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Category Archives: Rumination
None of my records are available legally as downloads. Currently, the only Gruntsplatter track on iTunes, AmazonMp3, etc., is a remix I did for Aidan Baker back in 2005 for a limited CDR he sold on tour. You can check it out here. It was obscure 6-7 years ago, and yet it lives on. It probably has a mustache and gambling habit by now, who knows. Thus, I spent the better part of the past weekend researching digital distribution.
This is really the only part of this post that has anything to do with writing. Back catalog, it has renewed value in the eBook era. The work is suddenly infinite and offers another road into a writers world. The more GOOD roads you have available the more likely someone is to pull in, get their mustache trimmed and yank the lever on your slot machines.
With this new collection I am putting together, I’ve been thinking about that. Truth be known, I have no idea which of my releases are or aren’t available anymore. Everything I did was on a virtual handshake. I never signed anything, payment was a % of the pressing, there wasn’t no business related need for follow up from either side. They were the relationships of comrades rather than business partners.
I’ve paid only passing attention to “the scene” for years, once it became a “scene” really is when my attention started to drift. It’s been six years since I’ve released anything significant. How many of the old guard are even still around? How hard would it be to track any of my stuff down now? Relatively hard. A big thanks to Cold Spring out of the UK, Justin seems to stock about everything that is still available.
So, when this new release comes out I’m hoping to have some previous material available from places that are easy enough to find. I’ve started looking at Bandcamp, and CDBaby, as a way to make legit digital copies available. Bandcamp I find particularly interesting because you can put up odds and ends as well. It never occurred to me to do this until I started reading about authors taking control of their back catalog and making it available as eBooks. It may be the first instance where the way things work in small press publishing actually makes more sense than the way they work in underground music.
I’ll keep you posted…
1) Michael Cisco – “Secret Hours” (Mythos Books)
Purchased this at Mythoscon after being blown away by Michael’s reading, the book did not disappoint. There is more Cisco in the queue for the coming year.
2) Nick Cave – “The Death Of Bunny Munro” (Faber & Faber)
More thoughts on this here.
3) Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. – “Blood Will Have It’s Season” (Hippocampus)
2011 was Pulver’s year it seemed, and this collection is a great indicator as to why. He takes the weird tale into the grimy places. I have his second collection “Sin and Ashes” near the top of the TBR pile.
4) Tom Piccirilli – “A Choir Of Ill Children” (Nightshade Books)
More thoughts on this here.
5) Tom Robbins – “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” (Bantam)
Recommended by a co-worker. I enjoyed it.
6) Robert Aickman – “Painted Devils” (Scribner)
7) Jerzy Kosinski – “The Painted Bird” (Pocket Books)
Worthy of its own post, but I never got around to it. Outstanding, and interesting to see a style I enjoy so much employed in a more “literary” context.
8) Sean Yseult – “I’m In The Band” (Soft Skull)
9) Phillip K. Dick – “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said” (Gollancz)
I’d never read any PKD before. A couple of people mentioned something I’d written reminded them of his work, so I wanted to check it out. This one is my wife’s favorite so I started here.
10 ) Ann Radcliffe – “The Mysteries Of Udolpho” (Dover)
More thoughts on this here.
11) Adam Golaski – “Color Plates” (Rose Metal Press)
12) Gary Braunbeck – “To Each Their Darkness” (Apex)
13) Gary McMahon – “How To Make Monsters” (Morrigan)
Really enjoyed this, will be following McMahon closely.
14) Fritz Leiber – “The Black Gondolier” (E-Rads/Midnight House)
more thoughts on this here.
15) Bram Stoker – “Dracula”
I’d never read it, and I was curious about the epistolary form. It was more engaging than I anticipated. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but ended up liking it quite a bit.
16) Matt Cardin – “A Course In Daemonic Creativity”
This is a fantastic FREE book, looking at the Muse as creative engine and what that means both subconsciously and mechanically to the creative process. Definitely recommended.
17) H.P. Lovecraft – “The Ultimate Collection”
18) Edgar Allan Poe – “Complete Work”
Last year I think there were 32, but “…Udophlo” is a long read, and the complete Lovcraft and Poe are epic. I didn’t read all of those, but attacked them in chunks, and will continue to. It’s been great to go back and revisit that stuff.
The Fritz Leiber collection was the biggest eye opener, his work is just fantastic, and I have more here to ingest. As usual, I bought far more books that I was able to read, but I’m well set up for the coming year.
I’m reading Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Published in 1794 this tale, most succinctly summarized on Wikipedia this way -
“The Mysteries of Udolpho follows the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle, and the machinations of an Italian brigand. Often cited as the archetypal Gothic novel.”
I’m at about the half way point of this 620 page beast and one thing keeps occurring to me. What would a modern editor have done with this book?
Udolpho, the rotting castle referenced in the title, doesn’t come on the scene until just over 200 pages in. The language is overwrought, and the repetition of words is legion. I wake up in the morning and the first words in my head are “melancholy countenance” because they appear so frequently in these pages.
This book is 217 years old, and I am quite enjoying it. Even with all the “flaws” that modern editing and writing pound the desk about, the book has survived and influenced those that followed across genres. I wonder how temporary fiction of today will appear on the spectrum of history? What role does the trim the fat, clean as a whistle, approach to editing play in that?
This is only one example of many. The books that have wriggled into the collective unconscious often disregard the gospel. Many predate any gospel. (here is another post on the matter). That isn’t to say history won’t preserve the reduced fat storytelling of the current day, but In 217 years whose tendrils of influence will be visible in the literary canon?
Will it be those that wrote beyond the rules or never needed the rules to begin with? Story existed before, and has persevered through, different schools of thought on form. It existed before we started building fences and genre’s and check lists about how story should be conveyed. It existed before writing. Not a revelation by any means, but a reminder worth considering.
I had a great conversation with my wife last night that helped clarify some things I’ve been mulling over rather unproductively of late. Looking at teachings on writing, and at how those I respect craft their tales – there is a chasm there.
When the Braveheart speech of writing tutors invariably ends with “Show, Don’t Tell” and the classic tales of Lovecraft (to name only one) are nearly all telling and tone there is a gap. Focus on the specific, and concrete creates a structure that does not always lend itself to the ineffable. It surely can be done. The best writers find that sweet spot were illustration and intuition harmonize, but the weight placed on specificity does claim its share of artistic casualties.
I had traded some of the surrealism and emotional impressions in my writing across this table in favor a more quantifiable mode of story telling. I am taking it back. It’s difficult to maintain and keep cohesive, but I realized last night that I need that to fulfill my intentions accurately. It is a simple, and perhaps obvious revelation but one I needed to have validated.
She recommended I read Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition. We got home from dinner and I was presented her heavily underlined copy of The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism. I read the essay, and of the valuable things within it, the following was my biggest takeaway….
“I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect… I say to myself, in the first place ‘of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one should I, on the present occasion, select?’… I consider whether it can best be wrought by incident or by tone – whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse or by peculiarity, both of incident and tone… for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effort.” – E.A. Poe
I’ve kept a Wiki using Connected Text to manage my writing projects for the last couple of years. It’s been useful, but lacking – likely due to my unwillingness to learn it inside and out. As my inspiration has returned, I’ve been weeding through all that info. I decided to rebuild the whole thing in Google Sites: a) for back up and b) for more access away from my desk.
The process has been really helpful to the creative side, going over things I’d forgotten, reviewing old notes, and getting them organized in a ways they can feed each other. You could argue this is a more caustic form of procrastination than not doing anything – I wouldn’t fight you that much on it. It is however showing me ways fragments of things once on life support may yet live again. It’s gotten the gears grinding on how that thing in the corner may be more a novella than the short story it is today.
Anyway – it feels good, to feel good about the process again.
I started setting up my studio again. I haven’t done any serious music since I finished The Aberrant Laboratory. That came out on Dark Vinyl a little more than five years ago. There was a track released on the Desolation House 2xCD compilation in 2008. It was recorded in 2002, at the same time as Chronicling The Famine, the record I did with them. (Looks like they have the wrong cover up for my release on the site, nice.)
Stopping wasn’t a conscious decision so much as a combination shifting of priorities, lack of space, and general disillusionment. I have always tried to take breaks between records to reset and “forget.” It allows me to come at the next one fresh. In 2004-2005, I did three records back to back, The Eulogists Assembly (Eibon), The Passions Of A Cripple (Force Of Nature) and The Aberrant Laboratory. I knew the break that would follow would be longer than normal. The above mentioned factors made it quite a bit longer than I expected.
Here’s a sip of the only music I spent any time on (and not much at that) in the last 5 years. I was asked to contribute to a tribute compilation for Akira Yamaoka. I wasn’t familiar with him, but I researched it and came up with most of a track. I never heard from the person that was doing the compilation again, so rather than finishing it, I threw some samples on it and stuck it in the vault. I called the project The Corvidae Cabal (which is perhaps a post for another time.) The samples used came from an interview with Jim Sparks. It’s unmastered and really more of a demo than a real track, but I like it.
I don’t have an agenda. I’m sure some Gruntsplatter will emerge. I’m just going to start fiddling and see where it goes.
It was that title that caught my interest. It’s brilliant, evocative, and I wish I had thought of it. What a perfect Gruntsplatter song title. . . and so it fermented my brain, teasing and prodding my curiosity
I stumbled on a used copy of the Night Shade hardcover edition, in great shape, for $10 a few months ago and snatched it up. I’d draw it from the shelf now and then to admire the title and Caniglia cover art, then put it back for another day.
An opportunity to have a story critiqued by Mr. Piccirilli is what got me to excavate it from the “to be read” pile. I had only read a handful of his short stories, and I wanted to get a better idea of where his vision was coming from before I saw his critique.
It’s an impressive vision. A Choir Of Ill Children takes place deep in the superstitious bayou. It’s a degenerate world of swamp witchery, the ghosts and demons of family, and transcendent loyalty.
It’s Piccirilli’s sense of place and characterization that impressed me. He’s sculpted a rich world steeped in the sense of history that’s so important to the numerous story threads. His character’s, each of them haunted in their own way, are authentic. The story weaves in a lot of things I have a personal affection for – bog witches, the resonance of landmarks, the inherent creepiness of small towns, shabby carnivals, and so on – Piccirilli paints them with vivid colors.
The story is dense, some threads that seem crucial at the beginning end up not being as significant as the book evolves. They are introduced as catalysts for something else, and then fade into the background. If I had a gripe, it would be that. There is more that could have been done with some of the threads, or they could have been removed if they weren’t as important as suggested. They do add to the texture of the world and the personality of the large cast though, and that texture and personality is how A Choir Of Ill Children worms into your guts.
Piccirilli’s vision and captivating prose, earns A Choir Of Ill Children a home among other notable Southern Gothics. There are various editions that have been released since it was first published, and I’m not sure what’s in print and what’s not, but you should go find out.