No Sleep till Zothique—Part One

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No Sleep till Zothique—Part One

As part of my preparation for geeking out at Necronomicon 2017, I have determined to read all of the Zothique cycle stories written by Clark Ashton Smith in chronological order of their publication.

Necronomicon is essentially a huge Lovecraft-love fest but they also program panels for horror, markets, publishing, all the fun things. It takes place in downtown Providence, of course. They also cover other writers with Lovecraftian ties: Clark Ashton Smith was a contemporary of Lovecraft along with Robert E. Howard, and I generally prefer his stories.

Zothique is my favorite fantasy cycle because it depicts a grim, dying earth plagued by ecological decay and widespread anarchy. That said, this possible future appeals to me: our current religions have become extinct (superseded by regional cults practicing varying degrees of hospitality), and all technology has been replaced by sorcery and proto-medievalism. The new world has essentially reverted to the very, very old.

The first story in CAS Zothique is “The Empire of the Necromancers,” published in Weird Tales, September 1932. Of course, he starts grim right out of the gate with his description of Zothique (it reminds me of the Skeksis castle/valley in “The Dark Crystal” actually):

zothique map//**”The legend of Mmatmuor and Sodosma shall arise only in the latter cycles of Earth, when the glad legends of the prime have been forgotten. Before the time of its telling, many epochs shall have passed away, and the seas shall have fallen in their beds, and new continents shall have come to birth. Perhaps, in that day, it will serve to beguile for a little the black weariness of a dying race, grown hopeless of all but oblivion. I tell the tale as men shall tell it in Zothique, the last continent, beneath a dim sun and sad heavens where the stars come out in terrible brightness before eventide.”**//

Brother necromancers Mmatmuor and Sodosma are exiled from the west of the continent for political reasons. During their travels into the deserts of Cincor, once home to a great civilization, they raise an army made entirely of the dead and enslave the souls to their will. As the necromancers settle into the ruins of Yethlyreom in Cincor, however, they become lazy and complacent and forgetful of their own powers. Meanwhile, the dead long for a return to their rest. Ultimately, one of the enslaved nobles of a late Cincor dynasty uncovers a prophecy that offers the dead their liberation and vengeance upon their oppressors.

This is a characteristic Smith fantasy–excessive, bold, ribald–but entertaining nonetheless. I think other Zothique stories like “The Charnel God” and “The Weaver in the Vault” present a more tactile atmosphere, a more compelling cast of characters, along with more satisfying reversals of fortune, but this is the start of the Zothique cycle and I’ve signed on for the whole wild, grimdark ride.

So much of Smith’s influence obviously stems from The Arabian Nights, which I am ashamed to admit I have not read, but I purchased a good unabridged 3-volume set from Penguin Classics and I’m going to be reading those right along with Zothique. If and when I find vivid parallels between these sets of fables, I hope to share my insights.

The Empire of the Necromancers can of course be read in its entirety at The Eldritch Dark and The Double Shadow Clark Ashton Smith podcast devote an entire episode to the story (their insights are always entertaining, often hilarious). And yes, as you can tell, I am quite the CAS fangirl.

Enjoying the dim sun and sad heavens,
as always,
larissa

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I’d like to discuss with you why Venom are so good

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I’d like to discuss with you why Venom are so good
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Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan

So this happened.

Death is swift as Satan’s sword
All the same young and old
Life means nothing to my lord
Aaaaarrghhhhhhhhh
Drink from chalice warm and sweet
Virgin’s heart final beat
Lightning strikes the virgin dies
Satan smiles…
Venom “Sacrifice” (1982)

Still with me? Niiice.

I like the shit that’s going to fuck me up and make me think about the confines of our existence, and how the POSSIBILITIES of liberation from oppression inspire the greatest, darkest reaches of the imagination. Pick out the most embarrassing detail about yourself, and enthrone it.

That’s what heavy metal does for many people, but for some transwomen, it is a total revelation. Because when the smoke clears and the rest of you see through the bullshit, you might see that many of us who once stood in your place of “what the fuck are those doing here?” are actually the most devoted fans, and in many cases, quite a few of us are pretty fuckin’ extreme.

EXTREME is a term that used to not have five zillion subgenres.
Okay and back to =

VENOM were the “FUCK YOU BACK of the 1980s.

There is only one Venom. When they burst on the scene during the early 1980s, their grand infusion of punk with metal turned some heads, and better yet, united formerly divided audiences. The argument could certainly be made that Motörhead preceded this effort. But Venom had infused a darkness, an extreme attitude, a fabulous sense of occult danger that managed to fist the anus of conservatism with such panache, they made Tipper Gore’s list of Filthy Fifteen (which, in metal terms, is almost as great as hitting Number One on the mainstream ‘respectable’ charts). At that time, they weren’t even on a major label like Ozzy, W.A.S.P., or Prince. Through their own strength and power, Venom managed to become a blip on the radar of the 1980s American Satanic Panic culture wars. Extremity became a draw, and the lure of contraband rescued countless teenagers by finally extolling a life-saving virtue: “YOU CAN DO THIS, AS WELL.”

Pick up the instrument. Write the words. Make your own trouble. And most importantly, stick with it. Do it well. They are going to tell you that you are not allowed. Tell them to go fuck themselves.

This nudge to empowerment by Venom happened on a global scale, I might add. Metallica. Mayhem. Sepultura. Sarcofago.

Me. You.

I like what Dave Grohl once said about Venom, that “they were like these party albums, but you were partying for the wrong reasons.”

I was too young to see Venom play live when I first got into them completely by accident in 1985. Newbury Comics in Boston (before it became a huge chain) was the place to find import heavy metal releases, and to be honest, during my inaugural visit to the store I just shotgunned it according to whatever album had the most blasphemous cover art. No one in my school liked Motörhead, so I just remember when I began scoping the racks it was candy time. I distinctly remember my selections (and this is why the memory of first exposure matters so much to me)

  • Celtic Frost ‘Emperor’s Return’
  • Mercyful Fate ‘Melissa’
  • Venom ‘Canadian Assault’ and ‘Manitou’ [devil’s head picture disc–The Arkenstone of my vinyl horde]
Jeff "Mantas" Dunn = the reason I determined to learn guitar.

Jeff “Mantas” Dunn = the reason I determined to learn guitar.

I can only tell you that when it came to Venom, you were either with us or against us. The British press, Kerrang! and Metal Forces especially, were really slagging the band off at this point. By 1986 or so, I read a Creem magazine interview that featured the band and their impending follow-up to the ‘Possessed’ album, tentatively called ‘Deadline.’ And then–

I’m not exactly sure what happened. So much of the negative press about Venom’s allegedly tone-deaf business decisions seemed to be taking effect on a reality that I did not want to allow for.

Okay, enough history for now, then. Long story short–guitarist Mantas left, various schisms with divergent lineups continued along during the ensuing decades. But my strongest impression is of how unfair the metal press were to Venom during these intervals. I remember seeking anything I could find about Venom in any zine (along with trans-related medical information in other sources)–I mean, shit–if Venom were listed on the cover of the zine I’d buy it. Unfortunately, I’d usually read a slagfest. Those Brits, I swear.

While most of the initial appeal of Venom stemmed from the extreme, harsh and yet also sonorous voicings of Cronos, the combination of guitarist Mantas and drummer Abaddon were also a huge draw. Not unlike KISS and Motörhead or even MOUNTAIN, each member was their own force of nature, complete with unique stage presence, almost like distinct cartoon characters who rage on their own individual strengths and intentionally fuck up the narrative as if they were principal players in Henry IV or Top Cat. But they gel together in a chaotic sort of manner. Oftentimes, you’ll think they’re falling apart but there’s part of the appeal!

I mean, check this shit out:

LOL, I know, right?

Flash forward to 2016 and I finally had my chance to see Venom.

But I have a little bit of explaining to do. Last bit, I promise.
Venom are a split entity. I don’t know the whole inside story nor the legal situation, but after the breaking of the original lineup circa 1986 (Deadline era), the band has run fluctuating and parallel lineups over the years. Venom have had profound cultural impact on extreme metal, so it stands to reason that well, disagreements have occurred between personnel over time.

So there is Venom with original bassist/vocalist Cronos that plays 70,000 Tons of Metal (cruise ship) and Maryland Death Fest. This version is formidable, and I actually do enjoy guitarist Rage‘s playing (his guitar tone also), but the original power-trio lineup cannot be replaced nor imitated. I saw Cronos-Venom play about ten years ago in New York City and I don’t remember much. I got way too drunk on whiskey, and I’m actually surprised I made it home alive (I got myself into a very dangerous situation that night). Even the NYC barmaid called me a lush to my face! That’s telling.

Long story short, it is really not my place to gauge one lineup against another. I can only speak from personal experience–living with the fluctuating output and drama of Venom over the years is like watching your own blood family fight over small things. But mind you, this is a perspective from outside. A devoted fan, but outside nonetheless.

Still, I am happy to see things like this happen =

venom

Venom, Inc. came to […] Somerville, MA

Then there is also Venom Inc. with original members Mantas and Abaddon, along with Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vokills/bass. This is an eminently legitimate lineup, because Dolan had replaced Cronos for at least three full-length albums. (Cronos had formed his self-titled solo project, much of it great material but more in keeping with his melodic tendencies unearthed with Calm Before the Storm.) Venom Inc. was the version I saw this past summer and I was a scoatch more sober because I wanted to, well, be there for it. Consumer tip: gin and tonics in Boston will keep you alive better than twenty straight whiskeys in NYC.

Dolan has always been eminently qualified to play in Venom. Not only does he hail from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Venom’s home turf, he also formed the NWOBHM stormfest Atomkraft at about the same time Venom had formed in 1979. He could also be called the world’s biggest Venom fan to begin with, and there’s a fucking top-tier qualification, if you ask me.

So I finally got to see two sides of Venom, and honestly dude, I’m just fuckin’ happy to see the two incarnations rolling along and keeping these memories alive for me.

But I will stipulate what I shouted from the front row and on social media that despite not being the original Venom lineup (which I have a feeling I will never see, alas), Venom Inc. were a true, fan-obsessed, breakthrough experience for someone who not able to experience the total fuckin’ mayhem during the first rounds (born too early, born too late, etc.), but at least I got to catch a glimpse of the carnage.

PS–Self esteem, for me, was a path begun through Slayer. Literature and the arts give us soul, a map to unraveling the mystery. I don’t know how exactly I got to where I am now (I got lost many, many times), but I know I still have a ways to go, and that’s okay.

 

 

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: getting serious about self-publishing

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This is from Suzanne Lahna at Word Vagabond, who also provides stellar SF/F/H editing services ❤ larissa =

 

Word Vagabond

Let’s get a few things straight here.

Self Publishing is not:
-easy
-cheap
-for people who can’t write

Self Publishing is:
-expensive
-time consuming
-for anyone who wants to run a small business

Okay but why the Jaws analogy?

Because self-publishing is a lot like fishing. Anyone can do the basics, but to be successful at it you need to have the right rod and tackle, dedication, and willingness to learn from your mistakes. Often times when first time writers give self-pub a go, they realize they’re in way over their heads. What was thought to be a “click and upload” quickly becomes a giant ravenous shark set to devour your bank account and your sanity all in one fell swoop.

chummin for sharks.gifSo do what Peter Benchley would do – your homework. Self-publishing requires at least five people or skills to be successfully accomplished.

  1. The author
  2. The editor
  3. The cover artist
  4. The…

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On Writing, finding community, finding my way

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On Writing, finding community, finding my way

This summer, there is an opportunity for me to participate in a writing workshop that I never thought would happen during my lifetime. The week-long session takes place in New York City, that epicenter of publishing, glitz, good coffee, efficiency, and brainwaves.

Two storied writing instructors with exemplary publishing credentials will help develop the writing skills and emerging voices of transwomen writers. Here is an an opportunity for over two-dozen of us to write, offer feedback, learn, and network.

I speak, of course, of the Summer Writers’ Workshop administered by Topside Press at Brooklyn College, August 2016.

And here’s the really cool part: you can help make this happen. The fundraiser is active and gaining ground, and Zoey the workshop organizer has composed a detailed breakdown of how raised funds will be put to good use. This is a great and easy way to become involved in a marvelous, forward-thinking, educational initiative.

As far as I am aware, this is the very first workshop of its kind, designed to help develop the writing skills of a heretofore underrepresented population. And this is SO important, especially today, because even in 2016, transwomen are discriminated against and excluded from too many creative spaces and opportunities, and/or the trans-centric narrative is largely regarded as illegitimate.*
* = memoir is a notable exception, but believe you me–prejudice is a huge problem even in otherwise queer spaces, and the utterly cynical and exasperating public restroom non-issue is only the tip of the iceberg.

Why is this inaugural workshop so important to me? Well–shall I start with fear?
I am no stranger to writing workshops, groups, and I am certainly not new to transition (I’m 19 years in). But the fact remains that whenever I wanted to address my experiences, ambitions, or even just my SF-affinity, I’ve held my tongue out of fear of being judged, or that again I’ll be told I need to audition for my Trans101 right to exist. But now I’m frankly a little weary of squashing my narratives out of fear–it only makes life worse.

Okay so fear is nailed shut, next let’s consider the very real–PUSHBACK.
Whether it’s TERFs, religious mania, the far right, or even Ms. Jenner herself (right), as visibility and voices do find their way into the sunlight, we will be told to be silent, we have no place at the table and/or microphone. Attempts will be made to legislate us out of existence, as precedents have shown in certain other nations. My upbringing during the Reagan/Bush era offered plenty of that pushback, or if not that, utter misrepresentation. Those iniquities are utterly familiar to me (and unfortunately pretty hardwired in my psyche–that was their intention.) Our voices and stories can change that signal, and stand fast against that resistance (it’s all just ignorance, anyway). Pervasive human rights and honest stories told tend to produce wonderful results on a universal scale–and besides who do you think helped design the very technology that we’re cat-paw-typing on?

Finally let’s consider this primary motivation of mine–to learn.
I’m am going to write, but really also to listen and learn from my peers. Over the past few years, I’ve found story and publishing opportunities are optimized through tactile human contact. Meeting SF/Horror practitioners and especially fans at cons optimizes my writing workflow exponentially, but I will always need improvement. We never stop learning–it’s what makes human existence so grand (albeit, frustrating also, but worth the effort). Again, this summer workshop is singular in that it places over two dozen trans writers together, writing and discussing from different standpoints of experience, but all with many similar goals. I’ve never been in that place, and it should be a great place to work.

Still writing from the wound, still writing from the dreams,
larissa
#WhyIWrite

PS–One way I dealt with fear of not belonging was/is to read other trans narratives. Apart from memoir, most of these narratives were penned by cisgender authors, but when their central spotlight focused on living trans and actually becoming the heroine? Believe you me, during the 1990s there wasn’t much available, so I lapped up everything I could find: Sick Burn Cut by Deran Ludd, Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe, Sarah by J.T. Leroy. Leroy turned out to prove a vastly problematic author for a number of reasons I’d rather not go into at the moment, but keep in mind that when I first transitioned, trans narratives written from honest, died-in-the-wool firsthand experiences of living transfeminism were hardly what one would call pervasive, much less daylighted by mainstream society or its media. Over the past decade, however, our own voices got pretty hot, our signal pretty strong. We have some amazing stories, as it turns out. It’s awesome.

PPS–and if my Trans101 viewpoint is really wanted that badly, we can start with a discussion of Clark Ashton Smith, the hidden dangers of lanyards, or what constitutes a legitimate Venom lineup.

Shark Blogging

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Shark Blogging

Hey everyone, Happy Shark Week!

I’d heard rumblings of this celebration of our fine, finned friends (who occasionally find our human flesh and blood quite tasty), and I’ve been seeing deli sandwich promotions all over Downtown Boston. I think that’s cool on many levels!

Of course, I’m afraid of sharks, what young child growing up on Nantucket Island wouldn’t be traumatized by seeing “Jaws” (1975) and “Jaws 2” (1978)? I’m also in awe of them, however, so to me it is no huge mystery why they have such staying power in our popular imagination, and why we eventually arrived at that Showgirls-equivalent “Sharknado!” franchise–sometimes you just have to turn things up to eleven and then, in Sharknado’s case, break off the knob!

I have a guest blog post over at Shock Totem! This is a huge deal for me, I’ve been reading Shock Totem Magazine since 2011, it’s where I read Bracken MacLeod, Damien Angelica Walters, and Barry Lee Dejasu for the first time (among many others). Thanks to John Boden for asking me to participate!

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws also includes insights from Rose Blackthorn (Thorns, Hearts and Thistles, Called to Battle: Worthy Vessel), Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels), Nick Cato (Don of the Dead, Lovers, Cinema Knife Fight), Aaron Dries (House of Sighs, The Fallen Boys, A Place for Sinners), David James Keaton (FISH BITES COP! Stories to Bash Authorities, Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead), Bracken MacLeod (Mountain Home, White Knight, and Stranded), and Jeremy Wagner (The Armageddon Chord, and the metal guitarist for Broken Hope).

Apart from my Shark Bombs, my summer is flailing right along, deadlines close ahead for both “Imperator–Terror Lizard (Part Two)” and the Rabies manuscript (unfortunately she went off the rails a little but she’s crawling back into me, gnawing at my pineal gland). I was admitted to the Topside Summer Writer’s Workshop at Brooklyn College, where I’ll be for about a week in mid-August, writing and discussing work with over a dozen other transwomen authors with varied literary backgrounds and platforms. SO excited–it’s going to be intense.

Coffee beast.

AND HOLY FUCK it’s con season! My boyfriend Jerome and I went up to NoCon in Portsmouth NH a few Saturdays ago (NoCon is a more or less informal gathering of AnthoCon folk such as may be found in The New England Horror Writers). In the morning we were hosted by Tony Tremblay of The Taco Society, and then filming for a special edition of TacoS commenced! Patrick Lacey manned the camera much of the time, and most in the audience came up to the table for a brief interview with Tony and to read from their work.

Later that afternoon we participated in the latest sit-down of The Writers Coffeehouse (New England), hosted by Christopher Golden and James A. Moore. These discussions are indispensable for anyone even slightly interested in the art and craft of writing, and of navigating a very tricky professional landscape. Chris and Jim drive The_All_Terrain_Vehicle when it comes to insights on that front. In early July we have Readercon, which always hosts incredible, multi-track panels about reading and writing SF/F/H in all media. Then later in the month there is Necon (where do I start with that one? just click the link if you are unfamiliar).

Okay, more to come soon–I haven’t even talked about seeing Venom for the first time last month (technically, it was my first time seeing them and I’ll explain why), nor the Spoorloos debut release (my solo-acoustic/black ambient murder ballads project).

But in the meantime, strap on your Shark Bomb and remember–they like the creamy filling!

Carcharodon carcharias.

On Trying to Write Badass Women

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On Trying to Write Badass Women

Things happened quickly this month, my dying earth SF/F piece “Imperator–Terror Lizard (Part One)” appeared in The Healing Monsters, Volume One (Despumation Press), and my SF story “Miriam” was accepted for the Procyon Science Fiction Anthology 2016 (Tayen Lane Publishing). Jacob Haddon included me in a list of over 400 women writers working in Horror/SF. This makes me want to step up my game and get more subs out. I have the advantage of a day job with relative flexibility and bountiful academic resources, but I find I can sometimes lose momentum when I stray from my normally scheduled routine. Some health problems also sidelined me a bit over the last month, but I cleared that hurdle finally. Now it’s a matter of getting the routine back on track.

I read this piece over at Mythic Scribes on finding your Writer’s Voice. This was exactly something I was thinking about with the two pieces mentioned above: “Terror Lizard” and “Miriam” are both first person narratives written in past tense, and both command quite an assertive, even defiant female character presence. Both voices seemed similar in that they are tough with an air of regret, sadness. I’ve borne the sadness throughout my adolescence and adult life, but the toughness may be wish fulfillment on my part. Most people who have met me know I’m quite introverted but friendly, eager to please. I think that stems from my hardwired desire to be liked, and this often works against my own best interests. But when I channel these character voices, I go into full-on Xena mode. Wish fulfillment, sure—but it obviously sources from a legitimate spring. No author wants to sling bullshit when it comes to voice.

Another interesting thing in that article is that we can reveal a good deal about a character by what we omit, or merely imply with the use of voice. I’ve given away plenty of uncomfortable realities about myself in what I say but especially in what I don’t say. This is something I’d like to take better advantage of in my work, to thicken the complications and emotional resonance.

Heroes and heroines appeal to us as much through their faults and/or insecurities as do their victories and conquests. Strider/Aragorn/Elessar totally rips on himself after losing the Hobbits and The Fellowship at The Falls of Rauros, but he manages to regroup and make the best of it that he can.

I think what I’m trying to say is that with first-person narrative, I’d like to continue to channel that assertive, rebellious voice, but only where appropriate to the story. If there is too much commonality between stories in that wish-fulfilled muse, I could become my own banality, and that is a terrifying prospect for me—to cancel myself out just because I want to be more assertive in my own comings and goings.

Does this mean I want to channel the voice of a passive character, rather than an active one? Not necessarily. The voice of a victim is all the more compelling when she turns her situation around and at least escapes her lot (think the ultimate final girl—Sally Hardesty [Marilyn Burns] in Texas Chainsaw), but I also feel the polarizing forces, the ones that make me want to bring a character around and exact vengeance upon her antagonist[s]. But if she’s sneering with defiance all along, how can one detect a change in her character arc?

These are some things I want to try and work on as I move forward.

The Healing Monsters

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The first installment of my dying-earth cycle, “Imperator—Terror Lizard” is impending among many other metal-horror-speculative luminaries (pinch me!—this LINEUP!) coming May 19 (volume 1) and September 15 (volume 2) from Despumation Press. ATTEND THEE! For more details read on =

Despumation Press

HealingMonstersAd2-2

Yeah, this is actually still happening. A lot has occurred since the start of this charitable project, not the least of which has been the passing of one of the beneficiaries of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and the diagnosis of a Hodgkin Lymphoma for one of the editor’s husband (that would be me…my husband, Anthony Everitt of the death-doom band, Taphos Nomos, and designer of these books). Among a number of other setbacks, it’s been wrought with grief and irony. That said, we’re still moving forward. As you can see, the single volume was to be ridiculously huge, so we’ve decided to split it into two volumes, each coming out on the respective medical issue’s awareness day (though the profits of both volumes combined will be split evenly). We look forward to getting these out there and into the hands of readers and rockers, and we hope it will be of…

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