Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Bless Me, Ray Bradbury

 

Sometime in early 1976, Ray Bradbury came and talked in the Laguna Beach High School auditorium. Afterwards I went down with my friend Robert Gillespie to meet him. We peppered him with questions, and Bradbury commented that he had corresponded with Clark Ashton Smith, at which my enthusiasm must have overcome me, as he reached out and sort of gave me a noogie. Robert never let me hear the end of it: “Oooooh, Ray Bradbury tousled your hair!” Gillespie tortured me with this embarrassing information for quite some time. In the end, I prepared this card and sent it to Bradbury, who kindly signed it. I carried it in my wallet for quite a while.

 

Covers of Books I Never Read

1972. Seen in a book rack at the Grand Canyon Gift Shop during a summer car trip with my grandpa Laidlaw. I picked it up, gawked at the cover, put it down because it was time to get back to the car, and thought about it for the next hundred miles, regretting that I hadn’t pleaded for the funds to buy the copy. Although I collected and read many, many, many DAW paperbacks, I never acquired this one and never read it. I think it’s probably awful but I have never forgotten that title…or the weird cover that went with it.

The Sliming of James Joyce

In honor of the published works of James Joyce entering the public domain as of midnight on New Year’s Eve, let the mash-ups begin:

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to slime again. He watched sleepily the blobs, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: slime was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly globbed on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the slime falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the undead.”

There’s nothing like having the freedom to screw up one of the finest stories in the English language.

Next Up: Cthulhulysses!

Text Trailers: The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington

–Turning in the doorway, she yelled at the crypt, “You stay in there until you behave!”

–It had been years since Awa was genuinely terrified, but she fell back into it easily enough.

–For an instant he considered going back for his charcoal and planks but then the monster begged for help with the voice of a little girl and he advanced with his weapon.

–“Morality, eh?  The shakiest fuckin word I ever ‘eard.”

–The shriveled cadaver jammed her blackened digits into her mouth and began to chew, faint whines slipping between the sharp teeth and wet meat and crackling bones as she ate her own fingers.

–“Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” said the ugly little man as he bowed. “But you may call me Doctor Paracelsus.”

–Fuck.  Paracelsus?  Fuck.

–“If you mean to ask why I sleep inside a giant, monstrous beast instructed to rend apart anyone who might disturb my rest I would ask what happened to your previously acceptable wits.”

–The rays of sunlight punching through the smoke cloud would have formed the shapes of skulls to the artist if the vapors had not blinded his eyes, and the mud squeezing up between his fingers as he climbed the earthen wall would have looked like worms. Instead everything looked like a blur, and he thought veil of tears with a giggle.

–She reached the wall of the cemetery, and the girl’s song abruptly ended just before Awa’s hoof crunched down into the snow.

–Getting the corpses fitted with hat and draped with cloth was easier than having them hold the instruments properly, but a cadaver that had somehow kept its mustache in the grave while losing its lower jaw seemed more adroit than its fellows, so Manuel gave him both the flute and the drum.

–“He was slinging chicken bones, trying to pass them off as old popes!”

–She was surprised to see the man’s spirit had not drifted away to wherever they went, nor had it stayed in its skull, but had somehow come loose and settled in the wet lump of muscle Awa held in her hand.

–“Bruja, warlock, wizard, sorcerer, witch, necromancer, diabolist, all the same—I can raise the dead, Niklaus Manuel Deutsch of Berne, and I can command them to do my will. I can parlay with spirits, with demons, and I can kill any man that lives with only my touch.”

“Fuck,” Manuel squeaked.

–The circles of blood were bubbling, burning, the stink like scorched hair only sweeter, sharper, and a column of smoke rose from the puddle of blood in the second, empty circle. The shape was indistinct, swirling, and the voice was a strange warble, closer to an insect’s than a person’s, yet Awa was sure she had succeeded, and the pleasure at this victory was only surpassed by the pleasure of seeing her mother again, no matter how dimly.

–There was the problem, a thick mold clogging the poor girl’s mouth.

–“So your house is on top of a warren of bloodthirsty monsters, your summer home is next-door to a warlock, and to top it all off you’ve been letting your undead witch girlfriend call the shots. You’re a credit to your profession.”

–The hammer came down again, a beatific grin on her face as the tool struck home, the handle gripped in both hands. The shrouded body underneath her was convulsing now, and the hammer went up a third time.

–“Vivisection.  A lovely word, don’t you agree?”

–…and there, in that cold, miserable cave, their nightmare began in earnest.

(Texter by Marc Laidlaw, based on The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington:  Orbit, March 2011.)

Keep An Eye on the Underground

I have neglected to mention, but am happy to announce, that Subterranean Press bought my story “The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft” a couple weeks back.  I think it will be appearing at Subterranean Online as part of the Winter issue.

This is the last strictly Lovecraftian story I intend to write.  It’s a period piece, not a work of fantasy, so it was hard to find the right home.  But I can’t think of a better place for it than Subterranean.  Their books are beautiful, and their online fiction top-notch (as you will see if you browse the list of online stories).

My thanks to Bill Schafer for taking a chance on this one.

Facebook Meme, Ready for Pasting into Your Notes

THE HUNDRED (MORE OR LESS) GREATEST (MORE OR LESS) NOVELS OF ALL (SEE PREVIOUS CAVEATS, AND APPLY CONSISTENCY) TIME

Have you read more than 100 of these? If not, you must take at least 15 minutes to add 100 more or you will break this chain and everyone on Earth will die (eventually). Bother your friends and complete strangers too. No tag backs. Tag all your friends. Tag no one. Some will regret friending you, as you have me. Facebook may collapse under the weight of this astonishing venture, but I think it will agree that is a small price to pay for having friends.

1. Frittering Haights
2. Gone to Be Slaked Now
3. Sophy’s Curse
4. The Complete Wharfworks of Wharfham Wharfsphere
5. The Great Gallumphrey
6. Prude and Pruneface
7. Lay It on Thickly, Roofer
8. To Kill a Mockingjaywalker
9. The Bibul
10. I Walked with Jayne ‘Ere
11. Wharfhamlet
12. The Miserable Lesbian
13. Charles, Chuckles, and the Chocolate Chippendale
14. L41N14L
15. The Bed-Springs of Bed-Stuy
16. The Dunderbluss Hat
17. Down Boy!
18. Facts About Wasps
19. Li’l Prin’ess an’ the Ol’ Bu”ery B””
20. The Darkest Dark of Darkness
21. Adventures (all)
21. Five Books You Must Never Have Read
21. Wed, Wed, Charlotte You Must Wed
22. Van de Camp’s Ovaries
23. Finely Fairly Foully So
24. Whatever’s Left’s 4 U
25. The Cladded Clapboard Claddagh
26. I Spose
27. Germinal Faire
28. Whither Vanity?
29. Wither, Vanity
30. Chastity Intact
31. Christ and Carroll, Lewis
32. Makepeace Tanqueray
33. Odysseus Swallowed
34. Stoatula Unbound
35. My Terwilliger
36. The Morbid Hick
37. The Jarring Bell
38. Dimbulbs at Dawn
39. Jonesin’ for Dairy
40. Jub the Preferable
41. Soft Shoulder
42. Count on Monty
43. Floyd in the Time of Sclera
44. Curious J in the Night Kitchen
46. Same Old Same Old
47. Two Tales of A City
48. Mouse on Man
49. Dunny Brook-No-Harm
50. Sensible Pets (sometimes published as Sensible Pest)
51. Pilot Life
52. Manteca: The Lard Files
53. Atonally Intoned
54. A Sensitive, Handwrung Boy
55. We Didn’t Mean It, Said the Mob
56. Grable’s Stables
57. The White Women’s Wilkie
58. Perfectly Mercurial Albacore
59. War and More
60. You’ll Wonder Why
61. The Hype Handler
62. Shotgun Memories
63. A Very Small House
64. Wife Travelling Time
56. The Robbit
67. The Baby-Proofed Nightmare
89. Great Scott, Fatso!
90. A Little Slumming
91. Trendsong
92. Darken Not My Door, Darling
93. A Wind in The Hind Quarter
94. Angry, Angry Waters
95. A Case of Canned Karenina
96. Copperfraud’s Caseload
97. The Comicles of Norn (all)
98. The Comicles of Norn (vol. 3)
99. The Master’s Masterpiece
100. Lay I Mean Lie with Me

Steampunk Revivified

Steampunk Reloaded is now available.  This contains my story “Great Breakthroughs in Darkness,” along with a number of other reprints, and a great deal of original work in the steampunk vein.  I was an admirer of the steampunk novels of Jeter, Powers and Blaylock, felt there was no way I could compete with them although I loved the circuitous sentences these sort of stories allowed, and only dabbled a little in imitation.  By the time Gibson and Sterling had published The Difference Engine, and Paul Di Filippo had put out his Steampunk collection, I figured it was all over.  Little did I know.