Thursday, January 31, 2013

So there I was...

...writing a scene and thinking to myself: Here, you have a scene that takes place in a university. It is a conversation between a professor and a drug addict who suffers from an anxiety disorder, about a weird thing called the ***** ****, which, supposedly, was stolen from Hell.

 I am pleased.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Every time - THIS

What I am referring to is the general response I get from "lesbian authors" whenever I tell them I do not consider myself a "lesbian author".

Consider this recent conversation on Facebook:

ME: I must confess as well (in hindsight), that I don't particularly consider myself a "lesbian" author - perhaps my point of view differs too much? I don't know - 

JANE DOE: decide! And as a Lambda finalist you surely must be in some form queer ... we don't judge our authors ...

ME: Oh I'm queer as a one dollar bill. But I don't consider myself as writing for a particularly queer audience only. The Lambda Nomination was for Periphery an anthology I edited.

JANE DOE: hmm, so you don't object to talk to a lesbian audience, right? or would you rather only address straight audiences?? if you talk to lesbians you might consider talking to [the group] ... first time we got excluded by [a] queer author because we are lesbians - I am thoroughly amused.

ME: I'm not excluding anyone, just stating that I have in the past found that not classifying myself as a "lesbian author" has been received with negative responses. Which I find interesting.

The book I am writing now is not particularly queer per se, even though the protag is queer, it's basically only mentioned as an aside. Most of the short fiction I have written in the last four to five years have not been particularly queer.

JANE DOE: lol ... well, the day we only need to mention queerness as an aside we have overcome the big rift between straight and LGBTQ. We are all human. Sadly, this is no universal view ... see what an interesting thing to discuss in the ***

Every time someone approaches me to take part in a discussion about queer fiction and I bring up the fact that I do not consider myself a "queer writer", this strange perception of BUT I DON'T UNDERSTAND rears its head.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

80's Movie Re-Watch: Fatal Attraction

Remember how Fatal Attraction divided audiences when it first came out?

After watching it again tonight, I have to say, it remains a problematic film. I've never thought of Glenn Close's character as a villain, per se. I find it revealing that many people do think of Alex Forest (Close's character in the film) as a quintessential bad guy, famously inspiring audiences in the 80's to scream "Kill the bitch!" out loud in cinema theatres at the end of the film.

The truth is, Alex Forest is psychologically unstable, which creates all kinds of problems in terms of labelling her a villain. It also brings up some very troubling notions about how people view mental illness.

It made me wonder if contemporary audiences would still view Alex as the bad guy. Mental instability remains, on the whole, a touchy subject in mainstream media.

I also do not quite understand arguments that pose Michael Douglas' character, Dan Gallagher, as the married bastard who had a one-night stand and therefore deserves to be stalked, have acid thrown on his car, his child's bunny rabbit cooked, and almost having his wife knifed to death. It's a reactive argument that once again deflects part of the real problem: Alex Forest is psychologically unstable. Seemingly, audiences in 1987 found infidelity a much more palatable subject than mental illness.

Could the film have been made with the roles reversed? Probably not. Interestingly, when men are portrayed as obsessive and stalker-like, notions of mental illness are never bubbling far from the surface. And somehow, as audiences, we appear to be much more open to the idea of mentally unstable men, but perhaps that's due to the shot in the arm of convicted male psychopaths who exist in reality.

Fatal Attraction's original ending had Alex commit suicide and framing Dan for her murder. Test audiences, however, didn't appreciate this particular ending (surprise!), and despite Glen Close's vehement protests, an alternate ending was shot, which sees Dan's wife (played by Anne Archer) shoot Alex dead. In the stomach. Did I mention that Alex claimed to have fallen pregnant after her weekend affair with Dan? And Dan told his wife?

Like I said. It's a problematic film. But a good one.

Interesting facts: The highest-grossing film of 1987 worldwide; More than 20 directors passed on directing the movie; Alex Forrest suffers from an obsessive condition known as de Clérambault's syndrome (better known as Erotomania).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Pick: 2012

The previous year was kind of a busy one for me. I didn't nearly get around to reading all the books that popped up on my radar during the previous 12 months. A lot of it had to do with finishing my MA, which saw me still reading research-related material well after having handed in my thesis. It takes a while to get off the bandwagon after all that intense dedication. And it doesn't help that the more you research, the more interesting it gets.

Other things also prohibited just kicking back with a book and a cup of coffee. Work, which these days consists of several projects in the works, a novel, short story ideas that won't leave me the hell alone, and the inevitable work (in my case, creative and academic proofreading) that needs to be done so your electricity doesn't get cut or, god forbid, your internet connection gets the chop.

Nevertheless, one book popped into my personal stratosphere, and it's one that, in terms of size, content and quality, goes some in making up for the other no-doubt noteworthy books that passed me by.

The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories (eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer, Tor Books) is a 50,000-word reprint anthology covering 100 years of Weird fiction. The term "weird" is often one met by confusion when people ask me what kind of fiction I like to read. "Weird as in, how?" is usually the response. "No, just Weird fiction. It's a type of fiction."

Confused expression.

For anyone who remains confused about what Weird fiction is, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Ann and Jeff Vandermeer's anthology. The stories follow the genre through from its early beginnings circa 1908 to the recent present, 2010. The stylistic changes that run throughout the stories collected within provide a fascinating look at themes that have disconcerted and unsettled us through the course of a century. Of particular interest to my own research is how changes in language reflect our anxieties and fears, which is on glorious display here throughout the 101 collected stories.

Names such as Neil Gaimain, China Mieville, Margo Lanagan, Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King will attract readers who have come to the genre (perhaps through the fork in the road  labelled 'horror') fairly recently.

However, what elevates the collection (in my mind) to something that sets the benchmark for fiction of this kind is that, together with the more well-known names of the Weird -- which also include the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Aickman, M.R. James, F. Marion Crawford, Algernon Blackwood and Clark Ashton Smith -- the collection also celebrates the unsung heroes (at least, in the mainstream English reading market) of Weird tales: Jean Ray, Hagiwara Sakutoro, Haruki Murakami, Alfred Kubin, Hanns Heinz Ewers, Stefan Grabinski, and many others.

In addition, the editors have sourced work from authors who are perhaps better known for writing work that fit (or are labelled as) other genres: George R.R. Martin, Octavia Butler, William Gibson and John Shirley, Joanna Russ, Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka, to name but a few.

As a type of fiction, the Weird is hard to define, simply because different things get under people's skins for different reasons; this is part of what makes a collection like this fascinating. From cultural, sociological, religious and psychoanalytical perspectives, the 750 000-odd words collected in The Weird provides new insight into that which arguably scares us all the most - The Thing Within.

Go on and open it; you may like what you find, you may not. But one thing is certain: if you take note of what happens along the way, you may just find the answers to why you hesitate to turn off the lights at night. Whether that will be of comfort ... that remains entirely up to you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It All Starts Again

Why hello 2013.

Another year has arrived without much fanfare, as is usually the case for me. I'm not a big party animal, or a big drinker, so this time of the year tends to be a relaxed event for me. While Jen was out all night at a costume party, I was on the couch, having a beer or three and watching 666 Park Avenue.

So, writing wise, what happened in 2012:

An extract of my thesis, "Tekeli-li! Disturbing Language in Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft", was published in the Lovecraft Annual #6, edited by S.T. Joshi.

The essay I wrote on Kathe Koja's fantastic short story, "Angels in Love", was published at Weird Fiction Review Online as part of their ongoing review of the 101 stories in The Weird anthology.

I did find time to write some short fiction in 2012. This included "Fluke", published in Tales from the Bell Club, March 2012.

I sold two stories that will be published in 2013:  "The Flood" will be published in Nameless Magazine (ed. Jason V. Brock), while "Linguistica Obscura" will appear in #4 of the annual Weird Fiction Review (ed. S.T. Joshi).

"Into the Black Abyss" (originally published in Something Wicked #15, November 2011), was published in Something Wicked's first volume of short stories, showcasing the writing of South African and international genre writers.

Periphery, a Lambda Award finalist in 2009, was re-released by Untreed Reads. Check out a recent in-depth review at Future Fire.

What's in store for 2013, then?

I have to finish my novel. How long have I been saying this? Too long. In-between finishing a Masters degree, and being an academic proofreader, my time has been, to say the least, limited. Also, the damn thing scares me. Ridiculous. The 60 000 words I have down feels incomplete, unstructured, and sometimes just plain BAD. I know that every writer feels like this at some point and it's something I simply have to get over. If there was a pill for it, I'd have swallowed one ages ago. Honestly, some days it's like trying to chew rocks.

On the academic side, I'm researching a 6000 word essay on the Lovecraftian aesthetic in the Hellboy films for a special Lovecraft-themed edition of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, edited by Jeffrey A. Weinstock and  Carl Sederholm. Due date is October 2013, so plenty of time to get the research cogs turning.

For Weird Fiction Review Online, I'm researching an essay on A. Merritt's "The People of the Pit". This is part of an ongoing series of essays, each focusing on a story collected in the ground breaking anthology The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.

Sekrit Project in development. More info hopefully soon.

Considering doing a PhD.

Aside from work, I hope that 2013 will be a good year for the human race. Something needs to change. And quickly.