Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saving Icarus

Over at Lethe Press, Steve Berman is finding it difficult to justify keeping Icarus going:

So, after reviewing Lethe Press's P & L statement, I noticed that I lost around four thousand dollars last year on Icarus, the Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. Now, I never expected to make a bundle or even a profit. My goal was to provide a venue for stories that some markets might consider "too gay" or "too odd." Also to spread awareness of gay fantasy, science-fiction and horror. But I did not want to lose so much.

Given the number of stories I've been proud to have published in that wee gem of a magazine, if you're reading this as someone interested in my fiction, it's probably in your own best interest to go see what he has to say. Cause, yeah, a good proportion of my work has found a home there, often stories I've looked at and thought, "hmmm, now where the fuck would this fit?" So I'd be gutted to see Icarus go. One of the things I love about it is that while narrowing the criteria in one respect by the addition of gay, I'd say the "speculative" part of it is broadened out to one of the most inclusive approaches to the strange fiction genres that I've seen in a mag. I've said it before and I'll say it again: no matter your sexuality, if you like good strange fiction, you'll find a lot to like in Icarus.


Friday, February 15, 2013

The Cowboy Saints & Other Lost Wonders

So I find out from Gary Gibson over at Brain in a Jar Books that The Cowboy Saints & Other Lost Wonders, a short story collection gathering together some of the fine collaborations of Phil Raines and Harvey Welles is now out on ebook:

Available now at Amazon UK or at Amazon US, it's more than worth the few bucks it's going for. I know because I've read it. Read it? Why, I wrote the intro, which is up to read now at Gary's blog:

Part of me wants to start this intro with a personal story, an anecdote of An Adventure With Phil, involving a miniature sarcophagus with plastic hippos for feet and a shovel hidden in a banjo case for a trip through town in the dead of night. Or the story of an abandoned railway tunnel aglow with hundreds of tea-lights. Or of statues of Teutonic knights gifted with golden eye-shadow and lip gloss. More. Part of me wants to sketch in a half dozen illustrations of the imaginative spirit behind the stories you’re about to read – or one of the imaginative spirits at least – as if to say: See, knowing this, now you get where all the weirdness is coming from, don’t you? It makes sense now, right?
But such truth would be a lie, I reckon, an explaining-away...

Go read it, if ye fancy. Or just go buy the book and read it there.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Euthanise Your Novel: Letters from an Evil Book Doctor #3

The Paranoid Copyright Warning


First off, we'd like to thank you very much for the chance to read your manuscript. We do appreciate--really, we do--the supreme ordeal you underwent in entrusting it to our care. Indeed, before going any further, we'd like to reassure you that while we're thankful to have been privileged with the opportunity to read the novel you obviously feel somewhat protective of, we are in fact returning it to you unread but for the title page. We do hope this will lay to rest the worries clearly troubling you, the twitching, growling fear and suspicion that we might, in our mad (book) doctor's malevolence, gleefully plunder your work with all the moustache-twirling villainy of a top-hatted malfeasant out of silver screen melodrama. We do not make it a habit to tie young maidens to railway tracks. Nor do we rub our hands greedily and cackle at the arrival of each virginal manuscript ripe for intellectual rapine. But even if we were such miscreants, the point is, we could hardly steal ideas we have not read, could we?

Yes, you will rather have to take it on trust that we read no further than the title page, but we hope you can find it in yourself to do so. There is, we think, perhaps a small chance that you can. Maybe. Possibly.

It's that distribution prohibition on the title page, you understand, that renders our faith in this regard shaky at best. There's no need for it, you understand, nor for the copyright and confidentiality injunctions on the footers of pages throughout, like labels marking the yogurts, juiceboxes, sandwiches and nectarines in an office fridge GAZZA'S. (OK, OK, I admit it: I did flick a corner of the title page up, just to confirm my weary expectation.) While it's customary on a speculative screenplay, to distinguish privately-owned material from studio-owned work-for-hire, here the staking of such a claim is wholly extraneous.

No, no, really. Trust us. In the UK and US, original written material is automatically copyrighted from the moment of writing, the intellectual property of its author. Rather than ownership requiring to be explicitly asserted, it is the license to publish that has to be explicitly granted by the author to any publisher. The copyright notice on a book is actually an assertion of that license, the mandatory crediting of the creator by the publisher. Even without your paranoid copyright warning, for the publisher to "circulate" your manuscript in any medium would be not just unethical but illegal.

In such circumstances, you must consider how your stringent warning might be construed as an implicit impeachment of agent/editor integrity, an indication of mistrust in the person you're submitting to. It rather seems you feel we need reminded, and in no uncertain terms, not to be the thieving, grifting, chiselling fucks we might otherwise blithely be.

It's not that we're offended by this mistrust, you understand, rather that we strongly suspect you're a fucking nutjob. Even were we the villainous sons-of-bitches you seem to think we are, your precious book would have to contain at least a nugget of originality and literary quality to merit theft. And you know how likely that is in general? Not fucking likely at all, mate. You know how likely that is from a writer whose presentation reminds us of nothing less than a mad-eyed Gollum cosplayer, back hunched protectively as with one hand he clutches to his chest a typescript screenplay for THE LORD OF THE RINGS 4, while with the other he flails defensively, shrieking "Leave my preciousss! Leave it, Bagginses!" at the very producer he's trying to persuade to option it? We're talking negative probability. There's a fine line between madness and genius, they say. But generally speaking the blithering egoistic paranoia of the full-on crank is wholly incompatible with the craft of writing.

It's the lack of self-awareness, you see, the faulty Theory of Mind. The writer whose crazyeyes announce themselves before the novel even begins is the writer who sees only the demons of their own bugfuck delusions. If you're oblivious to the realities of rational human behaviour, you can't very well conjure them, can you?

For that reason alone, we are returning your manuscript unread. We have not read a single word of it; of that you can be wholly and unequivocally certain.

For realz.

Believe me.

Hugz and kittehz,

Doktor Hal


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Euthanise Your Novel: Letters from an Evil Book Doctor #2

And the Tagline Shall Die!


I have to confess that I'm confused by your title page. It's not that the layout is a little off, with what seems to be a series title, "BOOK ONE OF THE CHRONICLES OF THE OBJECTS OF POWER," running along the bottom of the page rather than on the line directly below the title (with the byline subsequently dropped to the line below that.) It's non-standard, this apparent emulation of a book jacket layout, but we're not so dim we can't tell a series title when we see one. And otherwise, with the word count and contact details in the bottom left corner, it's all quite conventional. The thing is though, we don't have a clue what the fuck the rest of what's on the page is meant to be.

Given the colon after the (apparent) title -- "THE MCGUFFIN DEVICE:" -- one might parse what follows -- "TOKENS OF PLOT" -- as a series title were it not for that obvious series title at the bottom of the page. With the latter evident, it's quite unclear how we're meant to parse this superfluous rubric. Are these both series titles? Did you love both of your little darlings just so much you couldn't bear to leave one out? Did you just forget you'd already given the series a title? Did your goldfish attention span fail you just an instant later again when you added yet another title (or whatever the fuck it's meant to be) on the line below: ATTACK OF THE GENRE CLICHÉ?

It's also quite unclear what's intended by the line following that. In an incomprehensible language. Maybe it's an epigraph, maybe not. If it is, one would rather expect it to be given with its attribution, on the following page--a distinct epigraph page, a convention you should be familiar with if you've ever actually read a book with an epigraph (assuming you've ever actually read a book.) But no, here it is. A translation might be nice, for those of us not fluent in gibberish. What would be nicer still is a simple basic title page that isn't trying to do its job while miming other meanings as bafflingly as an amputee with Parkinson's playing Charades.

But it doesn't stop there. Oh, no. In an endeavour to fill every inch of the title page, it seems, we also have what appears to be a tagline escaped from the movie poster you're imagining will someday adorn bus stops and billboards when your work of genius is inevitably adapted for the silver screen as a vehicle for the action hero charisma of Shia Lebouf. Or something. Perhaps this is a catchy hookline in the novel itself, one you're particularly fond of. Perhaps it's invented solely for the purposes of being rumbled in the deep bass of a Hollywood trailer voiceover. Sadly, if it's the latter, since your book is not a fucking movie, what I hear in my head when I read this tagline is not the resonant gravitas of James Earl Jones, simply the shrill scream of aforesaid tagline as I slash it to fucking death with my Red Pen of Wrath.

"AND ONE SHALL DIE...!" you say. Let it please be the tagline, I say. Until then, I return your novelisation of your imaginary movie unread. Movie novelisations are not our forté--ones for non-existent movies even less so.

Hugz and kittehz,

Doktor Hal