31 December 2011
I got fired, established some incredible working relationships with some awesome people, and managed to get a book deal. With all of that in mind, I believe some heartfelt gratitude is in order before the close of the year.
I would try to include this in the final printed work, but I feel that this would be too long. If there is a thank-you, I will likely make it very all-inclusive and terse. This is the best way I feel I can express my deep sentiments of gratitude in a more specific way.
To the people responsible for my termination: thank you. You freed me to do what I really love, even if it doesn't produce a steady paycheck. You know what they say about doing what you love...
To John, Jen, and D., and Cameron: Thank you for offering me the opportunity to work with you. I have learned so much from all of you. It is a privilege and an honor.
To Jeff: Thank you for pointing me in the right direction!
To Kevin: Thanks for starting the Brigade! I enjoy every minute of it!
To all those writers and authors who signed on early for my little anthology project: Thank you for putting your trust in me. You had little to no reason to join me on this venture. I only hope that I can repay that trust in kind in the coming year.
To those who are joining my project now: Thank you. It is incredibly humbling to have so many talented people entrust their work to me.
To Kate and Omnium Gatherum Media: Thank you for taking the chance on this anthology. It is appreciated more than my words can describe here.
To my online friends and acquaintances who have spread the word for my Call for Submissions: You are all amazing! Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!
To my family: thank you for everything this year. All you have to do is call, and I will find a way to be there for all of you.
Finally, but certainly not least, to my wife. My Cinnamon Girl. I still have no clue why you married me, but your love and support in these trying times has meant the world to me. By some miracle you've managed to keep this house together with your incredible intelligence and goddess-level multitasking skills, and I hope I let you know everyday how much I love and appreciate you. If I'm failing there, just keep this little note in mind. Believe me, I know I don't deserve you, but I'll try to figure out how to get you that Ferrari eventually. Love you, hon.
With that I bid all of you a Happy New Year! If you have not yet, may you find your bliss as I have. If opportunity comes knocking, let it in and embrace it as you would a loved one.
PS: Be on the lookout for "Death to the Brothers Grimm!" in March of 2012!
29 October 2011
12 September 2011
16 July 2011
Bizarro. The word is most familiar to comic book fans, referring to the strange world of DC Comics' Superman where everyone and everything is flipped around and distorted including the eponymous Man of Steel's counterpart, who is of course named simply Bizarro.
The references in popular culture abound. Perhaps most famous of all, the episode of the 1990's situation comedy “Seinfeld” where the main characters found their Bizarro counterparts. Tens if not hundreds of mentions and nods to the illogical and mind-bending realm of Bizarro-world came before and after, but none sticks in the public consciousness quite as firmly due to “Seinfeld's” relative popularity.
So why then name a fledgling genre of fiction “Bizarro”? There are many reasons one could list “why not”, but what was the reason a group of small and independent presses decided to place this label on their work?
Publisher Rose O'Keefe (Eraserhead Press) said it best in a 2005 post to the Mondo Bizarro forum (http://mondobizarro.yuku.com/topic/362):
“It's all about the audience. A lot of people love this type of work but have difficulty finding it. They don't even know what to call it. Well, by creating the Bizarro genre this just makes it easier for readers to find Bizarro books and films. It also makes marketing to the Bizarro audience a bit easier.”
Weeks later on the same forum, author Kevin Dole 2 (Tangerinephant) posted an essay entitled “So What the Fuck is this All About?” Some fans and critics have said this piece is a “manifesto”(Dole firmly denies this before the essay begins), when in reality it is a history lesson on the early days before the term “Bizarro” was adopted.
As Dole classified it as “copyleft”, I present the whole of the essay here (http://mondobizarro.yuku.com/topic/968?l=1):
I realize that most of you have probably already read this, but I thought that I'd re-post my essay here for posterity seeing as it was in a way the impetus for this board. Consider it copylefted--- feel free to link to, replicate and distribute as necessary.
SO WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS ALL ABOUT?
NOT A GENRE MANIFESTO!
but rather, an attempt to shallowly explicate this new genre, whatever it's called, thus far . . .
In October 2001 I sold my first short story to an interesting little journal out of New York named Happy. It was a formally experimental piece with a faux-recursive structure titled "We're Counting On You,"in which a science fiction-ish device is used under the guise of the supernatural to an end so bleakly horrific that it could only be satirical. It featured artificial intelligence, a Pentecostal preacher, S&M, a fraternity party, gay sex, and gerbil sacrifice all in less than 1400 words.
While trolling the dark dungeons of the internet for other places to publish my writing I ran across some zine-ish thing called The Earwig Flesh Factory. It turned out to be published by an outfit called Eraserhead Press, named for a David Lynch pic I still haven't seen. The EHP site listed some more chapbooks but also some novels (with ISBNs and everything!), mostly by some guy named Carlton Mellick III.(I didn't know it then, and if you're still reading this chances are that you don't know, that Carl Mellick is both the Johnny Appleseed and the Johnny Rotten of this thing I am trying to explain. He's also our Nyarlathothep and thankfully, NOT our Neal Cassady. I could also rightfully compare Carl to both R. Crumb and Beavis, but Carl is uniquely Carl, and despite that fact manages to make a living.) The books had weird cover art and ridiculously provocative titles like Satan Burger. What the fuck was this all about? I email the guy and he told me that EFF was kaput, but that I should check out their webzine The Dream People, which the website said was about perverted sex fantasies. Ummm . . . no thanks.
Instead, I sent my writing to every listing in Writer's Market that claimed to be interested in "adventurous" and "experimental" fiction. With the notable exception of Happy, I received nothing but rejection upon rejection. The few non-form rejections indirectly asked, What the fuck is this all about?
By Summer of 2002 when "We're Counting On You" finally saw print, I was putting the finishing touches on my first novel, Tangerinephant. It's about an advertising executive in a make-believe future where the relentless pursuit of money is the only force keeping society together and people cybernetically modify themselves to have really weird sex. From this my Tangerinephant is abducted by deranged aliens who force him to reenact bad daytime TV from the 20th century. You could call Tangerinephant sci-fi, except there's no science in it. The action was kind of surrealist, but things followed logic, mostly. The language was aggressively experimental, still intelligible. The plot seemed absurdist, but it had a happy ending and was concerned with character development. It was a book that I was proud of but could not imagine the publisher who would risk printing it. Ace Science Fiction? My main character came equipped with what can only be described an "anal blade." Grove Press? They seem rather content to keep republishing the formerly radical books they bought in the 60s whose authors are now dead and can no longer collect royalties. McSweeneys? They're actually pretty cool, but like to publish books that stand a chance of getting reviewed in the New York Times. Xlibris? Please-- I wasn't that desperate.
The following November an editor friend of mine told me about a contest being run by some web publication called Bold Type, the only criteria be that the story needed to be under the word limit and prominently feature a fish. BT turned out to be owned by Random House, but hey, they were "bold" right? So I went for it. My entry was a funny little story called "The Sainted Lady of the Sea" which featured not only a fish, but a really big fish with a vagina! Also therein were global warming, mermaid mythology, and randy pirates who make surprisingly moral decisions.
I never heard back from BT. A later reader would call my story "just plain nasty and vile," which made my think again of The Dream People. By then it had apparently been taken in a whole new direction. So I submitted, and they liked it, as they would later like a story of mine, conceived as the script of a comic book, about Ernest Hemingway breeding giant killer housecats as he descends into alcoholic oblivion. This kind of acceptance prompted me to take another look at EHP, which had spun off TDP to another press entirely. Apparently Carl had gotten tired of every weirdo with a manuscript knocking on his door and told them to start their own damn companies if they wanted to see their work printed so badly, so that's exactly what John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes did, setting up an outfit called RawDog Screaming Press. Also, it turned out that EHP was running a first book contest.
So I entered. And waited.
In the meantime it started to dawn on me that something was brewing.
New venues for what had been previously unpublishable started to pop
up all around me. There was Bastard Fiction (R.I.P.); The New Absurdist and bizarrEbooks (R.I.P.? Resurrected? Who knows?); a goth-ish affair called The Dodsley Pages. Kevin Donihe was asking people for weird story about walruses--excuse me, walri--- and The Dream People had become a rather fertile spawning ground. Soon, I was guest-editing an issue. I was in the middle of a new literary scene, witnessing the emergence of a new genre of fiction that some call "bizarre," others "irreal," or "new absurdism."
So, you ask, What the Fuck Is This All About?
Allow me to explain by way of example. Harlan Ellison was never a fan of the phrase "science fiction," at least not when applied to his own work. A more appropriate term, he felt, would be "surreal fantasy." After all, even though the bad guy in "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" was supercomputer, it might as well have been the devil. Nor did H.P. Lovecraft like it when people called his stories "supernatural"--he preferred "weird fiction"--because what did his hateful cosmic nightmares have to do with Victorian ghosts and goblins? And William S. Burroughs was not, despite what any prosecutor said, no matter how explicit Naked Lunch got, a pornographer.
Those writers to not belong to us, but in some ways we clearly belong to them, to the extent that we belong at all. On the Venn diagramof literature I place us at the point where all the disreputable (and some reputable) genres overlap. We're kind of sci-fi, but more concerned with the aesthetics of technology than material prediction; magical realism with a little too much of the former and not enough of the latter; horror more interested in the grotesque than the macabre; stuff that would be pornographic if it were in any way an attempt to be sexually titillating. Very dark, but often funny, and while not always in consensus with objective reality, making sense when taken on its own terms. This stuff embraces the elbow room won by post-modernism while tending to be entirely unacademic. We mix our metaphors when we feel like it. D. Harlan Wilson may have a PhD in literary theory and most of us have a decent grasp of it, but we try not to be snobs or assholes about it.
On New Year's Eve 2003 I learned that I did not win the EHP 1st novel contest, but I came close. Rose O'Keefe (by now EHP's "dominatrix in chief") told me that they'd like to publish Tangerinephant anyway. That never happened, because, as Nick Mamatas likes to put it "writers make lousy accountants," but Carl & Rose were kind enough to put me in touch with Karen Townsend, who was starting up her own press called Afterbirth Books. Another runner-up in the 2003 contest, Alyssa Sturgill's Spider Pie got picked up by RDSP.
As I write this my book is in print and many more like it are in production, from myself, from writers I've mentioned in this essay, and from people I haven't even heard of. This little rant may be over, but this new type of literature, whatever you call it, is just beginning.
-Kevin Dole 2
June 19th, 2005
To be continued...
11 July 2011
30 May 2011
27 March 2011
20 March 2011
I've been really, really, really busy. And it's all work related.
See, after the previously posted-about deposing of my boss someone had to fill the vacuum at least temporarily. So guess who did all the work minus the salary and title? That's right. Me.
But that's okay. We now have a new boss. A better boss. Someone who realizes that our business is dependent on people, both inside and out. And while I'm still doing the job, it's only to transition them into the position so that I can go back to being the hourly support guy. I like being the patch-up guy. I held things together, and now we are on track to repair some damage.
On the news:
Japan may be a major economic power, but holding out donations of kinds based on that is stupid. That would be like saying New Orleans didn't need help after Katrina or the BP incident because they are part of the largest national economy in the world. Even the richest man in the world can trip and fall. Should we just walk on by?
If you said yes, then you are part of the greater problem of the world: ignorance. Ignoring problems and being ignorant of them does not make them go away. The ostrich syndrome only applies to a significant other's past sexual exploits. Even the most extreme of liberal causes have some grain of truth and necessity to them.
You know, now I'm incoherently rambling. Give me another week to get my head on straight. Then we can discuss this in more rational and logical terms.
In honor of the recent St. Patrick's Day holiday and in keeping with promising a fun post last time, I give you dancing monkeys:
27 February 2011
23 February 2011
13 February 2011
06 February 2011
30 January 2011
23 January 2011
15 January 2011
Before the fiction begins, I just wanted to thank everyone who've been stopping by and offering their two cents. It's good to know my words are being seen by anyone other than myself.
Also, in keeping with the resolutions, I need to play a little catch-up. I have read a new book and listened to a new album.
The book is Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. Here's the review I put on Goodreads:
Reading this book was difficult. Not because of any grammatical or narrative flow issues, but rather I had to stop after every few paragraphs or quotes to finish laughing before continuing. It is, as Chelsea Handler is quoted on the cover, "ridiculously hilarious".
Justin Halpern's family reminds me of my own. A little dysfunctional in a fun way. Each anecdote reminded me in some small way of my own father, and my own experience growing up with him. While my dad will reserve his more colorful language for moments of extreme irritation, like Sam Halpern he is a man of principle and possessed of his own unique wisdom.
While I am not usually inclined to purchase NY Times bestsellers, having been a fan of the original Twitter feed I could not resist picking up this gem. It is touching in a weird way, and a good laugh all the way through. A short, but solid collection of wit, wisdom, and humor.
As to the music selection, it was Alice in Chains' 1990 debut Facelift. The one single everyone will be familiar with is "Man in the Box". Honestly, I was not impressed with the album as a whole. The aforementioned track is really the only one (to me) that expresses the depth of Chains' talent and sound. Their 1994 EP Jar of Flies for the moment remains my favorite.
And now, may I present for your reading enjoyment, "The Family Tree":
It was a perfect day down on the farm. Wide-open spaces everywhere you looked. Blue skies, green grass. A picturesque farmhouse right out of a Rockwell. Out front, under an old oak tree, sat a young lad of not quite ten.
Alone, the boy had his multi-tool knife in hand, a thumb-thick twig in the other. Slowly, meticulously, he cut away the unwanted wood with the swish-chip that was more tactile than actual sound.
Swish-chip. Swish-chip. Swish-chip.
He leaned against the base of the oak and sighed a little, admiring his work. The boy twisted his wrist this way and that, examining his craft from every angle. He wasn't sure what it was going to be, but he knew it would be something good.
Ever so gently, a nearly-naked branch creaked and bent around to the boy's level near the ground. The cluster of twigs at the end wound around like a hairpin, bringing into focus the only leaves on the limb. They grouped in the shape of a face, like a medieval woodcut of the green man, though feminine in form.
Without so much as causing the boy to raise his eyebrows, the wind rose and passed through the leaves, giving the face a rustling voice familiar to his young ears.
“So, what're you doing there, hon?”
“A twig you and the family dropped this morning.”
“Really? And what are you making?”, the branch pulled in close to get a better look.
The boy held the twig between his thumb and forefinger, staring at it intently as he spoke, “Well, I'm really not sure. I'm just kinda letting my hands do what they feel is right.”
More of the ancient oak's branches began gathering over the boy's head. The collection of visages were silent as the wind could only blow one direction at a time. A grizzled, spanish moss-bearded branch joined the others.
The branch addressed the newcomer, “What do you think, Dad?”
The grandpa branch twisted up, down, and all around. He looked at every bit of the boy's handiwork before giving his two cents, “Looks like a peanut to me.”
The boy laughed heartily, “Grandpa! It's not a peanut!”
The branch came to within an inch of the boy's nose, “And how do you know? You just said you weren't sure what you were doing!”
He kept giggling, “Well, I know it's not a peanut.”
The grandpa-branch turned to the other branch, “He's your son. Why'd you ask me for?”
The stodgy old branch ruffled his leaves in irritation. He went back to facing the sun's warmth near the top of the old oak.
Before anything else could be said, the boy's father came out of the front door, “Henry, it's time for lunch. The family isn't bothering you too much are they?”
“No, Dad. Mom just wanted to know what I was doing.”
“Well, come get your sandwich. What are you doing, anyway?”
“Just carving on a stick the family dropped.”
The man addressed the mother-branch, “So that's what caught your mother's attention.”
The branch turned to the father, “What? I can't take an interest in my son?”
“Well, you are dead, dearest. Current incarnation notwithstanding.”
The leafy face smiled, “Hey! I resemble that remark.”
“Dad! Mom is not dead! She's as alive as you or me and everybody else.”
“I know son, I know.”
The woman-branch crossed her twig-arms and gave the man a look only a wife can throw.
The father looked to his wife-branch and returned her amused glare with an equally amused “what?” expresssion, “Son, go on in and eat your lunch.”
The mother-limb called to the child as he walked toward the house, “Enjoy your lunch sweetie.”
“I will Mom!” he called back.
She bent back to her usual spot near the middle of the tree's canopy. Father and son walked into the house, the elder's arm around the boy's shoulder.
“So can you tell me?”, the man asked his son.
“Tell you what?”, the boy shot back.
“What are you carving?”
Really the boy wasn't sure what the twig would become. He did have an idea. He hoped his small hands and his knife were up to the challenge he had made for himself.
He quickly ate his lunch, practically inhaling the sandwich in a manner only the young could manage. After washing the sticky bread and peanut butter from his mouth with an equally hasty glass of milk, he went back to his seat at the base of the tree.
Swish-chip. Swish-chip. Swi-i-i-ish-chip.
“Careful you don't cut yourself, nephew.”, an aunt-branch had com forward, “I'll still want my lashes pruned this week.”
Henry giggled a little, “I know Auntie. I'll be careful.”
“I know you will. For all your mischief you're still a good boy.”
“Thank you, Auntie.”
“Are you any closer to knowing what your hands are making?”
“I think so. But I don't want to say. I might spoil it.”
“Is it that important, nephew?”
“I think so.”
The aunt-branch knew she would get no farther with the boy, and so joined the others for some afternoon sun.
Swish-chip. Swish-chip. Swish-chip.
The afternoon passed quickly for the boy, and before he knew it the sun was setting on the horizon.
The little twig Grandpa called a peanut still looked like a peanut, though now it had little nubs at the middle and end. Henry was proud of what he had done, though he was not yet finished.
His father had come out on the porch, watching the young boy's progress. He had an idea of what Henry had done, and could not have been more proud.
“Hey Dad!”, Henry called from his seat.
“I think I'm done, but I need your help! Can you get me some tape from the kitchen drawer?”
“Sure thing. I'll be right out.”
The man disappeared into the house and returned a moment later with the tape. He gingerly crossed the yard to hand the young child the roll.
He called to his mother-branch, “Mom, could you come here, please?”
The mother-branch was quite tired, as gathering sunlight was an exhausting exercise, but she made the effort anyway, “Honey, it is far too late for you to be out. Isn't it time for dinner?”
“I know Mom, but I have a present for you.”
“Is that what you've been working on? That's very sweet of you, but I don't need anything.”
“But you did say you always wanted another child. And I've always wanted a brother or a sister. So here you go.”
Henry took his blade and scraped a little bark away from the mother-branch's neck. He then gently took the small twig-peanut-thing and carefully placed it against the moist wood, wrapping it carefully with the tape.
As he tore the tape from its roll, the little nubs of the peanut began twitching. The mother-branch cried dewdrops from the corners of her acorn-eyes.
The whole family drew their branches near the boy's handiwork. His father stood behind him, hands on his shoulders, eyes slightly red in that joyful sort of way.
“You did good, son.”
The twig-fetus gave a shrill little cry as the sun laid to rest behind the horizon.