By Mark L. Blackman: The “K” in KGB stood for Ketchum and Kiernan as, on the evening of Wednesday, October 19 – a record-breaking warm day and the night of the third and final Presidential Debate – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Jack Ketchum and Caitlin R. Kiernan at its venue, the 2nd floor Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.
The crowd in the room, distinctive for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, was smaller than usual, was ascribed by co-host Ellen Datlow to some regular attendees staying home to watch the Debate and she expected that part of the audience would dash out quickly to catch it. She encouraged those present not to “get your stomachs in a knot,” but to stay here “and have fun.” They could, she noted, always watch the Debate on YouTube.
Continuing, she announced that next month’s readers, on November 16 will be John Langan and Series co-host Matthew Kressel. On December 21, Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker will be reading; and on January 18, 2017, Holly Black and Fran Wilde will be featured. (Details are available at the Series website.) The Series, ongoing since the 1990s, is known for reliably offering an outstanding mix of writers and styles.
The evening’s first reader, Caitlin R. Kiernan, is a four-time winner of the International Horror Guild Award and a two-time recipient of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and James Tiptree, Jr. Awards. Her work includes the novels The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, and the short fiction collections A is for Alien, The Ape’s Wife and Other Tales, and the forthcoming Dear Sweet Filthy World. She read from a novella due to be published in February by Tor, Agents of Dreamland, a marvelously descriptive, furiously stream of consciousness evocation of modern culture, with allusions ranging from Charles Manson to the mandatory supplanting of analog tv by digital.
After a break, Matt Kressel took the podium and urged the crowd to support the Bar, whose generosity allows the Series’ readings to be free, by buying a drink or soft drink. He noted too that the Series nevertheless has expenses (such as treating the readers to dinner afterward) and that they planned a fundraising drive after the new year, offering nifty premiums like signed books.
Jack Ketchum, the second reader of the evening, is a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, most recently for Lifetime Achievement, and has been called “probably the scariest guy in America” by Stephen King. A wide-ranging talent, he is the author of thirty books, including novels – five of which have been filmed – novellas, collections, nonfiction and poetry. His most recent books are the novel The Secret Life of Souls (written with director Lucky McKee) and the collection Gorilla in My Room, both due out later this year. His offering, the mystery shocker “Bully,” was from the latter. A woman’s question to her third cousin about an old photo elicits uncomfortable reminiscences and slowly reveals a terrible family secret.
Copies of Ketchum’s and Kiernan’s books were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.
Datlow’s photos of the event may be seen at the Series website.