Tuesday, June 28, 2005


A few people have asked what's on my iPOD. My iPOD and my iTunes don't actually match. There's more on my iPOD than on my iTunes. But this, roughly, is what I have on my iPOD. I'll just list it by artist, rather than individual albums for each.


Afrika Bambaataa
A.C. Newman
Aimee Mann
Beautiful South
Ben Folds
Black Heart Procession
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Bloc Party
Booth and the Bad Angel
Booth, Tim
Brian Jonestown Massacre (greatest hits)
British Sea Power
Cooper Temple Clause
Crystal Method
Dandy Warhols
Death From Above
Deathray Davies
Division of Laura Lee
Dogs Die in Hot Cars
Dresden Dolls
Duran Duran
Eddie Izzard
Eleventh Dream Day
Elf Power
Elvis Costello
Franz Ferdinand
Future Sounds of London
Gene Love Jezebel
Gogol Bordello
Graham Coxon
Graham Parker
Handsome Family
Hot Hot Heat
Hot Snakes
Ian Brown (sadly)
Julian Cope
Kaiser Chiefs
Le Tigre
Lloyd Cole
Louis XIV
Magnetic Fields
Magnolia Electric Company
Matt Pond
Matthew Sweet
Moving Units
Murder City Devils
Neko Case
New Pornographers
Nine Black Alps
Of Montreal
Over the Rhine
Oxford Collapse
Pernice Brothers
Phantom Planet
Pity Sings
Pleasure Forever
Richard Barone
Richard Cheese
Rilo Kiley
Robbers on High Street
Rogue Wave
Secret Machines
Steve Wynn
Stratford Four
The National
The Refused
Tom Waits
Virgin Prunes
Viva Voce
White Stripes
Willard Grant Conspiracy
William Shatner
World Party
Woven Hand

Monday, June 27, 2005


Just FYI--Here are a few links to the various Dark Cabals currently in existence. Some of them are scarier than others.

The Last Dark Cabal Weakens
"Selamat Jarin! We return, Dear Hearts, with more to discuss with you. Our Earth allies are a diverse coalition of groups and individuals from across the planet. The great amount of work needed to weld them into a formidable unit has indeed taken time."

There is a dark cabal around Blair.
If post-Hutton wounds are to heal, then John Scarlett must go

Update by Sheldan Nidle for the Spiritual Hierarchy and the Galactic Federation
Greetings, dear Ones! We return with much to tell you. Your present reality continues to transform at a most amazing rate! Those forces on your world seeking to institute a new way are making progress toward their goal. Just beneath the surface of your known reality is another one waiting to be born. The battle between old and new grows frantic and consists of feverish maneuvering that in many respects resembles the final round of a chess tournament between two grand masters; the moves are subtle and filled with much import for what is to follow. Your last dark cabal is, as you would expect, strategizing to the hilt.

Dark Cabal of Neoconservatives Take Over Global Finance
This Should be Good
If I was prone to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, this would be like Christmas:

Sure Sign of Evil
Note the characteristic red eyes of the three members of the Dark Cabal, a sure sign of Evil

New Grotto Masters have been approved worldwide
Our email contact has broadened, and we are reviewing active applications in order to welcome carefully selected individuals into the core of our dark cabal

Renewing Dark Cabal Membership
I think this is the only way to renew my membership in the dark cabal, now that I've lost my phonebook containing the home number of Poppy Z. Brite.

Dark Cabal Prepares for Battle
The year is 2032. Twenty years have passed since the Great Wars ended. Somewhere in the depths of the Pacific ocean, a dark cabal prepares for battle.

The DC Agenda
It is our responsibility to use this time productively, to receive what is being offered us as the alternative to the “dark cabal’s” agenda of greed, destruction and despair for all who oppose them.

Dark Masters of DC
Once the leaders were/are controlled, the Dark Masters could/can enslave the people, and rape and pillage the land with no opposition. From Babylon to Egypt to Rome - wherever this dark cabal raised its head - evil, death and destruction soon followed.

Meeting Minutes of the Dark Cabal
May 04 15:55:55 rboren Let the Dark Cabal come to order.

A Dark Cabal of Scientists
But the most sacred part of their tradition involved a secret — one that was discovered by a dark cabal of scientist-capitalists called The Eden Society.

"Dark Cabal Puppets"
Wasn't that the Jim Henson / Frank Oz fantasy movie w/ all the muppets from the early 80s ?

The Latest Dark Cabal
Vote for stories, not for friends

(Evil Monkey: "What the fuck? "Vote for stories, not for friends? *That's* a dark cabal?" Jeff: "Friends don't let friends vote for stories drunk." Evil Monkey: "Stories don't let friends vote for stories." Jeff: "Friends don't vote for stories about let." Evil Monkey: "That makes no fucking sense at all, Jeff." Jeff: "Friends don't let cabalists vote for blog entries?" Evil Monkey: "Dark cabalists don't let friends vote for stories?" Jeff: "Cabalist monks who are friends don't vote for stories?" Evil Monkey: "Friends who are Dark Cabalists don't vote for stories about friends?" Jeff: "Votes for friends who write stories should not be let." Evil Monkey: "Votes for monkeys who have friends who write stories should not be let." Jeff: "Monkeys who are high on banana fumes shouldn't make up stories about friends who vote for stories." Evil Monkey: "Writers who want to have friends shouldn't make up stories about dark cabalists who vote for stories." Jeff: "Well, okay. That makes a lot of sense.")

Sunday, June 26, 2005


I contributed a guest editorial about building a fantastical city to Matrix a couple of months ago. It's now available online, and since the link looks temporary, I'm also reproducing it below.


One night in 1993, I woke up with a vision in my head of a woman in a window and a missionary looking up at her from a crowded street. Every detail had a kind of super-heated intensity to it. As if in a trance, I went to the computer and typed up about six pages about the characters and the city. The name of the city came to me just as I was about to type it for the first time: Ambergris. And, suddenly, as if the name was a key opening a locked door, I found an entire fantastical city in my head. The only problem was finding the time to get it all down on paper. So, over a period of nine years I wrote an entire book of stories about Ambergris, eventually published as City of Saints & Madmen. I also wrote the beginning of three novels, one of which has finally been completed and will be published as Shriek: An Afterword next year.

Although Ambergris came to me in the equivalent of a vision or waking dream, and even though I had many details about the city in my head from that moment forward, writing about Ambergris wasn't like channeling spirits after that initial inspiration. No, instead, I had to learn a lot about how to create a believable and yet imaginative setting.

Readers make assumptions about the real world that they do not make about fantastical worlds. A reader doesn't automatically buy into Ambergris in the same way that the same reader would believe a story set in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. Fantasy writers have to take greater care with their settings as a result, while not letting setting overwhelm the rest of the story.

Why do we read and love China Miéville's New Crobuzon novels? Why does the work of Mary Gentle or Michael Moorcock excite us? It's the quality of the imagination applied to setting and character. How you get there can be a long, hard slog because world building (which includes creating interesting characters) requires a tremendous amount of work and research. You can't just throw different elements together without making sure they work in combination. Otherwise, the reader will throw the book across the room. Readers will, rightly, revolt if you don't give them some sort of anchor, whether a consistent architectural description or consistency in types of clothing. (Noting that there are also many implausible juxtapositions in our real world--countries where people have cell phones but drive cars from the 1950s, for example.)

At the same time, the world has to be metaphorically and metaphysically interesting, which means you can’t be too consistent. Everything can’t be tidy and pat, and it should be in flux—it should be, in a way, alive. Above all else, to be interesting, a fantastical city should be a reflection of the writer’s obsessions and subconscious impulses. (M. John Harrison’s Viriconium stories are a good example of this trait—Viriconium is always shifting, always different.)

What's interesting is that readers of City of Saints & Madmen will often tell me "I love that part you made up about such-and-such," and I'll have to tell them I didn't make it up at all—it came from Byzantine or Venetian history. Others are sure that something I made up actually has a basis in historical fact. All this means is that the real world is a very bizarre, strange place and that fantastical fiction is perhaps best suited to comment on this fact. Anyone who takes the time to create echoes of the real world in their fantasy worlds will eventually reach this realization.

I love fantasy because the world is a place of great beauty and horror, and fantasy is the only way I can fully express what I know about this contradiction. Fantasy, and world-building, then, is not escapist for me--or, I imagine, for other world creators. Instead, it's about realistic people. It's about the fact that this place we live in is full of unexpected marvels and things that are strange and alien even if we don't always realize it.


I know it's not really on-topic, but I just can't resist a bit of a shout-out to Jason Kennedy and Erin Kennedy, my wife Ann's kids.

Jason is a casting director in Hollywood and just finished helping to cast the new Cameron Crowe movie Elizabethtown.

Erin's been working really hard at one of the best used CD stores in the country, Vinyl Fever, here in Tallahassee, and has been made one of the managers. To be honest, I can't think of a cooler place to work--and I've never seen a better CD store anywhere in my travels. (I think I've probably spent about 5% of my total income at Vinyl Fever over the years.)

Congrats to both of them.



Er, it's never too early to discuss the world's greatest sport at its highest level of competition.

World Cup 2006--join in on the discussion. I know there are a lot of readers who are football fans.

And I'll actually be in Germany during part of the competition, which will be wonderful.


Saturday, June 25, 2005


Somehow, I couldn't resist carrying this forward, in slightly altered form, after reading Jason Lundberg's blog entry.

What I'd Say to My 16-Year-Old Self

(1) You're not going to like pot, so don't even waste a night trying it. Switch over to cigars immediately instead.

(2) That beard you're trying to grow? Don't. You can't. It looks like three blades of grass in an acre of sand.

(3) You're going to balloon up to 260 lbs from your current 175 lbs in about six or seven years. But don't sweat it--you lose almost all of it and gain some valuable discipline in the process. Okay, so maybe go easy on the potato chips and soda anyway.

(4) You know that novel you've written the first page of, "Quin's Shanghai Circus"? About a magician going into a shop and buying a talking meerkat? Don't throw it away. One day, in your twenties, you'll finish it, turn it into SF, and call it Veniss Underground. Then it'll go unsold for eight years and you'll begin to think it sucks, but eventually it'll get sold and be up for all kinds of awards and shit. So, in general, don't throw anything away and finish as much stuff as you can.

(5) Being a penniless writer living in a hovel and starving for your art is overrated. It doesn't suit you. Stop it.

(6) You will develop a sense of humor soon after you begin getting laid regularly. Just remember this: you will not always be so serious.

(7) You're going to be diagnosed with cancer when you're about 21. It'll be a false diagnosis, but the acceptance you get from Weird Tales the day you find out you're gonna die--that thing's real.

(8) Stick to your guns and keep saying what's on your mind. A lot of what's on your mind is retarded, but you really never do figure out the difference between the good stuff and the retarded stuff, so what the hell--go with it.

(9) There's going to be a really bad typo in your swords-and-sorcery story in the school literary magazine ("the musty smell of countless ages" without the "o" in "countless"). Don't sweat it. These things happen. Maybe it was intentional by the typesetter, maybe not. But you'll never be able to prove it.

(10) Don't listen to those morons who keep saying, "You gotta go out and have real life experience to write about shit." Working a day job is a real life experience. Besides, you got all of that be-a-sailor-and-see-the-world crap out of your system as a kid in the Peace Corps. So, just try to make your life be stable and serene and calm so your work can be strangely weird.

(11) Don't sweat the rest of it--it'll all work out. The bad stuff is as important as the good stuff. Just remember that one day you will regret having liked Spandau Ballet's two big hits so much.


(Evil Monkey: "But, Jeff, a couple of those are kinda snarky. I mean, Jason's were sincere and kinda sweet." Jeff: "Yeah, I know. He took all the good ones. This is all I had left. Although it's all true!" Evil Monkey: "Good point, I guess." Jeff: "But what about you? What advice would you give to your former self?" Evil Monkey: "Well, I'm about ten now. What would I say to my two-year-old self? How about:

1 - Beating any animal to death with a tire iron can have serious repercussions.
2 - There is a thin line between "fan appreciation" and "stalking," especially when the band in question is Menudo.
3 - Throwing your own feces against a wall as a sign of your disapproval is only acceptable in some social situations.
4 - You may get in the habit of cutting off the heads of writers and whatnot who particularly annoy you in the mistaken belief they can "grow a new one." This is a bad habit.
5 - When they come for you, it's better not to resist arrest.)


by D.J. Shriek

This past weekend, some disturbing new facts have come to light regarding the weapons being used by House Lewden: they can be eaten. In certain parts of the merchant quarter, which has sustained heavy bombing damage in recent weeks, survivors have been hunting through the rubble not for survivors or the bodies of loved ones, but for the bombs.

Dr. Alan Self, a physician employed by a House Hoegbotton militia, confirms this information.

“I don’t know how it started, but because of the food shortage in parts of the city, starving people have begun to eat the remains of House Lewden’s infernal fungal bombs,” he said.

The core of these bombs does not explode, but serves as the inert delivery system for the bomb—ballast, of a sort. The ballast is high in protein and appears to have no harmful side effects, as of yet.

Some kinds of fungal bullets appear to share these properties.

“They have a short half-life,” according to Sarah Mindle. Mindle is one of many Hoegbotton employees who has been recruited to fight in the increasingly confused civil war. “After about five hours, most of them become inert, harmless.”

High in protein, these bullets are also being harvested by the poor and those cut off from food by the barricades and militias of the various warring factions. Of course, finding the bullets can be hazardous. Knowing when they have become harmless requires yet another set of skills.

“I wait until [the bullets] lose their purple tinge,” Charles Jarkens said. Jarkens is a homeless man whose wife died in a bombardment at the beginning of the war. “I wait for that, and I wait until they get a little orange around the base of the bullet. That’s when I know they’re good to eat.”

In an unverified and extreme case, a family whose son was killed by a barrage of such bullets resorted to removing the bullets from the body and eating them.

What no one can as yet explain is exactly how House Lewden procured such weapons, nor why House Hoegbotton has not yet deployed captured Lewden weapons against the invaders. Some speculate that the blockade of Ambergris by F&L ships has led to such a reduction in food stores for Hoegbotton’s various militias that the Lewden weapons are, in fact, being deliberately detonated for use as food.

As the war enters its second year, it is clear that the city of Ambergris has begun to succumb to a siege mentality.

UPDATES FROM THE WAR: Borges Bookstore Burns Down

Borges Bookstore Burns to the Ground
Owners Vow to Rebuild “Without a Single F&L or H&S Book on Our Shelves”

by D.J. Shriek

Just one day before the annual Festival of the Freshwater Squid, the Borges Bookstore has burned to the ground. Three people, all bookstore clerks, are confirmed dead, with two still missing. The bookstore caught fire just before dusk, reportedly due to a skirmish that broke out between enemy units operating in the area.

A witness who asked to remain anonymous told this reporter, “It was horrible. The sky was darkened by the smoke from the books, burned pages floating up into the air and fluttering back down again like a black snowfall over the city. Those who caught a sheet could feel the heat and fleetingly read what had a strange appearance of white text with black paper. Once the heat cooled, the pages crumpled away in our fingers.”

Some cannot help but take it as a bad sign, coming on the eve of the Festival.

“I’m worried,” one woman said, staring at the smoldering remains. “That was the safest safe house in Ambergris. It was a symbol. The gray caps never got in there, even during the Festival.”

More importantly, perhaps, for several weeks the Borges Bookstore had been the only reliable source of news about the progress of the war. The owners had kept the doors open for weeks after most other newsstands and bookstores had closed up or moved to other cities. Both the Hoegbotton Fighting Standard and the F&L No Quarter Tribune, the propaganda wings of the respective combatants, have published free bulletins for distribution at Borges Bookstore. The broadsheet this correspondent reports for also found the bookstore a major distribution nexus, and it often served as an understood neutral site.

As for the future of the Borges Bookstore, the owner today told this reporter, “I will rebuild in the next few months, if possible. But I will never again stock any books published by Hoegbotton or Frankwrithe.”

Asked to comment, Hoegbotton military spokesperson Paul Hoegbotton said, “We would consider it a serious breach of neutrality if Borges Bookstore discontinued carrying our books. We might choose not to honor the bookstore’s insurance contract.”

Representatives from Frankwrithe declined to comment, except for sending a heavily sealed package, which this reporter declined to open for the obvious reasons.

In recent weeks, Frankwrithe has had one of the city’s few wartime bestsellers, Exotic Fungal Weapons: How to Take the Necessary Precautions, in what an anonymous high-ranking source on the Hoegbotton side is calling a “nauseatingly opportunistic move.” Ironically, no copies of the book survived the fire.

With the breakdown in the city’s volunteer services during this war, no fire fighting assistance was available at the time the blaze broke out.

A REVERIE FOR MISTER RAY - The Nonfiction of Michael Bishop

...reality isn’t always what it appears to be. Wonder sometimes breaks in. Magic, black and white, can transform the two-dimensional outlines of life into dauntingly solid arabesques. Beneath the placid surfaces of habit, regimentation, and order, fearful krakens lurk. The world is both more exciting and more terrible than we think, and fantasy—whether cinematic, literary, or dream-triggered—is a surefire open-sesame to its secret awesomeness.- From the essay "Children Who Survive," Michael Bishop

PS Publishing has just released Michael Bishop's A Reverie for Mister Ray, a compilation of his nonfiction from the past four decades, for which I was lucky enough to write the introduction. This is a wide-ranging collection of essays, reviews, humor, and autobiography. Gene Wolfe, Philip K. Dick, Andy Duncan, James Tiptree, Jr., and many others are the subject of Bishop's honest appraisal and discussion. The cover, by Jamie Bishop, is a rather amazing piece of work as well. And it should be noted that in addition to appreciating PS Publishing for putting out this 600-page volume, readers should also appreciate the efforts of Michael H. Hutchins, who maintains the Michael Bishop website and who edited this collection.

To give you a feel for this important collection, I'm excerpting part of my introduction below.



I first had a chance to talk to Michael Bishop at the 1998 Slipstream Conference in La Grange, Georgia, but I had really met him years before through his fiction—countless short stories and, in particular, the novel The Secret Ascension. What I loved about his fiction was its restless curiosity about the world, as well as its sharpness, often disguised under a disarmingly gentle veneer. I always felt, when reading a piece of fiction by Bishop, an underlying honesty, even in his most experimental or structurally complex works.

That Mike in person was unfailingly generous, polite, inquisitive, a good listener, and an excellent host may seem incidental to his writing, but what I took from that first meeting was a sense of balance—here was a writer whose life and work were in harmony. The life and the work matched, to the benefit of both.

Now, it’s certainly not true that this is always the case. Many an excellent writer turns out to be a bastard in person, or ridiculously eccentric, or a plain old bore—which is why we have come up with the idea of the writer who “leaves the best part of him or herself on the page.” This is a polite way of excusing the writer for being such poor company in the flesh.

With Mike, there is none of this nonsense. Likewise, the sense of balance and honesty not only extends from his person into his fiction, but into his nonfiction.

In his nonfiction, Mike finds the universal in the personal, displays a highly-developed sense of curiosity (which is one indication of a person’s love for the world and those who inhabit it), weds an at times disarmingly informal style to incisive analysis, showcases the redemptive power of the imagination, remains defiantly un-cynical but also not naively optimistic, and manages to level criticisms in his book reviews in a way that gets the point across while removing any personal animus or heat from those comments. (When Mike writes of a character in Jonathan Carroll’s The Wooden Sea that “You couldn’t hate this guy if he handcuffed and booked you for a seatbelt violation,” he could as well have been describing himself.)

His style in these essays and reviews is sure [and]...light enough to avoid the didactic, the overbearing, and, above all, the senselessness of the polemic.

Friday, June 24, 2005


My wife has, under her professional moniker of Ann Kennedy, been serving as one of the judges for the IHG Awards. The finalists for which have just been announced:


Nominations in recognition of achievement in the field of horror/dark fantasy during 2004 are:


Ramsey Campbell. THE OVERNIGHT (PS Publishing, UK)
Elizabeth Hand. MORTAL LOVE (William Morrow)
James Hynes. THE KINGS OF INFINITE SPACE (St. Martin's Press)
Lucius Shepard. A HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN PRAYER (Thunder's Mouth Press)
Peter Straub. IN THE NIGHT ROOM (Random House, US; Harper Collins, UK)


Susanna Clarke. JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. MORRELL (Bloomsbury)
John Harwood. THE GHOST WRITER (Harcourt, US; Jonathan Cape UK)
Nick Mamatas. MOVE UNDER GROUND (Night Shade)
Dan Vining. THE QUICK (Jove)
Carlos Ruis Zafon (Translated by Lucia Graves). THE SHADOW OF THE WIND (Penguin, US; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, UK; Text Publishing, Australia)


John Connolly. THE REFLECTING EYE: A CHARLIE PARKER NOVELLA (Hodder & Stoughton, UK; Atria, US)
Leena Krohn. TAINARON (Prime)
Lucius Shepard. VIATOR (Night Shade)
Lisa Tuttle. MY DEATH (PS Publishing)


Daniel Abraham. "Flat Diane" (The Magazine of Fantasy and & Science Fiction, Oct/Nov 04)
Laird Barron. "Bulldozer" (SciFiction, Scifi.com, 25 Aug 04)
Stephen Gallagher. "Restraint" (Postscripts 1)
Barbara Roden. "Northwest Passage" (ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT)
Michael Shea. "The Growlimb"(The Magazine of Fantasy and & Science Fiction, Jan 04)


Dale Bailey. "The End of the World as We Know It" (The Magazine of Fantasy and & Science Fiction, Oct/Nov 04)
Margot Lanagan. "Singing My Sister Down" (BLACK JUICE)
Holly Phillips. "In the Palace of Repose" (HP Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror #1)
Kit Reed. "Family Bed" (SciFiction, Scifi.com, 12 May 04)
Don Tumasonis. "A Pace of Change" (ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT)


John Connolly. NOCTURNES (Atria, US; Hodder & Stoughton, UK)
Brian Evenson. THE WAVERING KNIFE (Fiction Collective Two)
Stephen Gallagher. OUT OF HIS MIND (PS Publishing)
Francis Oliver. DANCING ON AIR (Ash-Tree Press)
Conrad Williams. USE ONCE THEN DESTROY (Night Shade)


ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT, edited by Barbara and Christopher Roden (Ash-Tree Press)
NIGHT VISIONS 11, edited by William Sheehan (Subterranean)
QUIETLY NOW: A TRIBUTE TO CHARLES L. GRANT, edited by Kealan-Patrick Burke (Borderlands)


Alan Clark. THE PAINT IN MY BLOOD (IFD Publishing) Joel McCabe.
DM Mitchell. A SERIOUS LIFE (Savoy, UK)
Milt Thomas. CAVE OF A THOUSAND STORIES (Arkham House)


Darrel Anderson
Rick Berry
Alan Clark
Lisa Desimini
Michael Whelan


HELLBOY. Directed and screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, story by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs, based on comics and the character created by Mike Mignola
THE MACHINIST. Directed by Brad Anderson, written by Scott Kosay
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Directed by Mel Gibson, screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald and Mel Gibson
SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. Directed and written by Van Elder, story by Paulara Hawkins


CARNIVALE, created by Daniel Knauf (Home Box Office)
CHARMED, created by Constance M Burge (WB)
KINGDOM HOSPITAL, created by Stephen King based on film by Lars van Trier (ABC)
THE LOST, created by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof (ABC)


ALEISTER ARCANE # 1-3 by Steve Niles (writer) & Breehn Burns (illustrator) (IDW Publishing)
THE BUG BOY by Hideshi Hino (DH Publishing)
THE DARK HORSE BOOK OF WITCHCRAFT edited by Scott Allie (Dark Horse)
THE GOON #6: "Ilagarto Hombre!" by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON edited by Tom Pomplun (Eureka Productions)


Cemetery Dance (Cemetery Dance Publications)
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Spilogale, Inc.)
SciFiction (Scifi.com)
The Third Alternative (TTA Press)
Wormwood (Tartarus Press)

This will be the eleventh annual International Horror Guild Awards. Based on public recommendations, the juried awards recognize outstanding achievements in the field of Horror and Dark Fantasy. Nominations are derived from recommendations made by the public and the judges' knowledge of the field. Edward Bryant, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Ann Kennedy, and Hank Wagner adjudicated this year's awards.

Along with the nominees for its 2005 awards, the INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD has named GAHAN WILSON as recipient of its annual Living Legend Award. "Gahan Wilson has enriched our lives with his ability to see through the world that everybody else takes as reality and show us, with his wonderfully weird art, wit, and writing, what he sees," said Paula Guran, award administrator. The eleventh annual awards will be presented during World Fantasy Convention, November 3-6 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

EDWARD WHITTEMORE: Sketches of and poems about

Anne Sydenham, who continues to do extremely valuable work with her Edward Whittemore website, has just posted a few pages of poems and sketches by Helen Bar-Lev, who lived with Whittemore from 1982 to 1987. Together, the poems and sketches provide a very personal and unique perspective on a criminally underrated author.

I'm still hopeful that the manuscript of Whittemore's last novel will eventually be published. Whether it is up to the high standard set by his other work or not, it would be a valuable historical addition to his canon.


(Evil Monkey: By the way--are you suddenly skitzo?" Jeff: "Huh?" Evil Monkey: "You were touting Eisley awhile back. Now you're listening to the Murder City Devils and the Hot Snakes. What is up with you?!" Jeff: "It's my own internal backlash against listening to so much Brit pop and Brit pop sound-alikes." Evil Monkey: "I wish you'd make up your bloody mind. I just got used to the Eisley." Jeff: "I thought you liked Murder City Devils. Didn't you tour with them?" Evil Monkey: "Yes, I did." Jeff: "What did you do for them?" Evil Monkey: "I was their monkey.")

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


My friend Jeffrey Ford's Cosmology of the Wider World is a wild and wonderful departure for the author. As the PS Publishing Web site describes it:

Jeffrey's Ford's extraordinary new fantasy novella, The Cosmology of the Wider World, is a beast epic, a talking animal story in the vein of The Jungle Books and The Wind in the Willows; but this is no ordinary fable. The protagonist, Belius, is a minotaur, a wanderer in strange labyrinths of the mind and body, and his story features sex, drugs and a healthy dose of pyrotechnic metaphysical profundity. There's murder too, an instance of bestiality, and quite a few references to Dante's Inferno...

From his coral tower in the other-dimensional refuge of the Wider World, Belius thinks back on his days in the lesser world of men, where he was born, a shocking anomaly, to a farming couple. His great philosophical work, The Cosmology, is at a standstill, and he realizes he cannot proceed with the book until he comes to terms with his halfling nature: one foot in the human world, one hoof in the animal. While his friends – Vashti, the owl, and Pezimote, a philandering tortoise – try to help him achieve peace of mind, Belius recalls scenes from his previous life, interspersed with the daily tribulations of the Wider World…via a love story, a literal and figurative inner journey, a bloodletting, a haunting by a ghostly apparition, a bet, a blinding, a prophecy, an act of creation, and an act of climactic destruction, he must come at last to a mad revelation of self.

It features a wrap-around cover by the extraordinary Kim Deitch and an introduction I'm almost finished writing. The book will be out in September.

Jeff kindly consented to submit to the five questions...and one extra, made up special.


Why should readers pick up your book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?
What other book out now has bestiality, digitalis smoking, murder by goring, the blinding of a mole, the ghost of a book, a mile long creature who sits at the bottom of the ocean near a volcanic crack in the seabed and has a goatee? OK, well there’s Silas Marner, but aside from that, this is it. And this one’s got a better cover and could some day have a cool introduction. In addition, I’ve been thinking about doing a promotional thing where I have these chocolate paddies made up to look like Minotaur flops, you know they’ll have like coconut and peanut filling, and little marzipan stropharea cubensis growing off them, and my thumbprint in each one. I’ll wrap them in pretty paper and top it off with a ribbon bearing a quote from me on it, like, “Bullshit.” They’ll go to the first eight lucky readers.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
The socially redeeming qulaities of this book are so subtle, so delicate, you won’t even realize, after reading it, that you’ve become a kinder more gentle person. You’ll only notice it when your spouse’s mother comes to visit and find that instead of leaving the roller skate at the top of the stairs, you’ve moved it half way down.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
This book cures everything from warts to St. Vitus Dance. You don’t even have to read it, all you have to do is buy it. The minute you take that credit card or cash out of your pocket, you’ll start to feel better. If you actually read it, Hold The Phone! The big toe of your consciousness will shoot up in the boot of your Being.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
They probably wouldn’t be horrified at all. Kids go for this talking animal business. And you know, like I said, it’s got the drugs, some mayhem – shoot, 8 year olds will be on this like it’s Pop Rocks. This is Beauty and the Beast for the Grand Theft Auto generation.

Now that you have finally sold out by writing a book featuring a boatload of talking animals, some of them quite cute, do you think you will ever have any street cred with your peeps again?
Street cred with my peeps? What the fuck? OK, V-Unit, word up. I’m an artist of the talking animal. If my “peeps” don’t like it they can stew the gherkin.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
I’ll still be here, filling cream doughnuts on the grave yard shift, as usual.

(Evil Monkey: "Hey--doesn't Mr. Ford also have a novel coming out?" Jeff: "Yeah--The Girl in the Glass. Here's some info on it. Looks great!

A band of con artists–cum–spiritual mediums focus their psychic and sleuthing powers on a murder mystery in Ford's offbeat, thoroughly researched fifth novel, set in Depression-era Long Island, on the posh North Shore. Diego, a 17-year-old Mexican illegal immigrant, narrates the escapades, as he follows his mentor and surrogate father Thomas Schell, who rescued him from the street and tutored him in subjects from English to chicanery. Disguised as a Hindu swami, Diego helps Schell conduct phony séances to bilk wealthy Long Islanders. But when Schell sees the apparition of a young girl during a séance and then hears of the disappearance of Charlotte Barnes, daughter of shipping magnate Harold Barnes, he determines to solve the case.

Evil Monkey: "No monkeys?" Jeff: "No evil monkeys.")

Sunday, June 19, 2005


A few readers have asked about unusual or bad reading/signing experiences. So here are my top five. I'm sure there are writers who have had much stranger experiences.


#5 – World Horror Convention II, 1993

My reading at the second World Horror Convention, in Nashville, Tennessee, was probably the lowest point for me of any reading. No one was there except my wife, Ann. I was going to just leave, but Ann insisted I read anyway. So I launched into “The Bone-Carver’s Tale.” About fifteen minutes into the reading, two people showed up. It was still the loneliest reading I’ve ever endured and I came out of it convinced that I was never going to amount to a hill of beans.

#4 – Disease Guide Reading, Undisclosed Location to Protect the Guilty, 2003

The craziness that constituted the readings in support of the Night Shade hardcover edition of the fake disease guide covered chain and indie bookstores in several major cities. (We had amazing support from, among others, Borders.) However, some of the bookstores clearly hadn’t done their homework. At one reading where we all showed up complete with our stethoscopes, plastic livers, stuffed animal disease microbes, and lab coats, I was cornered by a bookstore clerk who wanted me to diagnose a chronic problem with his knee. “No, I’m not a doctor,” I explained. “You need to see a professional.” “Okay, so maybe it’s not your specialty, doctor,” he replied, “but you could still take a look at it.” “I’m not a doctor,” I insisted. “Just take a look, doc,” he said. “It’s been hurting for a long time.” Eventually, I got free of this guy. But it took most of the night.

#3 – New Orleans, Independent Book Fair, 2002

The fair took place at the marvelous Barrister’s Gallery, with the readings occurred in a space behind the gallery: a phalanx of white plastic chairs, with a single chair and microphone stand at the front. It looked a little like the kind of space in which someone reads a eulogy to the dearly departed. The reader before me, a poet who did not seem to know her good lines from her bad lines, who went from atonal renderings to really wonderful rhyming couplets, as lithe as a hummingbird hovering over a flower, finished on a triumphant note to polite applause. The audience consisted of about 15 to 20 people, including writer Mike Korn. The organizer of the event introduced me and I went up and explained a little about the hardcover City of Saints and the imaginary city it describes, Ambergris. I then launched into my gallery scene, in which our hero, the artist Martin Lake, must endure conversation with a potential buyer who thinks the painting in question is too large and wants it reduced in size. The excerpt includes Lake’s laughably arch arrogance, an aside about the use of earwax to establish amber tones in paintings, and much else besides.

Three paragraphs in I was certain I had crashed a funeral ceremony, only where was the body? Gradually, I realized the corpse was me, not yet boxed, still behind the microphone. I looked up from time to time to a sea of indifference and mouths set as straight as dashes. As I went into the funniest parts, the silence grew and became more intense. I found myself rushing to get through the reading, knowing that It had Gone South, into the Gulf of Mexico, carried by the silty waters of the Mississippi. Any success I might have had was bobbing up and down in the waves right about now, along with other flotsam and jetsam. By the time I reached the font note section, I might as well have been in a morgue reading off body parts in a monotone, or among the stainless steel tables of a forensic pathologist’s laboratory. The white backs of the plastic chairs were like tombstones. Not a smile. Not a flicker of a smile. I was sweating. I was laughing—I couldn’t help it. The scene was just too surreal.

Mercifully, the reading ended and I rocketed off the stage and back into the insanity of the book fair. Never one to give up, I read the same material at the World Fantasy Convention to much laughter, but I can honestly say the reading I did at the New Orleans Book Fair, to a bunch of supposed anarchists, was a complete failure. I felt as though I should turn myself in to the police.

After that, it was more despondent heat. Mike Korn did his best to reassure me, even though I was beyond reassurance. "It wasn't that bad," he said. "It didn't suck." "They weren't the right audience." "You can't trust these Bohemian types to get it." "Well, I was laughing. At least I was laughing."

#2 – Eastercon—Blackpool, 2004

I’ve never encountered a situation where it appeared that the con organizers did not want the public to be able to attend the author readings. (While I was thrilled to be there, I couldn’t help but wonder when I saw that the day after the con, the convention center would be playing host to a double billing of Engelbert Humperdink and Sean Cassidy.) At the appropriate time, I tried to find the location. It was nearly impossible. After much backtracking and a fair number of questions to passersby, we finally figured it out. The readings turned out to be down a long corridor, across a ballroom dance floor, up a spiral staircase, through a bewildering number of wood-paneled rooms, and through yet another door, where Ann and I found ourselves confronted by...about a dozen writers, all of whom had found the place eventually. No audience members had. (Rather reminded me of the Monty Python skit where the lascivious woman invites the milk man in, only to imprison him in a room with about a hundred other milk men.) The room wasn’t marked. The directions weren’t in the schedule. So Jeff Ford, Liz Williams, Gwyneth Jones, Jay Caselberg, Neil Williamson, myself, and several others stared at each other for about twenty minutes, before deciding to disperse. This was after having discovered that Blackpool itself could seem a bit like Clock Orange mixed with The Prisoner mixed with pigeon vomit.

#1 – Seeing My Own Blood, Tallahassee, 2004

The Tallahassee disease guide reading, with Michael Bishop, Nathan Ballingrud, R.M. Berry, and Brian Evenson, was a great success. But, at the signing afterwards, disaster struck. I looked up from the book I was signing to talk to the person I was signing it for, and I managed to stab myself in the skin between thumb and forefinger. I had been holding the book open with one hand and trying to sign it with the other. I’d missed the page and sent the pen deep into the meat of my hand. And I was now bleeding all over the book. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done at a reading. But the person I was signing it for was elated that I’d bled on the book. So I guess it all turned out okay.


At one point, Duncan and his sister Janice become journalists and file reports for local Ambergris broadsheets under the name "D.J. Shriek". This one actually constitutes an alternate history for Ambergris, since I wound up going with another event re catalyst for war. I didn't use it because ultimately it didn't seem journalistic enough and it also seemed too modern for this era of Ambergris. It also contradicted a prior scene involving the mental hospital, which has a much more gothic feel. And, frankly, the name "Severe" seemed like a parody of prior Ambergrisian names and I could never find a name that made him come to life.


By D.J. Shriek

On a clear, crisp morning three days ago, Christopher Severe walked into the lobby of the Voss Bender Memorial Mental Hospital, near the docks. It was a busy day at the hospital; the halls were full of doctors, patients, and visitors.

Severe smiled at the receptionist, sat down in a chair opposite her station, and pulled what looked like a small red apple out of his pocket. The receptionist remembers that he winked at her. Severe is about five-foot ten, has blue eyes, and brown hair. In all ways, the receptionist recalls him as “unexceptional.”

With a practiced ease, Severe set the “apple” down on the ground next to his chair. He then straightened up, gave a quick glance round, and stood. Calmly, without a backward glance, Severe walked out of the hospital.

The receptionist remembers staring at the apple, staring at Severe’s retreating back. She decided that he must be coming back. Three relatives of patients and two discharges then took her attention for the next several minutes. Approximately twelve minutes later, she remembered the apple. Severe had not returned. The apple still lay beside the chair. A tiny old lady now sat in the chair next to the apple.

The receptionist, a woman named Rebecca Gransvoort, noticed something odd about the apple. It could have just been the light, or the presence of the tiny old woman, but the apple seemed bigger. The red had become tinged with green. An admittance then distracted her for another fifteen minutes, or she might have investigated at that moment. No one can blame Rebecca. She thought it was an apple—and no one else in the lobby, not even the security guards, had noticed it.

When Rebecca did finally look at the apple again, it had turned completely green and become as large as a balloon. The old lady had disappeared. A child stared at the apple speculatively, but then followed his moth into another room. Rebecca stared at the apple for more than a minute, trying to understand what it meant. She noticed a strange smell. Cinnamon mixed with rotting flesh? Rotting flesh mixed with sandalwood? She could not tell whether it came from the hospital or from the apple.

As she stared, not sure what to do, the apple moved. It wobbled, spun, and settled down again. The smell grew stronger. She could hear a kind of droning whine. Several passersby, including a doctor, stopped to gather around the “apple”. This movement obscured Rebecca’s view of what happened next.

Whatever did happen next, it scared the onlookers, because they drew back. The sound got louder—much louder. It was a kind of singing, a kind of song. High-pitched. Screeching. But whatever had alarmed the crowd must have subsided, because the doctor and the others took a step toward the “apple,” which, from the quick glimpse Rebecca got of it, now resembled a huge, green, furry melon.

The song became a hum, which became a roar. The smell broke over Rebecca in two consecutive waves, making her nauseous. The people surrounding the object underwent a horrible transformation. As Rebecca watched, they turned brittle, as if all the water had been sucked out of them. Rigid, they struck poses, fell, and crumbled into dry pieces on the floor. Simultaneously, the “apple” exploded, driving wedges of itself into the floor, the walls, the ceiling. This occurred with great velocity, and anyone who had not already died suffered terrible wounds as the wedges cut through them. Rebecca escaped injury by ducking down behind the check-in counter.

When she stood up again—to a scene of chaos, with survivors wounded and screaming, many knocked to the floor by the blast—she had difficulty believing what she saw. Wherever the wedges had struck part of the building, deep emerald green veins had begun to appear: fissures of fungi, that, like limbless muscles, pushed their way into the stone. The smell had been transformed, from rotted flesh to thick perfume. It made Rebecca sneeze. It covered the entire corridor in a purple haze.

Rebecca remembers that, although afraid, “it was also mesmerizing.” She just watched as the veins of fungi spread across the walls and ceiling, as the stone began to crack from the strain, and then fall, each crack seeming to encourage the fungi: the speed of colonization increased with each new victory.

When chunks of stone began to fall, crushing some of the wounded, Rebecca, like many others, ran—and didn’t stop running until she was far away from the building.

Less than an hour later, the Voss Bender Memorial Mental Hospital collapsed into tiny pieces, burying anyone still left inside, including members of the Ambergris Volunteer Fire Department who had come to the rescue. Less than an hour after that, the process was complete: an entire city block had been reduced to a fine rubble, to stones no larger than a child’s marbles, interspersed with the now dying green fuzz of the fungi.

Rebecca remembers the shock of onlookers more than the carnage she witnessed inside the hospital. “People just kept looking at the spot and looking away and kind of pacing back and forth in front of it, as if they just couldn’t believe it.”

Many of the city’s finest creative minds, booked into the hospital on a strictly voluntary basis, died in the collapse.

And, although many people at the time had no idea what had happened, or how, a few facts have since been revealed to this reporter.

Christopher Severe has been identified as an agent of Frankwrithe & Lewden, acting on F&L orders. The “apple” Severe carried was a fungal structure bomb bought by F&L from some element within the gray caps. F&L targeted the hospital because Hoegbotton & Sons owned the building. The attack was therefore the first hostile act within Ambergris proper in what has since become known as the War of the Houses.

How Frankwrithe & Lewden reached an agreement with the gray caps remains unknown to this reporter.

On a more personal note, Rebecca Gransvoort does not know if she will ever recover mentally from what she saw that day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I'm still editing my novel, so blogging has to take a back seat for now. But after a few days' hiatus, I'll be back with quite a few interesting features.

* Jeff Ford answers the Infamous Five Questions...Plus One
* Another new, exciting Aussie writer: Kim Westwood
* What do Thomas Muster and James Toney have to do with fiction writing?
* Reviews of new books by Kathryn Kulpa, Anna Tambour, and L. Timmel Duchamp
* A Unified Theory of Fiction that Will Clarify Everything, Even Slipstream and Interstitial

In the meantime, I highly recommend Liz Williams' blog because she goes to fascinating places and writes about it.

And, for those who wanted the link to all of my surreal Odd Jobs accounts, here it is.


P.S. It's official--my book Secret Lives has been pushed back to mid-2006. My apologies to those who pre-ordered. But I need the extra time to really give this project my all.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, Horror: Another 100 Best Books (September, Carroll & Graf) follows up on the success of the first volume. Are there another 100 books worthy of inclusion? Certainly. There're probably another 200.

The editors are holding back the list of books covered until publication to "heighten interest in the project." But, the list of contributors has been released. Quite a diverse line-up!



1. Peter Atkins
2. Stephen Baxter
3. Anne Billson
4. David Bischoff
5. Steve Bissette
6. Sydney J. Bounds
7. Doug Bradley
8. Chaz Brenchley
9. Poppy Z. Brite
10. Randy Broecker
11. John Burke
12. Peter H. Cannon
13. Mark Chadbourn
14. Simon Clark
15. Nancy A. Collins
16. Storm Constantine
17. Peter Crowther
18. Ellen Datlow
19. David Stuart Davies
20. Paul De Filippo
21. Terry Dowling
22. David Drake
23. Tananarive Due
24. Andy Duncan
25. Stefan Dziemianowicz
26. Les Edwards
27. P.N. Elrod
28. John Farris
29. Jo Fletcher
30. Christopher Fowler
31. Sir Christopher Frayling
32. Gary Gianni
33. Christopher Golden
34. John Gordon
35. Ed Gorman
36. Muriel Gray
37. Simon R. Green
38. Elizabeth Hand
39. Rick Hautala
40. Glen Hirshberg
41. Brian Hodge
42. Nancy Holder
43. Robert Irwin
44. K.W. Jeter
45. Gwyneth Jones
46. S.T. Joshi
47. Graham Joyce
48. Roz Kaveney
49. Caitlin Kiernan
50. Nancy Kilpatrick
51. Allen Koszowski
52. Marc Laidlaw
53. Jay Lake
54. Terry Lamsley
55. Joel Lane
56. Roberta Lannes
57. Tim Lebbon
58. Tanith Lee
59. D.F. Lewis
60. Thomas Ligotti
61. Kelly Link
62. Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier
63. Tim Lucas
64. Richard A. Lupoff
65. Ian R. MacLeod
66. Elizabeth Massie
67. Paul J. McAuley
68. David McGillivray
69. China Mieville
70. David Morrell
71. Mark Morris
72. Yvonne Navarro
73. Norman Partridge
74. John Pelan
75. Tony Richards
76. Frank M. Robinson
77. Barbara and Christopher Roden
78. Nicholas Royle
79. Jay Russell
80. Darrell Schweitzer
81. Michael Shea
82. Bill Sheehan
83. Lucius Shepard
84. Robert Silverberg
85. Adam Simon
86. David J. Skal
87. Michael Marshall Smith
88. Laurence Staig
89. David A. Sutton
90. Michael Swanwick
91. Anthony Timpone
92. Jeff VanderMeer
93. Stephen Volk
94. Howard Waldrop
95. Robert W. Weinberg
96. Christopher Wicking
97. Gahan Wilson
98. Jack Womack
99. T. M. Wright
100. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(Evil Monkey: "I wonder if any of my ole pal Horror McMonkeytons' books will make the list." Jeff: "Any particular reason why you wonder about this?" Evil Monkey: "I dunno. I always liked ole McMonkeytons. All those maniacal clowns...So...what book did you cover?" Jeff: "I'm not allowed to tell." Evil Monkey: "Just whisper it in my ear. C'mon." Jeff: "I don't want to get that close to your ear." Evil Monkey: "Then write it on this piece of paper using a quill and those feces I just flung against the wall." Jeff: "You're full of shit.")

Sunday, June 12, 2005


"When you hit those kinds of highs
you know you have to crash
When you hit those kinds of lows
you know there's a further down
in the hands of forces
you just don't understand."
- Graham Parker, Chloroform, from
Songs of No Consequence

I'm between and in the middle of books, projects, and much else. And for some reason I'm addicted to Graham Parker's song Chloroform, which I've been playing over and over again while I apply edits to the electronic copy of Shriek. (My laptop is on the kitchen table and I've got all the hardcopy pages spread out, along with my iPOD hooked up to a speaker system. 'Cause my freakin' office is too cluttered with stuff right now...)

I'm also eyeing and dipping into a few books, including the following (hopefully to blog about them shortly):

Dona Quixote and Gold of Ophir by Leena Krohn - Loved her Tainaron and am looking forward to getting into this one.

10:01 by Lance Olsen - Another cool, challenging novel from Lance, my buddy and former fellow PKD Award judge. (We used to call each other "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sundance Kid" while on the judging panel.)

Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp - An impressive political novel that I'm almost done with.

H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq - Very interesting and provocative, but becomes more ordinary the farther along one reads.

Spotted Lily by Anna Tambour - A deal-with-the-devil story. Unlike any such tale I've read before. I mean, this is "the shit" as they say, thus far. About 50 pages in and it's one of the most devious, sensual novels I've encountered in a long, long time.

Pleasant Drugs: Stories by Kathryn Kulpa - Kulpa had a story in Leviathan 1, also collected in this book. I've read three stories so far and enjoyed them all. Kulpa has a wonderful empathy for her characters without being maudlin.

"So where you gonna get your feelings from
after they've been removed?
Why didn't you see it coming, man,
from way down the pike.
There had to be a payback--
someone had to strike.

(Evil Monkey: "Man, what a great hook on that song." Jeff: "Parker is backed on this CD by the Figgs. Great stuff." Evil Monkey: "It does kinda rock the monkey, even when he gratuitously mentions monkeys." Jeff: "You might like his earlier stuff, too--like Shooting Out Sparks, Mona Lisa's Sister, etc. Love it." Evil Monkey: "Let's not go overboard, okay?")

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


It's no secret (see prior blog entries) that my favorite CD of late is the new Spoon. But I've also been on a real Brit pop/pseudo Brit pop rampage--both in the gym and while revising Shriek. I highly recommend, in that genre, the latest releases from

The Bravery (daft lyrics, great, pumped music)
Bloc Party (get yer political mojo on)
Hot Hot Heat (fun fun pop pop, but: no bandages!)
Kaiser Chiefs (high energy, some silly songs)
Kasabian (dance-worthy but somehow more unique than some of the others listed here)
Louis XIV (like Adam Ant on speed--and about as consistent, but fun, if you can get past the misogynistic swagger)
Maximo Park (kinda early XTC mixed with your favorite quirky-jerky Brit pop--hard to pin down)
Moving Units (been listening to too much Gang of Four, but still noteworthy)

BRITISH SEA POWER - OPEN SEASON. This sophomore effort from BSP features eccentric lyrics and a perfect awareness of classic Brit pop tradition. It's still got some of the noise and distortion of their pop-mixed-with-post-punk debut, but it's more consistent and more beautiful. It's the kind of CD that you listen to once or twice and think, "pretty good," but then, before you even realize it, you're listening to it all the time. Reviewers who have panned this CD got it wrong.

TIM BOOTH - BONE. I've loved James ever since Whiplash, and have sought out everything they've ever done since then. Now lead singer Tim Booth heads out on his own with Bone. It's a somewhat psychedelic, trippy effort, with the result that a couple of the tracks sound a little silly lyrically. But other than that, this is an excellent solo CD that avoids the somewhat cloying effect of his last non-James outing--Booth and the Bad Angel. Several tracks achieve a transcendent quality, even as several songs deal frankly with sex and gender. Yeah, yeah--he's a little flaky. Deal with it.

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - B-SIDES AND RARETIES. A three CD set. Of Cave's extra stuff. You know what? Most musicians would kill just to have created some of these B-sides. I've long wanted the Seeds rollicking version of Paul Kelly's "God's Hotel" on a compilation, as well as "Tower of Song" from the Leonard Cohen tribute CD, and "The End of the World" from the Wender flick. But it gets better. B-sides like "The Train Song" and an insane version of "O'Malley's Bar" from Murder Ballads. Not to mention a great orchestra-fueled version of "Red Right Hand" from the Scream 3 soundtrack. Basically, this is awesome and a must-buy.

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 - YOU'RE A WOMAN I'M A MACHINE. This is like some kind of weird hybrid of punk, electronic, dance, and grunge. It's also an all-out attack in terms of the sound, and I love it. The intensity of the sound is amazing, considering it's mostly bass and drums.

THE MAINLINERS - BRING ON THE SWEET LIFE. Retro rock from Sweden, influenced by the 60s and early 70s, but conveyed with a ferocity and intensity that take the music to a new level. Songs like "Bring on the Sweet Life" and "She's an Overdose" feature searing guitar chops. A stunning musical assault from beginning to end. This is one for blasting on your car stereo.

THE NATIONAL - ALLIGATOR. World-weary, whiskey-soaked vocals, but with music of surprising energy and diversity, so that although you sometimes feel as if you're looking at the world from a Tindersticks perspective, the music itself is alive and hopeful. The lyrics on some of these songs are absolutely heart-wracking. But always specific and humane. I love this CD. It's stunning--and the best thing The National has yet done.

GRAHAM PARKER - SONGS OF NO CONSEQUENCE. The best release by Parker in more than a decade, this return to form features great songs like "Chloroform" and "Evil". Parker's Shooting Out Sparks is still one of my favorite albums of all time. While this new CD doesn't reach that high, it's consistent, solid, and often excellent. It's nice to see Parker back on top. And if his Amazon ranking is any indication, the CD is doing quite well.

ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET - TREE CITY. Many comparisons have been made between Spoon and Robbers. Except Robbers gives you the release that Spoon withholds if that makes any sense. (When I described this effect to a friend, she said, "Oh, you mean a happy ending." Well, I guess depends on how metaphorical you're being.) Spoon's music is more interesting because it's so coiled and layered, but it's true that the listener has to do more work. Robbers indulge the listener a bit more. And, luckily for Robbers, Spoon's gone off in a different direction on their latest CD. Meanwhile, Robbers' Tree City, with such stand-out tracks as "Japanese Girls" provide something I think reviewers thought they had found in other New York bands like the Strokes: energy, ingenuity, and skill.


The rough (and low-res) cover for Shriek in the UK, to be published in January.

For the full cover, scroll down here.

Quite nice--with cover photo from Jonathan Edwards.


Monday, June 06, 2005


I've enjoyed Brendan Connell's tales of Dr. Black, expert extraordinaire, for quite some time. Forrest Aguirre and I took one for Leviathan 3 and I took another for Album Zutique. Each new story seems to be better than the last, and the newest of all, Dr. Black and the Guerrillia (83 pages, hardcover, Grafitisk), is available in handsome 300-copy limited edition book form direct from the author.

In the novella, Dr. Black visits San Corrados, looking for the Yaroa tribe so he can finish off his latest book. As is the usual case in Dr. Black stories, Dr. Black strides through the landscape having odd adventures and barely escaping with his life. Not only does he encounter the Yaroa, but also the guerillas who are fighting to take back the country from the corrupt general who leads it. Of course, Dr. Black becomes embroiled in their efforts.

I'd be hard-pressed to pick my favorite parts of the narrative. I mean,
the encounter while "under the influence," of some local druggery, with the God of Metanatural History ranks right up there. As does the slime molds playlet. As does the interior monologue leading up to Dr. Black's possible shooting at the hands of a firing squad. It's insanely wonderful stuff--daft, droll, and experimental in a fun way. (The book is also nicely illustrated by John Connell.) I'd also be hard-pressed to pluck an appropriate quote to entice you simply because Connell's work contains so many pleasures, so instead here are a couple of snippets...

The deity had the head of a large, tropical American edentate (Myrmecophaga jubata) attached to the pale body of a man of affairs. He spoke, not in English, but rather in a variety of Pennsylvania-German-Pali-Middle-Mexican-Persian which the doctor, an able linguist, could perfectly understand.

Black inquired as to the significance of the objects in the glass case.

"Those are your sentiments Doctor," the deity replied.

"My sentiments?"

"Your sentiments."

"And what are my sentiments doing here, might I ask?"

"This is the Heaven of Metanatural History, and it is where all the non-material parts of Earth's imminent scientists are kept for both study and display." The deity scratched its snout and then rolled out a long protrusile tongue.


"Would you like a blindfold?"

"No. I would prefer, at the moment of dissolution, to have my visual awareness entirely unimpaired." [Dr. Black replied]

The other bowed stiffly. "As you wish." He turned to the gunmen. "Ready!" he cried, opening an enormous mouthful of yellow teeth.

The doctor considering how a bullet can contain a supper of roast game...freedom...a river of sadness...the end of a noble career...travelling at two-thousand feet per second..with rifles positioned about thirty feet away...upon being fired...the projectiles would arrive in about twelve thousandths of a second...but taking into account air-resistance...partial differential equation..."


seeing: childhood = Alabama (to the sounds of Sweet Nadine: huge, crowned with red hair, her beautiful voice + his own father: a thick and elongated torso; great great great grandson of noted physician and chemist Joseph Black = discoverer of carbon dioxide...If he were killed he would sorely miss the chicken heart back at his laboratory on Long Island which he had kept alive for twenty-seven years pulsating in a solution of sea salt.

"This is unpleasant," he thought.


The book is not yet available in the US through bookstores or book catalogues, but I'm happy to be the first to announce that this limited edition (signed, numbered, illustrated, and printed using brown ink) is available from the author via his paypal account: storyofthefifthpeach@hotmail.com. $20 plus $3 shipping for the US if you don't mind receiving the book after July 1st, or $20 plus $10 shipping for the US if you want it shipped now. (Brendan lives in Switzerland, but is visiting the US starting July 1st--thus the difference in price.) Contact him at his email address for other arrangements, including shipping from places other than the US. No matter how you slice it, this is a steal of a price. (I hope in future to use this blog to bring your attention to other first-time or unique offers.)

Meanwhile, Brendan has submitted to the five questions...


Why should readers pick up your book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?
For the very reason that it is not anyone else’s book. I wouldn’t bother writing if what I was writing was the same as everyone else was writing (clumsy second conditional sentence if ever there was one). If I were a bird I would be an eagle. That is better. Yes, pick up my book; gravitational conditions could always make you drop it again.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
Actually the book is a bit “socially redeeming”. It is about revolution, righting wrongs, frying injustice. We see the softer side of Dr. Black, the famous neo-Romantic brain, and at the same time are given a rather enlightening history of the dire situation currently facing San Corrados. The beauties of nature are unfolded before us . . . screaming as they are assaulted by the brutal vampire of Modernity.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
If read in the early hours of the morning, before the sun rises, it will lower your blood pressure significantly. If memorised, it will cause good things to happen. If transmitted to others, it will act as a guarantee to a good rebirth.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
Oh, I think children would like it. At least boys. I am not sure about girls. I suppose it would depend on the child. But then again, girls are often more intelligent than boys. And children in general like adventure, exotic locations and such things. No need for therapy. The therapy comes with the reading, just as a can of sardines comes with a little metal key.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Clare Dudman's One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead was one of my favorites of last year. It's now out in trade paperback in the United States and there's no excuse for anyone not picking it up.

Her second novel, 98 Reasons for Being, will be released by Viking in July in hardcover.

As the press release reads:

Novelist Clare Dudman, whose work has earned comparisons to Andrea Barrett and Peter Høeg, is that rare kind of author who manages to bring history dramatically to life. In 98 Reasons for Being, she conjures up the revolutionary nineteenth-century German physician Heinrich Hoffmann, best known today for his famous book of children’s rhymes, Struwwelpeter, or Shockheaded Peter.

In 1850s Frankfurt, a Jewish girl named Hannah Meyer is admitted to the town asylum; she hasn’t spoken, slept, or eaten in weeks and wagging tongues have resulted in a diagnosis of nymphomania. In an increasingly obsessed effort to cure her, Dr. Hoffmann uses all the methods at his disposal—from ice packs and blood letting to electrodes. Nothing works until he resorts to talking—revealing the fascinating case histories of his other patients as well as his own troubled home life. Only then does Hannah begin to respond and gradually yield her tale of love, transgression, and prejudice. As the secrets hidden in Hannah’s mind are exposed, Hoffmann begins to uncover his own buried truths and, in the end, discover his real reasons for being. Brilliantly composed with a keen sense of German and Jewish history, 98 Reasons for Being is written with the intensity of D. M. Thomas’s The White Hotel and confirms Dudman’s reputation as a gifted storyteller.

98 Reasons for Being is not as intense a book as One Day, in part because Dudman doesn't stick with one point of view, but this leads to a richer novel in some ways, one that seems quieter yet sticks in the mind. I think it's a worthy follow-up to One Day. (I've also been fortunate enough to see the first chapters of the novel she's currently writing, and I think it might well top both of her prior novels for inventiveness and scope.)

So, on the eve of 98 Reasons' publication in the US, Clare was kind enough to submit to the dreaded Five Questions...


Why should readers pick up your new book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?
I suppose they might pick it up to be tidy. What's this doing here, they might say, '98 Reasons For Being' - that should belong in the Mind, Body, Spirit section and while they're putting it back I'm hoping they will flick through a few pages and immediately become engrossed.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
Well, it does deal with discrimination in its many forms - racial, sexual, the insane or those just thought to be a bit odd...It also asks questions about madness and points out that what some people perceive as insane other people do not. For instance there is a man in the book who feels he is really a woman and has consequently been locked up in the asylum by his relatives until he comes to see sense. This sort of thing really happened. They called it monomania - mad in just one direction. It was a sort of coverall term and people were afflicted in different ways. A few years later they became Freud's neurotics. I don't think any of them were mad or abnormal at all and the central character, Hannah, is probably the most autobiographical writing I've ever done - so it was a little worrying when one reviewer described her as a 'very strange young woman'. Which is giving me a bit of a complex. I keep asking people - do you think I'm a bit odd? And they
keep saying 'Well yes, obviously...' Which isn't helping, frankly.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
With the help of this book you will become an expert in curing epilepsy (amethyst inserted under the skin), fever (cupping), depression (water therapy), syphilis (mercury ointment) and postnatal depression (leeches).

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
I think any sensible child would enjoy the entire book enormously, and would need no therapy whatsoever. In fact I think it should be required reading for all precocious six year olds and I think I shall start a campaign to get it on the National Curriculum immediately.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
Well the intense vilification has begun already, which I'm taking as a compliment since they are only jealous, obviously - either that or they're all out to get me...and what I shall do next is to become a shamanic healer because there is a vacancy going in my local community.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Just a short post to make everyone aware of some freebies associated with the mass market release of City of Saints in the UK. You can access them here. Screensavers based on the illos in the book, the short "trailer" I blogged about before, and also a very interesting Festival quiz. Find out what would happen to you if you happened to wander into Ambergris...Please let me know. I'm curious...

I just took it and got the following rather depressing result. Apparently, I should just be writing about the place, not visiting it...


You develop a strange fungal growth on your skin which slowly turns into a map of underground Ambergris. Stupidly explorative, you set off but the map soon disappears and you lose all sense of direction. You follow strange markings which lead you deeper into the cavernous network - you lose all hope of ever returning to the surface, especially when the Gray Caps steal your eyes. You die afraid and alone.


(Evil Monkey: "Hey--I heard something about setting a personal weightlifting record?" Jeff: "Yeah. I'm up to 250 lbs on the squat." Evil Monkey: "Ain't that special. Big deal. I can squat 450 pounds." Jeff: "Yeah, but you're almost seven feet tall and wide as a truck. I mean, you're more like a gorilla than a monkey." Evil Monkey: "I have to be tough. I got Anne Rice and George Lucas on my tail." Jeff: "If you say so." Evil Monkey: "And not only can I squat 450 pounds, but I can bend iron bars with my breath, crack walnuts with my butt cheeks, and I've got five books coming out in the next year." Jeff: Sigh. There's always someone out there who's more successful, isn't there?)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


(This blog entry on Star Wars 3 contains some spoilers).

Ann and I went to see Stars Wars 3: The Revenge of the Sith this weekend, spurred by a few astonishingly positive reviews and the morbid curiosity of seeing the death throes of an already-dead corpse. Also, let’s face it—we enjoy a good bad movie. Mediocre movies hold no attraction for us, but a really bad movie can be extremely entertaining.

I’m thinking of movies where the director gave up or the actors gave up half-way through, or even movies where everybody went into it knowing they couldn’t do a good movie but might be able to create an entertaining campy movie.

The remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau is a good example, with its insane piano duet between a corpulent and dazed Marlon Brando and the “little gobbet” of bioneered flesh he’s created. Even better, half way through the movie Val Kilmer gives up and starts doing Brando imitations in his scenes with Brando.

And yet even a movie like Dr. Moreau can have a redeeming quality—in this case, Ron Perlman as a hyena man. While the whole movie is falling to pieces around him, Perlman plays it straight and gives an affecting, complex portrayal. So you have the dual pleasure of campy insanity and a genuinely good performance. (Another good example of this, to an opposite extreme, is Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, in which Alan Rickman clearly decides that as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a movie that is a slow agony of mediocre dialogue, he’s going to do an over-the-top acting job. It’s one of the great wacked-out performances ever given in a mediocre film.

Stars Wars 3 has some of these same qualities: it is a genuinely horrible movie (unlike the last two, which were just mediocre) with at least two acting choices that I admire. The first is by Samuel Jackson, who is clearly so disgusted by the inane dialogue he has to utter that he says his lines with all the modulation of a dead man. Some have called his performance stoic. I call it inspired “dullery.” It makes you realize just how bad the dialogue in Star Wars 3 is.

The other performance is by Ewan McGregor who, as the young Obi Wan, plays it straight and delivers a portrayal that, in its earnest quality, despite having to use Lucas’ inane dialogue, ranks with the great acting jobs of the year. McGregor almost convinces us that we’re watching a decent movie, he’s that good.

But we’re not watching a good movie. We’re watching a terrible movie. Can we fault Jackson for not giving a shit as he has to mouth words like “wookie,” “Dooku,” and General Grievous”? “Where is Grievous?” “Where is Dooku?” I’ve got some Dooku for you, right here.

But the problem extends beyond the stilted dialogue. Much of the movie looks like it was shot in somebody’s dimly lit basement. The blocking on action scenes is only adequate. The battle droids make cute little sounds as they expire. The Jedi and others destroy so many robots so quickly that you realize that the “separatist” robot armies are a joke. (Why is it that the Jedi preternaturally dispose of hundreds, if not thousands of hapless robot soldiers but are slaughtered almost to extinction across the galaxy, in every case, by just a handful of ordinary traitorous soldiers?)

In fact, any pretense of this being the future was jettisoned a long time ago. As you watch cute-looking droids attack Obi Wan’s little spaceship, you soon come to realize that you’re watching the final Attack of the Tie-Ins. You’re watching a future extrapolated from the action figures sold in MacDonald’s. You’re watching a future infiltrated and shaped by commercial images from the past. Read this way, Star Wars 3 becomes a time travel story. It isn’t the evil Sith who are taking over the galaxy—it’s George Lucas’ product placement drones. Attack of the Clones.

Because, frankly, we’ve got stuff today that would, if the movie is any indication, serve as a powerful deterrent to any ‘droid army. Bring on that droid army—and them Jedi. We’ll kick all of their butts. Just send ‘em into the past. We’ll take care of your Empire for you.

But this applies to more than just the military technology. When a burned Darth Vader is carried off a volcanic planet, it’s on a gurney that could be something modern-day with a levitation feature added. And as for that volcanic planet—there are droids scooping lava into buckets and bringing it to a factory. Gee, that’s really advanced. Not to mention, there’s a fight scene on said planet in which the characters are standing in areas of extreme heat for long periods of time. (Apparently Jedi are so magical that they don’t get burned to a crisp. It’s a wonder they even need air to breathe while traveling through space.)

Basically, Star Wars is still stuck in 1976, and limited by the myopic imaginations of its creators. Everything in the Star Wars universe is dated and cumbersome and unconvincing—a bunch of random stage props. Yes, you can call it a fantasy that happens to be set in space, but to do so just allows Lucas to get away with the rampant stupidity of the whole enterprise.

There are almost too many stupid moments to be able to catalogue them all. From the awful scenes between Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen (“Remember when we kissed by Lake Lackofchemistry?”) to the pathetic and inexplicable characterization of General Grievous (and his retarded organic heart, which proves his downfall) to the chase scene between Obi Wan on a huge Iguana (that looks like it came right out of Sinbad and the Seven Seas) and General Grievous on a flaming wheel of gyroscopic retardation, to ANY scene with a flying green booger (I mean, Yoda) engaged in light saber duels or Yoda scrunching through an airduct, to the gratuitous wookie planet scenes, which serve no purpose other than to try to erase our memory of ewoks…this movie implodes under the weight of illogic, poor planning, and poorly imagined sequences and ideas.

But the defining moment of stupidity in the movie is the rise of Darth Vader. Anakin Skywalker, badly burned, is encased in his Darth Vader suit, and then the gurney he’s strapped into is brought upright. At that point, the evil Sith Emperor tells Darth that he killed his own wife (not strictly true). He pulls away from his restraints and cries out “Nooooo!” with the same vehemence as the shouted “Stellllaaaaaa!” in another movie of similar melodramatic quality. It’s almost a scene out of Frankenstein, a parallel Lucas probably wants.

It’s possibly the most ridiculous and vainglorious scene in all of the movies. And it doesn’t work at all. Not even a little bit. The sight of Darth Vader stumbling from his restraints isn’t human or inhuman. It’s just sad and pathetic.

The original Star Wars had a simplicity, innocence, and good humor about it that allowed it to work. Despite the mystical mumbo-jumbo, it didn’t take itself too seriously. Since then, Lucas has encased the series in a dual seriousness and commercialism that have made it lifeless and unlivable.

All of this may seem a bit like reviewing a graveyard and complaining that it’s full of dead people, but I’ve been dismayed by the number of reviewers who have given this movie decent-to-good reviews based on the spectacle of (not very good) special effects and the supposed gravitas of the storyline, while dismissing their own concerns about the acting and dialogue.

Science fiction (and fantasy) deserves better than this serving of bullshit mixed with a gruel composed of equal parts sparse imagination and badly translated visions of glory.