Friday, July 28, 2017

Written on the Edge (WROTE) Podcast with Vance Bastian and S.A. "Baz" Colins

I was lucky enough recently to appear on the lovely WROTE Podcast, with Vance Bastian just north of Chicago, he of the velvet-smooth voice, and S.A. Collins ("Baz”), the man in San Francisco. It's live, at this link, today.

Giving my shout-outs aplenty, I realized how lucky I am, from describing gracious Steve Berman of Lethe Press to my writers group, the Little Workshop of Horrors (with shout-outs to Robin Riopelle, Sean McKibbon, Danny Lalonde Sean Moreland, Ranylt Richildis & Aalya Ahmad-apologies if I missed anyone).

We discussed inspiration, early writing influences (Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Universal Monster films), queer characters in speculative fic, and queer stories.
But don't take my word for it. Listen in if you're curious.
Thank you so much, Vance and Baz.

I hope, in my little heart, that someone out there hears it and enjoys it. I also hope to grace WROTE again someday.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review of Grant Morrison's Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Grant Morrison’s Supergods is ostensibly an autobiography of a comic book writer with rock-star status. It’s a heady mix of mysticism, personal history, anecdotes about the business, replete with allusions to his indelible contributions to the medium and even a précis on landmark graphic novels such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight ReturnsSupergods is all these things, and not in any particular order. Even while unevenly paced, boastful and often utterly self-conscious, Supergods is great fun at all turns. The reader never knows what Morrison will relate next, whether his self-proclaimed practice of chaos magic, an off-handed quip about the British and Scottish invasion of comics in the late 1980’s, when DC Comics wooed the overseas talent, or a casual social encounter with celebrity Sean Connery.

The author writes with a swagger, relating his reclusive youth in Scotland and growing up with a larger-than-life father who protested U.S. nuclear bases then in Scotland. Morrison’s own dread of nuclear war budded along with his imagination even while his parents' marriage eventually failed. He immersed himself at an early age in the super heroics of British comics magazine 2000 AD and then DC Comics and Marvel Comics staples. There are more colourful details for readers to discover themselves, so I won’t particularize. From these roots, Morrison became cognizant of conspiracy theory and locked onto the idea of characters with great powers who might intervene on humanity’s behalf. He played in a punk rock band, the Mixers, during his early and shy and drifting twenties. Around the same time, Morrison began drawing and writing for comics, eventually stringing for 2000 AD and other British titles, always with a keen eye on subverting the form.

It’s personal history writ dramatically. Grant Morrison feels the need to defend the book's theme, perhaps, about how a kid can become enraptured by the concept of beings with godlike powers, able to intervene in the event of nuclear catastrophe. He essentially argues that his younger obsession forms the man he becomes as a creator.

Morrison also allots real estate to pontificate on the game-changers of the medium, describing The Dark Knight Returns as a Norse Opera, analysing Alan Moore’s masterful and yet in his view still imperfect clockwork-like symmetry in The Watchmen, and even explaining his theory that Batman snaps the Joker’s neck in the denouement of Moore’s The Killing Joke. His shrewd eye catches many fine details and illuminates themes and undercurrents as adeptly as any scholar poring over a text.

Throughout his catch-all book, Morrison is outlandish, spiritual, and self-aggrandizing. He is not without grounds. Morrison did, after all, shift many paradigms, including Arkham Asylum, his collaboration with artist Dave McKean and the conspiracy-theory-laden and cult-following-gathering The Invisibles, to name but two of his game-changing works. Since about three quarters of Morrison’s work is rather provocative or mind-bending or avant-garde, he is within his rights to strut the stage of high-brow comic-book intellectualization. So he swaggers like a peacock across the page, a raconteur backed by his own startling achievements. Think Ray Bradbury, were he still with us, musing about current sci-fi writing.

Cover art by Gary Frank. I'd recognize
his particular line work and facial
expressions anywhere.
Random House Publishing Group, 2011
With the 1989 publication of Arkham Asylum, and its stratospheric success, with multiple sold-out print runs, Morrison found himself the fortunate co-signatory to a lucrative royalty contract. Here was a hard cover comic book with gorgeous paintings and psychological writing. It discomfited and fascinated readers. This was not exactly a comic, but more a bona fide book, and a gorgeous one. Still, everyone who could afford the book wanted it (Editor's Note: Even young readers at the time such as myself). Morrison has said in interviews that Arkham Asylum is about the nightmare that he believes Batman must have every night. 

With his newly earned funds, Morrison traveled the world and wrote The Invisibles, inserting an avatar of himself into the comic in the form of the character King Mob. With artists with a talent for dazzling detailed including Phil Jimenez pencilling interiors or Brian Bolland drawing covers, the series ran for three volumes. Morrison incorporated his own life into the book whenever possible, and had a blast doing so, from depicting fetish clubs in a magical setting or trans character Lord Fanny (Editor's Note: Morrison has always been ahead of his time!) having a fling in New Orleans. The title holds the infamous distinction of Morrison asking readers, in the letters column, to masturbate and perform a magical ritual using a sigil to save the series from cancellation. 

In Supergods, Morrison expounds on chaos magic, as he often does, relating his world-view-altering spiritual experience in Kathmandu and his claim that he is a chaos magic practitioner. Morrison has spoken at length about his transformation in interviews, in particular, in the extraordinarily bizarre two-part Fatman on Batman podcast interview he did with director and filmmaker Kevin Smith. I won’t repeat the details here, because you really should seek it out for yourself. It's here.

Morrison extends his spiritual beliefs to comics, also positing that comic books are another dimension and that somewhere someone is reading our human stories from another dimension as well. As in other interviews and podcasts, Morrison philosophizes that we are tapping into archetypal and older power.

Whether or not one agrees with Morrison, he is consistent in his responses about his own mystical views. In his outspokenness about magick, he is similar to only one other warlock in the business. While he and Alan Moore have not seen eye-to-eye in some time, you can search online and find articles about their antagonist relationship. The crux of the matter, though, is that Moore disputes Morrison's claim to be a magic practicioner as well, citing Morrison's coming-out as a chaos magician as being suspiciously close to Moore's announcement that he was a warlock shortly after Moore turned 40. To his credit, Morrison pays only tight-lipped flattery to Moore in Supergods, however. When Morrison does go on a little long about Watchmen, one suspects he is trying to make amends through praise of the other rock-star warlock of comic books.

As a result of his multiplicity of reality-bending interests, and his accomplishments, he is a fascinating subject for documentarists, biographers and Ph.D. students alike.

And Morrison is a truly an avant-garde rock star of comics as well. His opus not only includes the thoroughly engrossing The Invisibles (in fact, sometimes dizzingly so), but also its spiritual predecessor, The Filth, the postmodern and reality-shifting Flex Mentallo, the dysfunctional Doom Patrol with emotionally troubled and schizophrenic anti-heroes, a pivotal, several-year-run on Batman, a fourth-wall­-breaking run on Animal Man, not to mention his fearless Final Crisis and Convergence, two complicated, multiple-Earth shattering DC-Comics-mega-series that any sensible writer would have steered clear of. Also of note is All-Star Superman, his 12-issue collaboration with artist Gary Frank, in which Superman lives out his last days performing 12 great feats after his nemesis Lex Luthor bombards him with cancer. The storyline carries an irascibly enjoyable tone. Readers will be ruined for reading any other notable Superman books afterward. In All-Star, Morrison show the Man of Steel showing compassionate when he intervenes to save a suicidal young woman from committing sucide. This show of compassion is rare for the flagship character.

Because of Morrison’s street cred and his undeniable charisma, whether as a guru or comics creator or self-professed chaos magician, Supergods is worth picking up. You will learn a lot more about Grant Morrison here than in the pages of his comics even while some of the material has appeared elsewhere, online and in interviews. Steel yourself for a plunge into mysticism, chaos magic, mind-bending transcendental experience and a cocky overview of Morrison’s accomplishments and his take on comics and graphic novels that made history. The book has a multiple personality disorder, but this oddly is part of the roguish raconteur’s charm. Supergods is a rich, introspective and, at times, humble trip. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Note On Writing Old-School Style

The more I'm exposed to sensory overload via the Internet and distracting computer software prompts and infinite requests and notices, the more I am seriously consideirng returning to writing only on my Olympia typewriter when I am working my craft.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Author Page Launched

And boom! I'm switching from my Town & Train Facebook page to an author page

Feel free to follow and/or like the page if you want. Followig the page is a great way to keep track of my writing projects, writing business, readings, and other public appearances, if that's your thing. (Gasp! The hermit emerges from his cave...!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Characters in my Second Novel, Monstrous

While I am editing my second horror novel, Monstrous, I feel it prudent to describe my cast of characters. I realized in my Feb. 9, 2017 post about completing the novel that while I described the emotional experience of writing the manuscript without the presence of my mentor, Hugh hat I neglected to go into detail about my characters.  Here, I have made some notes aboutMonstrous and its characters.

What's Monstous about?
Set in 2012, 22 years after my first novel, Town & Train, Monstrous concerns a seemingly random group of strangers who converge at an old retrofitted inn, the Auld Dubliner. But nothing is what it seems and there may be a connection between all of them, and the horrors awaiting them.

So is Monstrous a sequel to Town & Train?
No. I do have some recurring characters such as Sergeant Ritchie O'Donnell, who was protagonist David Forester's romantic interest in Train (He was a constable then.) I'd mention the other characters from Train, but that would be taking away the surprise.

But are you writing a sequel to Town & Train
I wouldn't rule it out. Stay tuned, true believers.

So who's in Monstrous?

My Returning Stars
My hero, John Newman, has just finished hitching across the U. S. and Canada over three weeks and is on a course to the Auld Dubliner inn to settle accounts with an old friend. He's carrying a lot of baggage with him, and it's not in his backpack, but has to do with his recently failed relationship and being out of work again.

Sara Jasmine is back in Canada after residing in the U.K. for a decade, and hunting down ghosts with Miguel MacIntyre, a modern warlock whom she met at an occult bookstore.

John, Sara and Miguel have appeared in some of my unpublished, Full Moon Over Somerset Avenue (a novella starring John Newman) and A Canadian Ghost in London (starring Sara as an expat living in London, England, haunted by the death of her good friend, and meeting Miguel for the first time).

My Characters in Brandon, Ontario (My Fictional Stand-in for Cornwall, Ontario)
Sergeant Ritchie O'Donnell is very recently single after a 10-year relationship. He now runs an LGBTQ counselling group, a coming-out group and performs police community outreach work with the LGBTQ community in Brandon.

In all of this, I musn't forget Drake, my reclusive and introverted guitarist of immense talent. Drake, in his late thirties, lives at home with his mother and takes long walks at night in the dark streets of Brandon. He knows Brandon's secrets, and what he encounters in his night sojourns changes him.

I have a trio of second-year university students. Bruck Blackadder is wrestling with his sexuality identity after he and his queer close friend Dave get a little closer than he expected. Joshua, the third musketeer of their trio, has a passion for drawing but is agonizing because he is majoring in the Sciences at university.

Crises of Faith
Brittany Cruikshank is a disillusioned Jehovah's Witness of 20 years who is being excommunicated as a result.

Jean-Francois, my Quebecois character, is a burned-out AIDs/HIV survivor and activist who lost friends and lovers to the epidemic in the 1980's and is trying to put his past in perspective.