Wonder and Horror at the KGB Bar With Langan and Kressel

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors John Langan and Matthew Kressel, both very familiar faces, at its longtime venue, the distinctively décored 2nd-floor Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The Series is co-hosted by Kressel (for the past 8 years), however, as he was reading, David Mercurio Rivera ably filled in for him and welcomed the crowd. For over two decades, he noted, the Series, whose other co-host is Ellen Datlow, has presented readings (always free, and thank the Bar by buying drinks) both by luminaries and up-and-comers on the third Wednesday of the month. He announced that next month’s readers would be –

  • December 21 – Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker.
  • January 18, 2017 – Holly Black and Fran Wilde.
  • February 15 – Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann
  • March 15 – Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam.

(Details are available at here.)  Concluding, he introduced the first reader.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel

Aside from co-hosting, Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Nebula Award.  Additionally, he published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, and, for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional.

At the mike, he expressed his humility at reading here, which is a very different experience from hosting. He did not recite Blade Runner in its entirety from memory, but instead read “In Memory of a Summer’s Day,” a story that will be appearing in an as-yet-entitled Alice in Wonderland-themed anthology edited by Datlow. Wonderland has here become a tourist destination and its celebrated locales attractions – the Mad Tea Party, the Croquet Ground (where hedgehogs scream), the Queen’s Court (there are no actual beheadings), etc., and eateries offer Beautiful Soup and Lobster Quadrille. (There are warnings about the Drink Me bottles, and the Caterpillar has an illegal trade in psychedelic mushrooms. Before going down the Rabbit Hole, visitors must sign a waiver. There is also, by the way, a Through the Looking Glass Tour.) Narrated by a veteran tour guide, whose British accent Kressel happily did not attempt, the humor had a strong element of inherent horror (think about it – Wonderland is far from a fun place), and ultimately the question surfaces …where is Alice?

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

After a break, Datlow introduced John Langan. He is the author of the novels The Fisherman and House of Windows, and the collections The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters., as well as the co-editor of Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters. A forthcoming third collection of his stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press in February, and new stories will shortly appear in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki. This venue is one of the first places where he read, he said, and felt privileged to be back. The novella from whose beginning he read, “Hunger,” will be appearing in one of the Lovecraftian anthologies. The story, he revealed, is about two poets, though in the selection that he shared a boy and his father (who are into antique weaponry – they carry, respectively, a spear and a sword) confront an unearthly giant orange bear in their Upstate New York driveway who may be tied to a recent houseguest.

Copies of Langan’s and Kressel’s books were for sale at the back of the room by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Datlow’s photos of the event may be seen at the Series’ website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/ .

Pixel Scroll 11/12/16 Like A Scroll On A Wire; Like A Pixel In A Midnight Choir

(1) ROBOTIC PREDICTION OR CAMPAIGN PROMISE? “Meet Sofia, the Humanoid Robot That Looks, Thinks and Talks Like a Human”.

Right now, artificially intelligent robots are part of the workforce, from hotel butlers to factory workers. But this is just the beginning.

According to Ben Goertzel, AI researcher and entrepreneur who spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon this week, intelligent robots in human-like forms will surpass human intelligence and help free the human race of work. They will also, he says, start fixing problems like hunger, poverty and even help humans beat death by curing us of all disease. Artificially intelligent robots will help usher in a new utopian era never before seen in the history of the human race, he claims.

“The human condition is deeply problematic,” says Goertzel. “But as super-human intelligent AIs become one billion-times smarter than humans, they will help us solve the world’s biggest problems. Resources will be plentiful for all humans, work will be unnecessary and we will be forced to accept a universal basic income. All the status hierarchies will disappear and humans will be free from work and be able move on up to a more meaningful existence.”

(2) FAN FICTION. In an article called Full-body reading” on the website Aeon (aeon.co), University of Toronto English lecturer Anna Wilson talks about how her dissertation on medieval mystic Margery Kempe inspired her to deepen her appreciation of fan fiction and make her a more committed lesbian.

Fanfiction makes its source texts richer for its loving readers. It amplifies allusions and hidden currents, pulls out notes of characterisation and subtleties of plot, and spends time with them. After reading fanfiction, I return to texts I love with a new eye – sometimes a more critical one. For example, I read hundreds of stories embroidering the relationship between the Harry Potter characters Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, which – fanfiction writers suggested – was the real reason Sirius’s family had thrown him out. Thanks to fanfiction, I was wondering ‘Where are all the gay people at Hogwarts?’ long before J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay (but his first crush was an evil wizard, and he apparently never loved again – thanks, JK).

Fanfiction can fill gaps in the world of the story, or tease out elements forbidden or unspeakable in the original text and bring them to the surface. These might be erotic; Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) began life as a hugely popular erotic fanfiction of the Twilight series that reimagined its characters Bella and Edward in an office BDSM setting. E L James brought out an element of Twilight that many readers found appealing – the erotic power dynamics between Edward and Bella – and rewrote those dynamics for a commercial audience. Another example is slash fiction – fanfiction that imagines a gay romance into a straight narrative, like those Remus/Sirius stories I binged on (the name ‘slash’ comes from the /).

Slash is particularly powerful for me as a queer woman because it subverts some fundamental assumptions in media narratives about who is watching, and what they want. When I read slash, I feel recognised and loved as a reader in a way I almost never do when I watch TV. In fact, fanfiction gave me something I’d been craving; it was literature for me. Though I’ve always loved science fiction, I felt obscurely unwanted by books in which the female characters were unsatisfying and marginalised: women are barely imagined as part of the science fiction audience, let alone catered to. By the same token, romance novels (one of the few genres that almost exclusively caters to women) were overwhelmingly heterosexual, with male and female characters I found boring and unrelatable, moving through prescribed motions that always ended with marriage and babies. Reading romance novels felt like forcing myself into a too-tight corset: reading fanfiction was like taking a deep breath.

(3) INDIVIDUAL PROTESTS. Two comics creators will quit attending shows in states that voted for Trump reports Bleeding Cool — “George Perez To Fulfill Current Commitments, Then Stop Attending Shows In Trump States”

Yesterday, Humberto Ramos, the Mexican comic book creator, currently topping the charts with Champions #1 for Marvel declared that he had chosen not to attend comic book shows in the US, in states that had voted to elect President-Elect Trump.

He was, today, joined in that by American creator George Pérez, co-creator of the New Teen Titans, also joined that number.

(4) SEFTON OBIT CORRECTION. While other details in the November 10 Pixel Scroll about the late Amelia (Amy) Sefton were correct, I was mistaken in identifying her as working for Tor. That is a different Amy Sefton. Thanks to Andrew Porter for the correction.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 12, 1982Creepshow opens in theaters nationwide.

(6) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities and for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(7) CROSSOVER SEASON. The CW has released a promo for upcoming DC crossover between Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, a sequence of episodes that begins November 28.

During a press event earlier this week, executive producer Marc Guggenheim offered up a few details on the crossover, which will actually begin at the end of an episode of Supergirl as Kara is enlisted by Barry (Grant Gustin) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to help battle the threat of the extraterrestrial Dominators.

“Some people call it a four-way crossover because it involves four shows; my ulcer requires me to call it a three-part crossover,” states Guggenheim explains. “The story that’s being told has a beginning, middle, and end: a beginning in Flash, a middle in Arrow, and an end in Legends.

 

(8) BRING OUT YOUR UNDEAD. Fox has ordered a pilot for a drama series based on bestselling vampire novel The Passage.

Sink your teeth into this news, vampire fans: Fox is adapting the popular book trilogy The Passage into a drama series.

The network has ordered a pilot for a TV adaptation of Justin Cronin’s book series, per our sister site Deadline. Friday Night Lights writer Liz Heldens will pen the pilot, with Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves attached to direct.

The 2010 novel The Passage, a New York Times bestseller, envisions a post-apocalyptic future where virus-infected vampires roam the earth, with human colonies banding together to survive. (That book was followed by 2012’s The Twelve and this year’s The City of Mirrors.) Fox bought the film rights to The Passage before it was even published, and a Twilight-like film series was planned for years, but now they’re opting to bring it to the small screen.

(9) MUSEUM GETS TAKEI COLLECTION. George Takei is giving 70 years of his belongings to a museum. The LA Times gives you a viewing.

The donation itself was announced in September.

Actor and activist George Takei is donating a trove of art and artifacts from his life and career to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

The museum announced the gift Wednesday and said the collection will be featured in an exhibition next year. “New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” is set to open March 12, 2017.

Takei’s collection includes photos, sculptures, scripts and other memorabilia from his “Star Trek” days, as well as his run for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 and the Olympic torch he carried ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

(10) MR. SCI-FI IS BACK. Sci-Fi Writer-Director-Producer Marc Zicree talks about politics in science fiction, as relates to Trump, alternate worlds with different Presidents, how science fiction reaches across all political beliefs, and more.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

NYRSF Readings Series Post-Halloween Spookiness Featuring Authors John Langan and Nicholas Kaufmann

John Langan at NYRSF Reading in November 2014. Photo by Mark Blackman.

John Langan at NYRSF Reading in November 2014. Photo by Mark Blackman.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, November 4 (Election Day, which is far scarier than Halloween), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series offered a double treat of spookiness and chills with horror authors John Langan and Nicholas Kaufmann. Held at the Series’ current venue, the low-ceilinged basement (variously the “downstairs cabaret”, the “dungeon” or the cellar, it was “a good venue for horror writers,” pronounced Langan) at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art (aka Gallery La La) on Sullivan Street in Manhattan, the event was guest-hosted by former Series curator, book/audiobook reviewer Amy Goldschlager.

Unafraid, Jim Freund, the Series’ Executive Curator and the host of WBAI’s long-running Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (broadcast and streamed Wednesday nights/Thursday mornings from 1:30-3:00 AM), as well as host of the Hugo-winning Lightspeed Magazine Podcast, welcomed the audience and guests, and announced upcoming NYRSF readings. Tuesday, December 2 will be the Series’ annual Family Night, as traditional, featuring Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, at the Commons Brooklyn, 388 Atlantic Ave., a manageable hike from the Barclays Center. The Series returns to the SGDA on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, presenting Sarah Pinsker and Daniel José Older. April’s readings have been dubbed “Sam-Enchanted Evening”, featuring Samuel R. Delany and Sam J. Miller. (Yes, Chip has in the past been called Sam and even Sammy.)

Taking the podium, Amy Goldschlager introduced the first reader of the night, Bram Stoker Award, Shirley Jackson Award- and Thriller Award-nominated author Nicholas Kaufmann, who read an excerpt from his new novel, Die and Stay Dead, a follow-up to Dying is My Business (St. Martin’s Press). Opposed by a small group seeking a perilous grimoire, necromancy intrudes on a fannish (or perhaps, in this context, mundane) event, a medieval festival in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park (the Battery is really down) in the form of mind-controlled living dead called revenants. The situation is further complicated by the presence as well of a flash mob of fake zombie walkers, and, in the confusion, the protagonist is abducted by the necromancer’s real rotting corpses.

After the intermission and a raffle (the prizes were a signed copy of Kaufmann’s print-out of the piece just read and Langan‘s most recent collection of fiction, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, Hippocampus Press, 2013), Goldschlager delivered a fondly “passive-aggressive introduction” of the evening’s concluding reader. John Langan shared a selection from “Children of the Fang,” an original novella set to appear in Ellen Datlow’s upcoming anthology Lovecraft’s Monsters. In it, a pair of grown siblings revisit the eerie old house they were raised in and hear from their ancient grandfather tales of frightful doings, subterranean cities and homicidal hippies.

As traditional at NYRSF Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and refreshments (cider, cheese, crackers and Kit-Kat bars). At the front table, books by Langan and Kaufmann were for sale.

The audience of about 30 included Richard Bowes, David Cruces, Derrick Hussey, Kim Kindya, Gordon Linsner, James Ryan, Terence Taylor and Nick’s mom. After the chairs were origami’d, the readers and members of the audience adjourned to the SoHo Room, a nearby bar for dinner and drinks.