Friday, April 30, 2010

The Radejastians, at Pseudopod

I knew this was coming at the end of April, but - like the tax deadline - it crept up on me. Pseudopod, that weekly horror podcast of which we've heard so much, has, while I wasn't looking, uploaded a most excellent podcast of my story "The Radejastians" - introduced suavely as ever by Alasdair Stuart, given earthy life by Erik Luke of Extruding America. 

This is the bit they blew out to get folks to listen:

There is a cathedral in the middle of Radejast. It addresses the approaching pilgrim as a fist of granite and slate and limestone, lifting black iron bells and arches and gargoyles to touch the dangled teat of the soot-cloud that ever hangs low over the land. Within: a forest of stone pillars, some carved with the likenesses of Radejast’s saints, some simply chiseled with the mark of its venerable religion — all surrounding the dome, so high and wide that when emerging from the pillars I stumbled beneath it, madly fearful that gravity might suddenly reverse, fling me from the floor, and smash me against the curved mosaics above the whispering gallery.

The Good News Happening Congregation’s hall was larger than Radejast’s cathedral by half again: a great circular space beneath a peaked roof, lit from high, clear windows on every side. Behind the pulpit stood a crucifix with a painted sculpture of Jesus Christ bound to it, bright lines of blood trickling down his slender limbs, from the crown of thorns he wore. Altogether, it was half-again taller than any similar icon in Radejast.


The Radejastians first appeared in Tesseracts Thirteen last year. It does not (as I miscommunicated to Pseudopod, and as Alasdair mentioned in the introduction) appear in Monstrous Affections. But Ellen Datlow did give it an honorable mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 2. And now - it's right here.

Addendum, May 2:

One of the commenters on Pseudopod this morning mentioned Gogol Bordello, a band  I had not heard of until now. And so I went a-youtubing, and found this - which fits so well with the theme of "The Radejastians" that I am glad I hadn't seen/heard it while I was writing the story.

The song's called American Wedding. Put your hands together for Gogol Bordello, yard-apes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You know, this week I would have taken a bad review...

... with the same equanimity I brought to what seemed like the total collapse of my car's suspension as we drove back from Port Huron (don't worry - part of the plastic on the wheel-well had come loose, and we were able to fix it handily, thanks to the terrifying and barely-legal pocket knife loaned us by a Sarnia convenience store clerk).

But this is not a post about Port Huron, or car trouble, or armed convenience store clerks, or even bad reviews. Matt from ChiZine just pointed me to a very affectionate review of Monstrous Affections, over at Killer-Words.com, by reviewer Monster-Chris, who likes... well, monsters.

I'll quote a bit from the beginning:

A giant Cyclops, a cottaging wendigo, a basement dwelling tar baby, a family of mutants with a terrible gift for love, vampiric miners, a swamp witch... these are just a few of the "monsters" that await in David Nickle's debut short story collection Monstrous Affections (2009). As impressively diverse as this rogue's gallery may seem to be, the truly breathtaking feature of the book is the author's marvelously assured hand as a writer and the deft precision with which he manages to give life to that dark world that often seems to lie just out of our view at any given moment.
And a bit from the end:

Monstrous Affections has already won David Nickle the Black Quill Reader's Choice Award and deservedly so, Monstrous Affections is an absolutely brilliant collection and easily one of the most satisfying books of the past few years and marking David Nickel Nickle as one the most talented writers to emerge from Canada in the last 10 years.
 
And of course I'll link to it, right here.

Thank you, Monster Chris!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

... and Back Again

We got back into Toronto last night at around 9:30, from the sentencing hearing that saw our friend Peter Watts avoid jail time. The crossing back from Port Huron was happily uneventful - particularly as we passed the spot on the bridge where, in December, U.S. Customs and Border official Andrew Beaudry beat and pepper-sprayed Peter without any rational cause, then presented a spurious allegation of assault that might have seen Peter in jail for as long as six months.

As I posted all too briefly yesterday *, that didn't happen. U.S. Circuit Court Judge James P. Adair rejected a pre-sentencing report recommending that Peter be sentenced to six months in jail - less two months, if he came up with about $2,000 in fines and fees - and set him free.

About a dozen of us came down from Toronto to listen to the sentencing and offer up our support. I think it had an impact. It had more impact, certainly, than the presence of officers Beaudry and Behrendt, who took time to attend the hearing but made tracks seconds after Judge Adair rendered his verdict.

The biggest impact, according to Peter's lawyer Doug Mullkoff, was probably from the juror who has posted on various blogs as proudinjun. She and her husband attended the trial hearing too, and wrote to Judge Adair, explaining that no one on the jury had thought Peter deserved jail time - and that she and some others put little credit in the account of the event given by Beaudry, Behrendt and the others. We met at the trial hearing, and Doug toasted her afterwards. She took enormous grief from her fellow jurors, from her neighbours (as represented by the trolls who comment on the Port Huron paper's website) and she didn't flinch. You want a hero in this story - proudinjun is it.

You don't want to underestimate Doug Mullkoff's impact, though. I'd never seen him in action until this moment, and man. That's a lawyer who earns his keep.

He started off tearing apart the sloppy work in the pre-sentencing report, which listed Peter as being a U.S. citizen, over-estimated his income, and downplayed the infirmity of his father by listing the 92-year-old widower's age as "unknown." He strung the various letters of support that Peter had received into a narrative that showed Peter to be non-violent, kind and thoughtful, milking that just as much as he could. He explained that Peter's questioning nature meant that he would not fare well in the military, but that shouldn't be a crime, and he characterized the incident at the border as a "goof up" that already had lasting consequences. He pointed out that the simple conviction meant that Peter would never, ever again enter the United States of America. He asked Judge Adair to exercise his prerogative, and suspend Peter's sentence if he paid his fines in full (which he would do immediately - Peter brought with him $2,000 in crisp U.S. greenbacks).

So Judge Adair rendered his lengthy verdict. He told Peter that he was a puzzle to him; that he thought he would enjoy having a pint with Peter (Peter told him he would buy; Adair said he would get the next round); spoke at great length about the need to listen to and obey police officers. He explained he could only render a verdict after he looked a person in the eye. Then he spoke again about what folly it was to disobey police officers. He messed with our heads, Judge Adair did, for what seemed like an hour but couldn't have been more than 15 minutes. And in the end, he agreed with Mullkoff; a suspended sentence of 60 days (less time served), if Peter paid his bills. In other words: no jail time, but a stiff fine.

We took the news pretty happily, the four of us in the car - me, Peter, his partner Caitlin and our friend Madeline**. The interview with the Canada Customs officer heading back home was giddy and incoherent; we left him smiling and shaking his head. We listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Jett, Kansas and the like as we hauled back along 400 series highways in the late afternoon sun, and laughed and grinned like everything was finally okay.

Of course, everything is not okay. Peter doesn't go to jail. But he's a convicted felon now - convicted of not getting on the ground fast enough when U.S. border guards demanded it. He and the rest of us went through hell while the Michigan justice system played with his life like a cat plays with a mouse. That system and the people who thrive in it persist; Peter's life is forever diminished. 

And he did nothing wrong.


* thanks again to the Quay Street Brewing Company for letting us use their office computer and internet connection (try the Nutting Better Brown Ale - I also hear their wheat beer is very good).

** Madeline Ashby, that is. There's a link to click through on her name. Don't be shy. It takes you to Tor.com, where she has set down a heart-rending account of our day in Michigan, with far greater detail and emotional depth and beauty than you will find here at the Yard. It chokes me up every time I re-read it. It is, once again, right here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peter Watts is free

I type this from the basement of the Quay Street Brewing Company, where manager Mike Ziegler has kindly let me post this.

Sentencing is finished. Judge Adair dismissed any thoughts of jail time, made Peter pay a fine, and shared wisdom about the respect we must afford police.

But never mind that. No jail time. We are celebrating for a bit at Quay Street, then heading home.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Off to Port Huron tomorrow

Tomorrow (Monday April 26) Peter Watts will be in a Port Huron courtroom to learn what the spring and summer have in store for him.  It is his sentencing date. As discussed on this blog and elsewhere, Peter was convicted of resisting and obstructing border guards, stemming from an incident late last year at the Blue Water Bridge. He is facing jail time - at this point, reading the sentencing report that came forward just last week, it looks like four months, if he pays about $2,000 in fines and court costs. Perhaps the judge will show clemency, and Peter will come home Monday night. Thanks to the generosity of many people around the world, Peter was able to afford an excellent lawyer, Doug Mullkoff. He'll be there in court tomorrow, making the entirely reasonable case that Peter doesn't deserve to do jail time for the offence of which he's been convicted.

I'll be there too. If things go well, you can hear how it went from Peter on his blog at Rifters.com. If they don't - I'll be posting reports and updates. I'll be doing that on the news crawl at Rifters, and probably here too, as soon as I can get to a computer with internet connectivity.

If things go badly, that is. I'm not quite there yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Affection for the Kindle!

A brief note, to let those of you who've shelled out for a Kindle and have come to mistrust paper, that Monstrous Affections (and other great ChiZine titles) are now available for Amazon's Kindle. I think, actually, that you could read digital versions through the Kindle before. But now you can buy one through Amazon. There's no digital rights management gewgahs attached either.

And you can order it right here.

Other ChiZine titles are also available. Check 'em all out here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

(H)ad Astra

Well that was some Goddamn fun I had, spending the weekend at Ad Astra as I did, staying up too late and doing a stink of a lot of panels and flashing the cover of Monstrous Affections in front of very many people who had no idea what was coming. Ad Astra is the local literary sf convention for me, and I always manage to have a good time there. This time was busy, and enlightening. My high school pal Steve Bevan showed up with Gwen and their daughter Grace, and my only regret was not being able to hang out with 'em a bit more.

But damn, it was busy for us Ad Astra panelists.

We spoke about how there is a fine line between screaming horror and Bugs Bunny; we considered how ravenous, brain-eating zombies might be interpreted as an ode to community and cooperation; we looked at a movie made from a Douglas Smith short story. We read stories,  Peter Watts and I, until the time was up and we had to give up the room; and we all launched the hell out of ChiZine Publication's spring lineup, including Gemma Files' A Book of Tongues, and Douglas Smith's Chimerascope.

And as Michael Rowe observed, it seemed as though the fans who showed up were getting younger, and better looking, and much faster off the mark. I refrained from mentioning then that it might not be the fans that are getting younger, but we...

You get the idea.

* * *

In an unrelated moment of self-congratulations, I would be remiss if I didn't note that Ellen Datlow wasn't quite finished with me when she gave "The Radejastians" an honorable mention in the Best Horror of the Year Volume 2. Today, she released her long list of recommended stories from 2009. Included was "Other People's Kids" from Monstrous Affections.

So thanks, Ellen!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ad Astra

Back from one convention, off to another: Ad Astra, in Toronto this time. It is at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites - a venue remarkably similar to the Toronto Crown Plaza Hotel, where it was held last year. Both hotels are located in the same physical space, at 1250 Eglinton Avenue East. The only difference, really, is the name.

The convention takes place next weekend - starting April 9, that is. Unlike the World Horror Convention, just past, on this one I've got lots of programming.

Here's my schedule:

Fri 8:00 PM
Ballr. East
Critiquing Groups
Being a good writer does not necessarily make you a good editor/critiquer. What skills, strategies and techniques are needed to set up a critiquing group and provide constructive criticism of a story?
Matt Moore (m), David Nickle, Suzanne Church, Megan Crewe, Lorne Kates


Fri 9:00 PM
Crowne Room
Reading: David Nickle, Peter Watts
David Nickle, Peter Watts


Sat 11:00 AM
Ballr. Centre
ChiZine Publications Panel
Beginning as the print off-shoot of Chiaroscuro, in less than two years, ChiZine Publications has grown into a small but influential player in independent genre publishing. CZP staff and authors discuss and answer questions about its growth in a bad time for publishing, the future of genre publishing, why a small press might be a better option for beginning writers, and how they have fun doing it.
Brett Alexander Savory, Sandra Kasturi, Matt Moore Gemma Files, David Nickle, Claude Lalumiere, Douglas Smith, Helen Marshall, Laura Marshall, Erik Mohr, Bob Boyczuk


Sat 1:00 PM
Salon 243
Monster as Political Statement
Zombies and body snatchers and communism, Frankenstein and the enlightenment, vampires and Victorian morality, the role of women and sexuality. When is a walking corpse just a walking corpse and when does it have a greater message?
Nancy Kilpatrick, David Nickle, Tim Liebe,  Thea Munster


Sat 4:00 PM
Ballr. East
Autograph Session (to 5:30)


Sun 11:00 AM
Salon 243
Genre Crossing
Can cross-over books ever be the best in either field? Will an SF novel ever win an Edgar? Do crossovers get a bigger audience (all SF plus all mystery fans) or a smaller one (only mystery fans who like SF)?
 Stephanie Bedwell-Grime,  David Nickle, James Allan Gardner, Kelley Armstrong


Sun 2:00 PM
Ballr. Centre
Dueling Openings
Aspiring short fiction writers (audience participation required!) take turns reading the opening lines of their published stories, and the audience chooses which opening(s) they like best. Authors discuss what makes a good opening, why they're important
Douglas Smith (m), Claude Lalumiere, David Nickle, Robert Boyczuk


Sun 3:00 PM
Ballr. Centre
Laughing in the Face of Death
There’s more crossover than you’d expect between horror and humour. You can find black comedy, horror franchises becoming self-parodies, and intentional and unintentional humour in horror; why does it work? Why do we laugh at horrifying things?
David Nickle, Sandra Kasturi,  Aaron Allston, Gavin Stephens

I'm also doing something at noon on Sunday, interviewing Doug Smith about his movie. But that's all I know about that.