Fantasycon 2018: two panels and a reading, curry and karaoke, plus possible adventures in baking

Fantasycon 2018

Only a week until Fantasycon!

I missed it last year because I was still resting after the pleasures of World Con in Helsinki – both me and my bank account. So this year I’m looking forward to attending Fantasycon 2018 in Chester and catching up with people.

The full Fantasycon timetable is available here. And below you’ll find my own little timetable, which includes a reading on the Saturday afternoon. In addition, there is the usual hanging about in the bar, attending other panels, a curry or two, and perhaps a stab at karaoke. I also intend to take a walk around the city walls of Chester, which I’ll be visiting for the first time ever.

And even if you aren’t attending Fantasycon, if you are in the area you can still visit the Fantasycon Bookfair, which will be open to the public and free for anyone to attend. You’ll be able to stock up on a range of speculative fiction from independent presses, buy artwork and er… possibly a copy of Resonance & Revolt at the Eibonvale Press stall? This event will take place on Sunday 21 October 9am to 1pm at the Hallmark Hotel.

So here’s what I’ll be up to…

Friday 19 October 4.30pm: Role of Class in Fantasy & Science Fiction (and the genre of whatever, I’d add) With Kevin McVeigh (m) Peter Sutton, Laura Mauro, Alison Baker, Rosanne Rabinowitz: The Edward (Panel Room 3)
With the increasing awareness of diversity in SFF where do class issues fit in? How has the genre traditionally considered class roles and is it changing?

Saturday 10 October 1pm: Religion in Genre Fiction   Iain Grant (m), Naomi Foyle, Rosanne  Rabinowitz, Terry Grimwood, Marion Pitman,  Tasha Suri: The Victoria (Panel Room 1)
Whether a story contains a real world religion, an analogue, or an invented form of worship, religious organisations provide a variety of useful functions for the writer. Our panel explores the use of religion in different stories, examining how it can and has been used to further the narrative.

Saturday 10 October 2pm: Reading I’ll be sharing slot with two fine writers, Ray Cluley and Sara Jayne Townsend 
The Disraeli  (Reading Room) 
I plan to read a couple of selections from Resonance & Revolt. One will be from “The Matter of Meroz”. There also might be some bribery with baked goods going on – those of you who came to the launch in May might have some idea of what this entails. I decided to make my own rugelach this time instead of resorting to a certain hipster bakery in Shoreditch – I’ll be able to make them with the fillings of my choice, which will be apricot and almond (as described in the story). I also might try some sour cherry because I have dried sour cherries that need to be used and I do love something sour in my sweets.
However, I’ve not baked anything for years so this will be purely experimental. I have no idea how it will turn out.
I’ve not yet decided on the other piece to read. Any suggestions?

As mentioned, there’ll also be lots of hanging out and chatting. If you see me around and want to say ‘hi’, please feel free. I enjoy meeting new people, but I’m also kind of shy (all together now… awwwww).

Note that a karaoke is scheduled for Saturday night. If the song is available, I’m contemplating a turn doing “Glitter & Gold” by Barns Courtney – but this is neither a definite promise or threat. I came across this song through the Netflix crime drama, Safe. The drama itself turned out to be so-so, but the opening credits with this tune always succeeded in sending those proverbial shivers up my spine, something about that beat and the way he repeats ‘the dark, the dark, the dark…’ in the chorus. 

And who knows? A few of us had a chat on Facebook and possible performances of songs by Bowie, Prince, Janelle Monae and Scot Walker were mentioned.

A few of us might even form a backing group called the Shirley Jacksons, should any aspiring Gladys Knight require a few Pips. Again, like my first-time attempt to bake rugelach these are neither definite promises or threats… we’ll see how things are going on Saturday night 20 October.

So that’s all for now. See some of you in Chester!

Gateways of Chester

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Too large for your letterbox

20180924_184634It’s one of those frustrating non-events of the writerly life when you come home from work on a Thursday evening and find a card from the postie informing you that a package was ‘too large for your letterbox’ and you just know it’s your contributor copies for a long-anticipated anthology. Then the form on the Royal Mail website won’t let you book a redelivery until Monday

Finally, Monday arrives… And the package in question does indeed contain my contributor copies for Uncertainties Volume III. Edited by Lynda E Rucker, the anthology presents fiction by Matthew M Bartlett, SP Miskowski, Adam LG Nevill, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Shearman, RS Knightley, Lisa Tuttle, Ralph Robert Moore, Tracy Fahey, Julia Rust & David Surface and Scott West. In addition to stories by these very fine writers, it also includes my tale “The Golden Hour”. You can order Uncertainties from Swan River Press.

20180924_183804The title of my story refers to the hour before sunset or after sunrise when light is indeed golden and transforms appearances – and perhaps much more. It seems to capture and hold moments, infuse them with layers of meaning that are otherwise lost. It’s the sense of timelessness during the golden hour that inspired my story.

The story also reflects my move to an upper floor in my block and the new perspective it gave me. I became much more aware of the movements of sun and moon, changes in the quality of light and its effect on the cityscape. As for the cityscape itself… I found it glorious, while I was also aware that certain half-built structures reflecting the sunset so beautifully will become empty shells for investment by international cartels. These are sprouting alongside buildings that have been homes for many years. Much of this is social housing, fought for and now contested, touched by the same light. I started to speculate on ways the transfiguring light could affect the people living within those buildings.

When my copies arrived I was inspired to take photos of the books during the actual ‘golden hour’ on a clear autumn day, getting full-on arty-farty with photos of the book as the afternoon shifted into various stages of golden-ness. On that first day I admit that I spent more time photographing the book  (often along with my thumb) than reading it.

However, I’ve now read about half of the book and I’ve been mesmerised and entertained; I’ve also found that this is the kind of anthology I read continuously from cover to cover, when I often dip in and out of them. I’ll add that dipability is a good thing too and dipping in and out of anthologies has been a major pleasure of my reading life. I enjoy both of these qualities. I’m not sure what makes one anthology a ‘dipper’ and another anthology one that is devoured. Could it be the way the stories flow into each other, even when it’s not a themed anthology? Something to ponder. In any case, editing is always a factor in how an anthology works and Lynda E Rucker did sterling job with this one.

I recommend an interview on the Swan River Press website with Lynda where she talks about the experience of editing this book. I’ll end with this cogent observation from Lynda on how the field of horror and weird fiction is perceived:

“My view of horror is that it is a very broad church. It encompasses everything from the subtlest and most enigmatic of tales to the full-on Grand Guignol… I think arguments about labelling literature are incredibly tedious, but it does bother me when people try to insist that something isn’t horror basically on the grounds that it is well-written or well-made, that it has depth and resonance and fine prose or is character-driven or has a political consciousness or whatever.”
Uncertainties Volume III spread

 

Certain about Uncertainties III, plus R&R review

grande_uncertainties3I’m excited to announce the publication of Uncertainties III, edited by Lynda E Rucker and published by Swan River Press. It will be out in September and it is now available for preorder. This anthology contains my story “The Golden Hour”, alongside stories by eleven wonderful writers. Here’s the table of contents:

“Monica in the Hall of Moths” Matthew M. Bartlett
“Warner’s Errand” SP Miskowski
“Wyrd” Adam Nevill
“Wanting” Joyce Carol Oates
“Bobbo” Robert Shearman
“Before I Walked Away” RS Knightley (Rachel Knightley)
“Voices in the Night” Lisa Tuttle
“It Could Be Cancer” Ralph Robert Moore
“The Woman in the Moon” Tracy Fahey
“TallDarkAnd” Julia Rust and David Surface
“Ashes to Ashes” Scott West
“The Golden Hour” Rosanne Rabinowitz

This looks like a wonderful line-up and I thank Lynda for bringing us all together. I am certain that Uncertainties III will be a very special book. When I had The Book of American Martyrs signed by Joyce Carol Oates at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival I had no idea that we’d be rubbing shoulders on the same TOC.

And in case you’re wondering, the ‘golden hour’ refers to the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the light is indeed golden and transfiguring…

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A bell of the Harelle!

Meanwhile, Resonance & Revolt has received a new review from Deborah Walker on GoodReads and Amazon.

“As well as the fine stories, I was struck by the coherence of the book, which danced with the theme of Resonance of emotion, of music and of Revolt expressing what it is to take action and move beyond the constraints of what is expected of us.”

She mentions a favourite: “The story which wormed into my brain was Bells of the Harelle, a story blending 14th century rioting, heresy, and eroticism with humour and scientific mystery.”

So if you want rioting (be it 14th century, 21st century or somewhere in between), head-banging heresy, eroticism, humour and scientific mystery you just might enjoy R&R.

 

 

 

Let’s talk about ghosts – and guest blogs

Dg1t15MW4AE-b1NSo it’s been a couple of months since my last blog post. My excuse?

I will confess that I have been playing away. Yes, I’ve been guest-blogging for two other sites. Instead of being a productive blogger at home, I’ve been off annoying someone else’s followers.

First, you’ll find my piece ‘Get Yourself Collected’ on the Milford SF Writers blog, where I discuss what I learned from producing Resonance & Revolt. I discovered that there’s a lot more to that first collection than recycling your old tales. Themes, story selection, angst! And be warned, the longer you put off your first collection the more severe the angst will be.

I’ve also been visiting James Everington’s Scattershot Writing blog, holding forth in Music for Writers, a series where authors post music they like to listen to while they write. You’ll also be able to check out tunes from other contributors including Andrew Hook,  Neil Williamson and Ray Cluley. James Everington, by the way, is an excellent writer that I met when we both appeared in The Outsiders anthology, my first venture into Lovecraftiana.

And now lets move from guesting to the ghosts. A few weeks ago I attended the Dublin Ghost Story Festival, a small gathering organised by Brian J Showers of Swan River Press. The event featured panels, talks and readings that explored strange and uncanny fiction.

I last spent time in Dublin in 2004, when I came to town for a May Day weekend of anti-capitalist demonstrations.  This was back in the era of ye olde Celtic Tiger so I was expecting things to look a little different. As my coach made its way through Dublin city centre from the airport I recognised a few places, even a glimpse of the community centre on Cathal Brugha Street where we met up and hatched plans and it’s where some of our soggy minions returned after getting water-cannoned. Of course, I might have a few things wrong 14 years on…  

Then I was greeted by the fine sight of rainbow flags flying from the historic General Post Office, which had also been a meeting point for some of the 2004 events. I’d forgotten that it was Pride weekend in Dublin so I was surprised and delighted by the rainbow bunting up all over the city. Though I was absorbed in matters ghostly and didn’t make it down to the parade itself, the Pride paraphernalia and revelry gave me the sense I was visiting a city shaking off the shackles of the past just after the pro-choice victory in the 8th amendment referendum.

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There were also some reminders of the old order. The Jesus below presided in this glass booth in a small square near our B&B. Perhaps I missed something, but he just appeared to be part of the street furniture and not connected with any religious institution. In the second photo you’ll see that Jesus has some instructions for dog walkers. We came across a similar installation in another public square, minus the poop-scooping admonition.

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Though I enjoyed Helsinki’s massive World Con last year, I was looking forward to a much more intimate event this time around. It made a nice change to have only one stream of programming. Everyone went to the same events and hung out in the same venues afterwards. With the programme finishing around 7.30pm,  no one had to worry about their 8pm panel or a late reading where you hope your audience will be merrily inebriated rather than snoring.  It was good that we all could just relax with our dinner or drinks.

The event was held in the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ireland, which boasted plush decor, stained glass windows and a collection of rather alarming portraits of eminent masons. The programme featured readings and panels on many facets of supernatural and weird fiction. Guests of honour included Joyce Carol Oats, Lisa Tuttle, Victoria Leslie, Andrew Michael Hurley, Helen Grant, Reggie Oliver, RB Russell, Rosalie Parker and Nicholas Royle. I was pleased to meet Nick Royle for the first time; along with Joel Lane he was a big influence on me in the 1990s when I first discovered that thing called ‘slipstream’. 

20180629_210740At one panel someone asked whether there’s a place for humour in a ghost story. The response was ‘yes, but it’s difficult’. And when Joyce Carol Oates read her story “The Crack” an even more emphatic YES came to my mind. The story is both poignant and funny as it lampoons the denizens of a high-rise faculty apartment building near the New York University campus.

On the Saturday Lisa Tuttle also did an in-depth interview with Joyce Carol Oates. You can see them chatting in the photo below under the watchful gaze of some very stern gentlemen.

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It’s a shame that I didn’t get better photos of the portraits because many of us began to feel on very familiar terms with them, as you can see from the tweet on the left. 

I was a kid when Joyce Carol Oates shot to prominence after winning the National Book Award for Them. I ended up reading this book semi-surreptitiously along with The Exorcist and the first two chapters from the library copy of Gravity’s Rainbow that I carried around with me but never ever finished.

My mother periodically tut-tutted over the New York Times Book Review when a new Oates book appeared: “That woman writes about such awful things.”

Of course, that was all the more reason to acquaint myself with the work of ‘that woman’. I started with Them, a gritty account of the lives of a poor Detroit family amid the riots of 1967. I was introduced to Oates’ work as a realist, so I was later amazed to discover her supernatural and gothic fiction such as Bellefleur.

However, few people are able to keep up with Oates’ massive output. According to her bio in the festival programme, she has written over 50 novels and produced volumes of short stories, novellas and non-fiction. For more information you might want to check out the Celestial Timepiece website, which is devoted entirely to her work.

While I was at the Ghost Story Festival I bought A Book of American Martyrs, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I also had it signed – so witness my fangirl moment of the weekend below!

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These are a few quotes that stood out for me from Oates: “I don’t believe in any ghosts but I believe that other people believe in them… but what do ghosts do when they’re waiting for you to come to the place they’re haunting? Are they playing cards? And who launders the sheets?”

And while Oates doesn’t believe in ghosts, she believes in their importance as “a triumph of the spirit over the material”.

At one of the early panels I also enjoyed the following conversation about Lovecraft. Reggie Oliver: “I don’t go for all those tentacles. It’s a question of taste.” Joyce Carol Oates: “The best age to appreciate Lovecraft is about 12.” When I tweeted this exchange I had a comeback from someone who said they started to appreciate Lovecraft at the age of 45. I can see that point too. While I share Reggie’s tiredness of tentacles, I can still appreciate a good atmospheric Mythos tale.

Reggie Oliver also nailed it when he said:  “A ghost story should contain a revelation rather than an explanation.” It expressed my discontent too with anti-climactic endings that explain too much and tie everything too neatly as well as endings that lack any kind of closure. How does a writer steer between the two?  Perhaps a revelation heralds the kind of closure that deepens rather than dispels the mystery.

The event ended with a panel where Lisa Tuttle, Helen Grant and RB Russell discussed overlooked favourites. I was pleasantly surprised when someone mentioned Ethel Mannin and her 1945 novel Lucifer and the Child, which is about a poor girl in the East End of London who believes herself to be a witch. Mannin was a journalist, a labour organiser, a comrade of Emma Goldman and possible lover of WB Yeats. She might have  published over 100 books in her lifetime. The little I’ve known of her always fascinated me. I recall reading another novel from her called Venetian Blinds, which explores the price of upward mobility.

And this brings me to the finale of the weekend, when I learned about another ‘lost’ woman writer who was influential in her own time but not so celebrated today.

30728584_555129354868004_3819477697778494371_nOn the Monday after the festival we visited an exhibition about the prison writings of Dorothy Macardle, which had been recommended by Swan River Press. Macardle was an activist and historian – and a writer of supernatural fiction. She was involved in the Irish independence movement and working on a paper called Irish Freedom when she was arrested during the civil war. She served six months in Mountjoy and Kilmainham until her release on health grounds. However, she came to have serious disagreements with the prominent men in Irish politics.

While imprisoned Macardle wrote a book, Earth-Bound: Nine Stories of Ireland, which is a collection of ghost stories inspired by the women that she met in prison. I’ve often encountered a view that supernatural/strange fiction is escapist and backward-looking, but books like this show that’s far from the truth. Ghost stories – and the weird and esoteric in general – offer a powerful way to highlight historical and personal struggles and create fictional connections through time and space. That’s certainly the impetus behind my stories in Resonance & Revolt. So while I indulged in a chuckle or two over the thought that I came to Dublin in 2004 to take part in an international anti-capitalist convergence and this time I went there to talk about ghosts, it doesn’t mean that the two are opposed – neither does it necessarily mark the softening that is said to come with age!

20180702_130127Each of the nine ghost stories in Earth-Bound is dedicated to a fellow prisoner, who are all featured in the exhibition. Some of the ghost stories in Earth-Bound incorporate Celtic myth, while others are set against the backdrop of the Irish independence struggle. One tells of a contemporary Irish revolutionary who is haunted by the ghost of a prisoner from the 1798 Rebellion. Pictured left is the knife and spoon that prisoner Eithne Coyle took with her when she escaped with three other women from Mountjoy in 1922.

Macardle went on to write more supernatural fiction, including a novel about a haunted house that was later made into the Hollywood film, The Uninvited. She also led the Women Writers Club in 1933. It’s possible that she might have even known Ethel Mannin, since the Women Writers Club had presented Mannin with its award in 1948 for her bestselling novel Late Have I Loved Thee.

My visit to this exhibit was a perfect way to end our weekend in Dublin.

 

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Resonance & Revolt & real-time reviews – and some rugelach too

R&R&R1So Resonance & Revolt has been out for a good few weeks! I was so absorbed in preparations for the launch a couple of weeks ago I forgot to mention that, as well as post about the launch in this blog. However, details were tweeted and also put on Facebook so I hope everyone who wanted to come knew about it.

I’ll write some more about the event itself but I’ll now highlight R&R’s first review from Des Lewis. If the name rings a bell, several stories in R&R such as “Survivor’s Guilt”, “Pieces of Ourselves”, “In the Pines”, “The Pleasure Garden” and “The Turning Track” have received Des’ treatment on first appearance, which I’ve featured in previous posts. “Lambeth North” had actually appeared in one of his own anthologies, Horror Without Victims.

Des Lewis’ ‘real-time’ reviews are unique, thought-provoking and always a treat to read. They’re packed with word play and poetry as they unearth associations and currents in the work that I might miss myself when I’ve been so close to it. Other writers describe similar experiences of discovery and regard a Des Lewis review as a work of literature in its own right. I second that. Perhaps you can call this a review of a review. I always feel very honoured by the attention and thought Des puts into his reviews.

They are usually beautifully illustrated as well. I’ve included his cut-out of the tiles from “Lambeth North” that appears on the cover of R&R below, which he connects with the avatar he uses on website. After his exploration of each story, Des sums up:

cropped-2c2a069b-415e-45b1-96c7-9b4c857f22d21“Resonance & Revolt. From Didcott to Didactic, a grail or Rosannation for socialist outreach but made even more palatable as percolated by truth and inspirationally infused by the book’s creative tapping of histories, myths and alternate visions, transfigured from rustblind through to silverbright. Some very important stories in this book transcending any didacticism. And a gestalt of them all that will be enduring. And a book cover that sings out with all these things.”

On 19 May we launched R&R, along with more books published by Eibonvale, Snuggly Books and other imprints. A major thanks goes out to anyone who came and helped make it such an enjoyable afternoon. Books were read (and sold), chats were had, drinks  were drunk and snacks were noshed. The sun was shining in the beer garden… Readings came from myself, Rhys Hughes, Quentin S Crisp, Terry Grimwood, Tom Johnstone and Allen Ashley.

Tiles from DesThe event was MC’ed by Allen Ashley, who did a stellar job at the 2013 event that launched Helen’s Story, Rustblind and Silverbright, Stardust and other books. I read extracts from “The Pleasure Garden” from Something Remains – since we were very near to its location amid the cranes and building sites of Nine Elms – and closed the readings with an extract from “The Matter of Meroz”, which first appeared in Jews vs Aliens. The passage involved the enjoyment of certain Jewish delicacies as a sensory means of creating wormholes – or as known respectively in the Talmud and the Book of Deborah – the ‘leaping of the roads’ and the ‘crumpling of the sky’.

RugelachRugelach plays a key role in this process. They’re small pastries made from a dough with cream cheese or sour cream, plus whatever you fancy putting in them. We distributed some cinnamon-spiced samples after the reading. And you know what? Maybe the road did leap just a little, or else it could’ve been the free beer having its effect!

After the launch about 25 of us went to Mamuska, a Polish canteen style eaterie at Elephant & Castle. All in all, it was a lovely way to mark the passage of R&R into the world.

You can buy Resonance & Revolt in paperback and hardback formats from most online booksellers – Amazon, Foyles and others – and from Eibonvale Press. Meanwhile, an ebook edition is also in the works.

I’ll finally add that if you have a blog or publication and want to review R&R, get in touch with Eibonvale.

 

 

Dorian’s doing well!

grande_scarlet1Here’s a very nice review of The Scarlet Soul in Lovecraft Ezine, which praises the quality of all ten stories and the physical production of the book. Acep Hale also describes my contribution to this anthology:

“Rosanne Rabinowitz’s “All That Is Solid” is another story from The Scarlet Soul that has stuck with me. It is the story of two friends, Gosia and Ilona, living in London after the passage of Brexit. As both of them have Polish backgrounds uncertainties start to creep into Gosia’s psyche as more and more overt examples of British nationalism start happening around her. Ilona passes on the number of a counselor who suggests that since Gosia is a freelance designer art therapy may help? I feel that Rabinowitz displays an acute sensibility with “All That Is Solid” that is as respectful as it is chilling.”

Last thing I heard, Dublin-based Swan River Press said that they were down to their last five copies of The Scarlet Soul. So to quote Janis Joplin, get it while you can!

Swan River does put out some very fine books, concentrating on strange and supernatural fiction with an Irish connection. I look forward to meeting editor Brian J Showers and others in person this summer at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival. And if any readers of this blog happen to be attending, I look forward to meeting you.

Meanwhile, I’ve set up a new page for R&R. It includes a table of contents that links most of the stories with a related post or review giving background or thoughts about the story. I’ve also linked to the blogs of Lynda E. Rucker and Mat Joiner, friends and fellow writers who’ve contributed to this book.

The paperback edition of Resonance & Revolt will be released on the very appropriate date of 1 May. You can pre-order it from Eibonvale or from Amazon. Keep an eye out for news about a launch event and an ebook edition.

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Off to the printers…

Final tweaks and twiddles done. The book has been sent!

Back in my ‘zine mongering days, ‘going to the printers’ meant stumbling onto a train after pulling an all-nighter, lugging the artwork in some unwieldy and tattered portfolio. I was always terrified that something could happen along the way that would scupper publication. A train wreck, perhaps. Or I’d be mugged for the very coveted contents of my portfolio.

Now it’s so much easier. Just a click of the button, according to Eibonvale editor David Rix.

And glasses are now raised in Kennington and Hackney…

Cheers!