truck rammed through the sternum at high speed or the equally effective twenty years’ slow death from high fat and cholesterol content.

The angry man hesitated, stiffened, said, “All right, then, man,” turned on his heel, and walked out the door.

By the time the Noble Panhandler had left, my pulse was doing a variety of colorful tropical dances. I disliked the idea of dying, like Thomas Hardy’s “Drummer Hodge,” under a foreign sky, in a foreign state, because some guy wanted a dollar:

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Jeff for ever be;
His homely Florida breast and brain
Grow up a Georgia tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

I disliked to my marrow the idea of dying in a Domino's. My idea of death is to kick off while locked in an embrace with my girlfriend, eating chocolate chip ice cream, and reading a last few pages of Angela Carter.

So imagine my distress when a second man walked in, looking like Jimi Hendrix in the same way I resemble a hybrid of Mel Torme and Robert Redford. Not only did he stumble and slur his speech, but he held a pill bottle in his hand while he smoked a cigarette. After trying, unsuccessfully, to order a glass of water, he turned his attentions to us.

I backed into a corner and held my pen stiff against my side, sharp point exposed. I suppose if attacked I could have inked him to death. Ann and Amy stood against the wall. David looked like he wanted to punch someone. The smell of sweat and fear and pizza filled the room, mostly my sweat and fear.

Dan, meanwhile, sat on his throne and held counsel with the man, who rambled on about a food kitchen that gave out flying hot dogs. Dan held the pills while the guy tried to give directions to the hot dog place.

“Oh, barbital,” Dan said with a smile, reading the pill bottle label.
Barbital. It meant nothing to me at the time, though it should have since I own an epileptic cat. Barbital. A downer. A barbiturate. Not speed. Not a paranoiac or an hallucinogenic. To Hendrix, we were moving in fast forward.

Had I known, I would have suggested Dan seek out our first assailant, the Angry Young Man, and stuff barbital down his throat while saying “No” to our current druggie when he handed Dan the barbital.

Spiritual ecstasy wracked my body three minutes later, when the pizzas passed through the control room drop box and into our waiting hands.

“Right, thanks,” we said—and rushed out the door.

A block later, we glanced around and said, with one voice, “Where’s Dan?!”

We backtracked around a corner, and there was Dan, barbital fiend in tow. Talking to the man like he was a good buddy: the gentle giant and his sidekick.

Later, Dan would explain that the guy was “just beautiful,” that he was deep into philosophy and had explained life to Dan, gems like “Why should I cut your throat when I can just ask you for the money?”

Yes, agreed Dan, why not?, walking back to the Radisson as we shadowed them wraith-like from far ahead. Yes, why not, as they felt their way through the skyscraper maze, the clop-clop of weary horseshoes dull on the asphalt, the stars distant above.

Shaming the rest of us and our panic.

Just a dollar’s worth.



2 Comments:

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