Friday, July 5, 2013
All right! Tomorrow night, the launch for Swill 7 takes place at Shashamane in Oakland. In the last few months, there have been three career events
that have been exerting a lot of influence on my life. One was
beginning my second novel for my e-publisher December House. The
second was the art show at Aunt Dofe's Hall of Recent Memory, where I
was able to find myself comfortable in a surprisingly elevated sphere.
(And where the Swillistrations were officially pronounced worthy...)
And tomorrow is the third, the introduction of both the new magazine
and the new series of... I guess at this point they're photos. See
samples above. Thirteen pages of interior images, folks, and all
bearing a fascinatingly oblique relationship to the associated
fiction, one that attempts to add an additional layer of resonance.
And to be able to introduce this at Beastcrawl! What a hoot.
See, that makes Swill part of the establishment. Which has been our
stated position from the beginning, but yeah. We're part of the
So here's the issue.
The Lazarus Effect by Amy Yolanda Castillo features what I regard as
the premier circus animal attack of the issue, and then works to a
Til She Fill My Mouth With Laughing by Lisa Nohealani Morton is the
kind of submission I'd order out of a catalog if I had the option.
Smart, literate, it's got your footnotes and your Fabre quotes and all
the stuff that makes me smile. Plus, there's justifies nepotism, my
favorite kind. Of course, I bear an onus for abetting an oathbreaker,
but I'll take an onus for a good story any day.
Oblivion, by Holly Day, is a neat slice of fantastic naturalism with
real emotional tension. Think Serling, Matheson, even good King as
touchstones. And it's by the author of the For Dummies books on
Composition and Music Theory, which I probably will pick up at some
Kevin Grows Up was a story written entirely out of spite, and as
always, I wound up living it in real life. Okay, I don't want to point
fingers and name names, because I'm a passive-aggressive shithead
sometimes. But let's say there was a magazine that published genre
fiction, okay? A very well-established magazine with a reputation for
literary standards above those typical for genre fiction. Published
Kurt Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson, Gore Vidal, a list of genuine
luminaries as long as your arm, as well as a lot of the best-written
fantastic fiction done inside of genre, with authors such as Ursula
leGuin, Jack Vance, and Avram Davidson being featured regularly during
the heights of their careers.
We're talking a fairly heavy cultural artifact.
When I read the current editor state that his target audience
consisted of twelve-year-old boys, I lost most of my interest in
publishing with them, but I suddenly needed to write a story that
would make a twelve-year-old boy feel horrible. And so I wrote Kevin
But remember, I published it in Swill. So no twelve-year-old boy will
ever see it.
Shana Graham's Newark has elements of romance, noir, and surrealism,
and is pleasing in its resistance to being pinned-down. Too sharp for
a dream, too dizzy for reality. Reading this feels like being awake
for too long, and that's a compliment.
There were a number of Viet Nam veterens in my life when I was growing
up, and Gene Hines's Women In The River did not set off my bullshit
alarm, for whatever that's worth. Because of this, the story got a
little extra graphic something. Mr Hines, by the way, has published
with us before.
Stephan McQuiggan gives us a jolly old-fashioned bit of sadism in
Susannah Quietly. I could never resist poisoned candy...
Pancake Collection by Rob Pierce is 'typical' Pierce story in that it
combines alcohol, failed romance, physical violence, and a devestated
emotional affect ito damage the reader's equilibrium. He's pretty much
the best in town at this stuff.
And Tom Hoisington's Vigilant Resolve ends the issue with a
surprisingly sincere and positive note. "This son of a bitch means
it," I thought to myself on reading this one, and in it went.
This issue's a little heavy on conventional narrative, tending
strongly noirish. I think it's the best-looking issue so far, but I
would, wouldn't I?
So order it! Or come on down tomorrow night, and join me, Rob Pierce,Shawna Yang Ryan, and Warren Lutz for all the unwholesomeness thehuman mind can bear, plus drinks!
I'll see you there.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Here's Dave Kirk in the gallery space at Aunt Dofe's Hall of Recent Memory. Everybody has to be nice to Dave from now on.
So they take me out to a back road in Montana, and I figured this was my chance to do some Western art. "Here I am, doing Western art," I thought to myself, and when I was done, I showed it to people and said, "See? I'm not afraid of Western art." I drew a cow, as well. I'll let you see it later.
When I got home and looked at my 'Western' art, I laughed out loud at what happens if you go far enough west...
Every day is backwards day. So of course, when I went to Montana for my show at Aunt Dofe's Hall of Recent Memory, I spent my time entirely in the company of people from the arts, academia, and broadcasting. The one civilian I listened to for any length of time turned out to write a column for a fishing magazine. And most of 'em were probably more conscientious lefties than I.
So go figure.
It was a ridiculously gratifying experience. I was treated as a precious object, I behaved as a humble servant, and the results were pleasing and harmonious. My pal Deborah (familiar to long-time readers) made sure I ate and walked every day, and arranged regular encounters with animals. I need a certain amount of physical affection, and without the missus and our dogs, horses, dogs, cats, cattle, and observed wild animals serve as palliative drugs. (Deborah's comment at the end of the trip -- "Animals compete for your attention, and people give you stuff. What's up with that?" -- was the last nail in the coffin of my former self-image. I am not an outcast, but rather one of those who glitters when he walks, and that boils up a whole fucking other kettle of worms. If I act like the sullen wretch I am, it comes across as arrogant or threatening rather than pathetic. I'm starting to feel that smiling and acting nice are responsibilities I've been shirking.)
But the whole scene wasn't about me, and I liked that. I was one of the main engines of the event, but an engine isn't an aeroplane. Dave Kirk, the curator of Aunt Dofe's, had gone through a fallow period, and this had been (or at least this is the impression people gave me) a source of hardship in the creative community. "Dave/Aunt Dofe's is the best thing to happen to Montana in a long time," was a statement I heard repeated from many mouths with the regularity of a chirping cricket. So a new season of shows at Aunt Dofe's was exciting news, a sort of cultural springtime.
Working on the sort of budget one gets for art produced outside the academic or commercial worlds, with access to any number of friends and colleagues who are known in the world of the arts, who have shows ready to go, who have pull and connections and collectors and so on, Dave, like an arrow straight to Hell, chose to go with an almost completely unknown artist, working in an eccentric, somewhat kitschy style, who would need complete sponsorship in order to participate.
On the night of the opening, I heard two phrases repeated over and over from a lot of different people. The fishing columnist (who I'm not ribbing) wasn't there, so it was all, you know. Arts types. Real arts types. Working, academics, broadcasting, like I said.
Some of them fixed me with an intense gaze, obviously meaning to drive some thought into my brain with the force of a wooden stake. "You do understand that this is one of the best gallery spaces in the world, and Dave is one of the best curators in the world, right? You do understand what that means?"
Well, I'm still in the process of understanding that one, but yeah, I kind of get it.
The other thing people said? "Thank you."
Like I said, still processing, kind of get it.
Here's the thing.
I'm proud of the show. There are two booklets there, A Bad Part of Town, and Swimming Crawling Walking Flying, that have been printed in editions of thirty, available only from Aunt Dofe's. There are fourteen images accompanied by thirteen poems. I did a walk-on reading early in the show, and would have done more except the band -- Fear Eats the Soul, and I wish I could find a good link for them -- caught fire, and to interfere would have been worse than a sin. It would have been a mistake.
But it was the way people swung through the event and picked up a charge that got me. That was my reward, that was my payoff. There was a buzz, there was energy, and there was a sense of harmony, of things operating in their proper sphere. People were enhanced by their interactions. And that was what I helped create with my art, and with my labor, and with my person. The essential scene, the music, food, drinks, and guests, could have happened without me.
But having me there gave the scene specificity and novelty. Hey, these are some of the coins art brings to the table. Happy to oblige. Thanks for having me.
I used to say that I was good at arrogance and shame, but pride and humility were incomprehensible to me. That's changed. Pride is knowing your strength, and humility is understanding that strength is responsibility rather than license, that strength is a gift others paid for.
There was no point in the artistic process where I felt doubt or worry. Nerves, yes. That's how I'm built. But the sense of complete confidence I felt throughout seemed the simple and proper result of understanding the range of my abilities rather than hubris. And those abilities seem not so much a part of me but rather a public trust -- I can do what I do because people invested in me. Time, money, and tradition have been granted me. It is appropriate that I do honor to the gifts I've been given.
Over the period of time, six months or so, not even a year, my life has undergone a series of changes, some startling, some the obvious outcome of the way I conduct myself in life. I have a publisher, and my next novel will be released in early 2014. This Saturday, I'll be reading and helping host a reading as part of this year's Beastcrawl. I am operating at a very eccentric intersection of fine art, popular culture, and science, and whatever it is that I am is still in the early stages of emergence. I'm nearly fifty; by the time I find out what I am, I'll have fifteen, twenty years worth of career if I score big. (I won't turn down more than that, but really, let's not be greedy.) Robertson Davies went downhill for his last two novels, but Hokusai went from hack to genius in his dotage. I seek to emulate Hokusai...
Man, I'm out of it. Thinking about my last-days work while doing this-days work. Processing, processing.
I'll talk more about the show later. But for now, know this. Deborah Kuchar and Dave Kirk got together and gave me one of the very best weeks I've experienced in my life. They went to expense and effort, and I hope very much that they got what they wanted.
Because I have been enhanced, and I hold them responsible.