Mythic, Delirious Fantasy at NYRSF Readings

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at its venue, The Commons Café in Brooklyn  (just a half a mile from the railroad tracks), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event guest-hosted by Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium Books, presented two writers of new fantasy collections from the imprint, Theodora Goss and Barbara Krasnoff.

The “mythically delirious” (as opposed to magically delicious) evening opened with the customary welcome from Series producer/executive curator Jim Freund (who was wearing a nifty T-shirt “Make Orwell Fiction Again”), longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, cautioning us that we were streaming live via Livestream, reminding all that the Series is supported entirely by donations (the Readings are free, but there is a suggested contribution of $7), notifying us that books by the authors were for sale at the door, and announcing upcoming readings:

  • May 7th:  guest co-host Rob Cameron promises “happy surprises”
  • June 4th:  Katharine Duckett (“a queer month,” the 50th anniversary of Stonewall) and TBA
  • July 2nd:  Sam J. Miller (his book is coming out that month) and TBA

(All dates are the first Tuesday of the month.) On a sad note, Freund informed any who hadn’t yet heard that Vonda N. McIntyre had died the day before (April 1st); she was, he said, incredibly influential in the genre and that “you know her even if you don’t know her.” (On a personal note, I met her at Lunacon 1994, at which she was Guest of Honor and I ran Program.) Finally, he introduced the evening’s emcee – noting that it was just about the third anniversary of his previous stint, a launch party for Clockwork Phoenix 5 – and turned hosting duties over to Mike Allen.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen is a Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and winner of three Rhysling Awards for poetry, the author of several poetry collections, the novel The Black Fire Concerto, (2013) and the short story collections Unseaming, The Spider Tapestries and the forthcoming Aftermath of an Industrial Accident; the editor of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies (there may yet be a #6); and, with his wife Anita, publisher of Mythic Delirium Books. (He “wears many creative hats, and at least one of them, tailor-made by Anita, features a large bejeweled spider.”)

Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss (Dora to her friends) is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting; Interfictions, a short story anthology co-edited with Delia Sherman; The Thorn and the Blossom, “a novella in a two-sided accordion format;” and the novels The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman , winner of the Lord Ruthven Award for vampire fiction. (The third book in her Athena Club trilogy, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, comes out in October.) She has also been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List.

Her offering was from her newest collection of poetry and fiction, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, just released by Mythic Delirium Books, eight stories and twenty-three poems that “retell and recast fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde, in ways that re-center and empower the women at the hearts of these timeless narratives.” She began with the first poem in the volume, and the one that gave it its title, “Snow White Learns Witchcraft.” Set long after the “happily ever after,” the prince-later-king has passed on, her beauty is fading (her hair is now snow white) and all said and done, she has no (or at least few) regrets.

The short story “Conversations with the Sea Witch” was also a decades-later follow-up to a fairy tale. Now old, and the dowager queen, Melusine (not Ariel) of the sea folk (they’re mammalian, not piscine), who had traded her “song” to the sea witch for legs – legs too weak to support “the crippled girl” – and giving up 500 years of life in the sea for one human lifespan, chats and reminisces at the edge of the sea with her old adversary; over all, she has no regrets. “Mirror, Mirror,” the final poem in the book, presented yet a different take on the post-tale Snow White.

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing for those who’d donated with the prizes being two sets of books from Mythic Delirium. Resuming the “evening of literal magic,” Allen introduced the second reader.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff, a very familiar face at the NYRSF Readings, is the author of short fiction that has appeared in about 35 venues including Amazing Stories, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Weird TalesSybil’s Garage, Space and TimeCrossed Genres, and Clockwork Phoenix, as well as the author of a YA non-fiction book, Robots: Reel to Real, and currently Reviews Editor for The Verge. In addition, every weekday morning, she “investigates what the animals and objects in our world are really thinking” in her whimsical and delightful Backstories series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#theirbackstories).

Her debut novel The History of Soul 2065, out in June from Mythic Delirium Books, is actually a mosaic novel, a collection of twenty loosely interconnected tales. (It includes the 2016 Nebula finalist short story “Sabbath Wine,” which originally appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 5, edited by Mike Allen), and from which she read – evoking tears from some – at previous NYRSF Readings events.) She realized that the stories that had appeared “here and there” were, at heart, about “the same people with different names.” Accordingly, she shared the story that “introduces the two people, the young women, from whom the other characters come.” In “The Clearing in the Autumn: A Story of Chana Rivka Krasulka and Sophia Stein,” on the eve of World War I, the girls meet in a magical clearing (that may, according to Chana’s mother, be haunted by ghost children) that the brilliant Chana (who aspires to be a doctor) has entered from Lvov in Russia and the theatrical Sophia from Munich, and form a friendship as they together rescue an injured pigeon. War and Revolution are hard on the families of both girls and prevent future meetings. As her family is leaving for America, Chana reenters the clearing to say goodbye and finds a note in a jar from Sophia. (To those who read the book: take note of the photographs on the cover; they have personal meanings to Barbara and her partner Jim Freund.)

In conclusion, Allen said that he was “proud to be the conduit” of some of their fiction.

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books.

The crowd of about 60 included (to name a small few) Richard Bowes, C.S.E. Cooney, Madeline Flieger (handling tech), Amy Goldschlager (filling in as ticket-taker for Barbara), Karen Heuler, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, James Ryan and Susan Bratisher, and (Tech Director) Terence Taylor. Afterward, some stuck around to schmooze and/or adjourned to the Café.

1 thought on “Mythic, Delirious Fantasy at NYRSF Readings

  1. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman were both solidly entertaining reads, although the second one did drag somewhat in the middle. The MST3K-like kibbitzing of the characters while their stories are being told is an interesting gimmick, while not being over-used to the point of being annoying.

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