The Humanity of Monsters Coming Soon to TPL Circulation Near You

I was just looking at the Toronto Public Library page for The Humanity of Monsters, and there are five copies on order for general circulation!

I wax rhapsodic about libraries generally, and my home city’s library system, fairly frequently. (Usually in person. I don’t make the internet listen to me do it too often. :p ) But now I get to be ecstatic about the TPL for a much more personal reason. Hell, I can’t even remember how young I was when I got my first library card — young enough that it had some appalling childish scrawl in black block marker on the fucker — but I’m guessing that was 25+ years ago. I eventually had to replace that card. The new one does not have block marker scrawl. Though I think the “new” one is almost the same age. And though I’ve had the offer to change out my second TPL card for one of the newer ones, I’ve never taken a replacement. I’ll be using that current one until it falls apart. It’s got history.

And now not only does the TPL let me take an absurd number of items on loan from their catalogue in a given year. (Which I do.) But they’re also going to have circulation copies of a book I edited! :D

Specifically copies available at the Merril Collection (a non-circulating copy, reading room available only, but I love the collection, and I’ll take every opportunity to mention it, thank you very much), North York Central Library (my former long-time local branch!), Flemingdon Park, Guildwood, Long Branch, and the Lillian H. Smith (which houses the Merril Collection, so there’ll be two copies in that building! :D ).

I don’t quite qualify for the PLR with THoM. So that’s a milestone I still need to hit with another book down the road. But in the meantime THoM will soon be available to people to borrow from the Toronto Public Library! Score!

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Writing/Editing Workshops in 2016

Though things are still in the planning stages at this point, I’m going to be resurrecting the one-day (two hours usually) writing/editing workshops I’ve run in past, and design some new ones as well. Looking at starting in April, at the earliest, and I’m setting up location (these are physical attendance only) and scheduling at this point, with firm dates and information to come once things are set.

You can expect concrete information come March.

But as to ticket availability, I usually keep these small because discussion among workshop attendees is important to the way I run a workshop. And I’m probably going to be pricing these at the $20 mark I’ve used in past. We’ll see if Eventbrite or TicketLeap is the better option this time around (I’ve used both in past), but I expect I’ll be organizing tickets through one of the two.

In the meantime, I’m looking at six workshops right now, with one about every two months. And I’ll be doing to be doing them on the following topics:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Contracts
  • Markets/Industry
  • Grants
  • [Undecided]

The order isn’t fixed yet. And if there’s enough interest I’d be willing to run these monthly and repeat the sequence twice over a twelve-month period so people only have to wait six months for a workshop to come round again rather than a year.

I’m also at this point open to suggestions on what people would want to see from the sixth workshop in this series. You’re welcome to chime in here or on any social media channel where you find me.

Can also double up on one of the other workshops if people are interested in doing that. I’m fairly flexible on this. :)

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Review: Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two edited by Kathe Koja, series editor Michael Kelly

Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two edited by Kathe Koja, series editor Michael Kelly
ISBN: 978-0-9938951-1-1
Undertow Publications
October 2015

All of Undertow’s books thus far have been beautifully produced, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two is no exception.

Koja’s approach to the Weird and representation thereof in this volume veers toward liminally permeable work and prose-conscious surrealism, especially where the stories in translation are concerned – Julio Cortázar’s “Headache” and Jean Muno’s “The Ghoul.”

There’s a range of Weird fiction to be sure, with Cat Hellisen’s “The Girls Who Go Below” representing the more traditional murder ballad style of storytelling, alongside pieces like Carmen Maria Machado’s “Observations About Eggs From the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa” with its exponentially spiralling monologue on consciousness, culpability, and consequences, through the lens of cuisine literal and metaphorical; Nick Mamatas’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop”’s marriage of stream of consciousness and urban legend ghost story, with a little beat poet to its road trip; and Amanda C. Davis’s “Loving Armageddon” with its short, sharp vignettes and literalized discourse on the slow build toward explosive violence in an unhealthy relationship dynamic, seen in fragments.

The book is an excellent overview of the field in 2014, as the first volume was for 2013. And these volumes are certainly upholding the argument in favour of guest editorship as a way to ensure varying views of a given field in an anthology series.

Some of the stories in the anthology – Rich Larson’s “The Air We Breathe is Stormy, Stormy,” Sunny Moraine’s “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow,” Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Bus Fare”, and Sarah Pinsker’s “A Stretch of Highway Two lanes Wide” – one could argue as less actively Weird fiction. Doing so calls for a very wide lens. Though that is admittedly fair given the broad mandate of the anthology series, and the book does well by their inclusion as they’re all excellently written work.

Indeed, though there are stories that I dislike in the volume, none of them do I dislike in terms of their prose. Instead, I take exception to a couple of the stories in terms of their execution, framework, and occasionally some misfiring or unintended subtext. Though I invariably find something in an anthology whose execution or effectiveness I will argue. As always, individual mileage will vary, and the anthology is demonstrably excellent overall, with a high quotient of beautifully written work.

Another point highly in the book’s favour is the gender balance of reflected authors. The male/female authorship ratio in the first book was about equal, and slightly heavier on male representation. This one has a gender balance of 2:1 in favour of women. Which is important for a couple of reasons, but primarily the following one:

Weird fiction does not have a dearth of women working in the field, but their presence is not as frequently, nor as effectively highlighted in this fashion, outside of doorstopper anthologies looking at the field overall like Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Weird; projects with more specific aims like Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R Stiles’s She Walks in Shadows and Joe Pulver’s Cassilda’s Song, among others; and especially in the Queer and erotica side of Weird and horror literature where anthologies like Victoria A. Brownworth’s Night Bites have long been in evidence, and all-women-edited-and-authored anthologies are not exactly a new concept, with many of these loosely thematically organized as well.

And for me at least, it is stories by women contributors that stand out primarily in this volume (with one exception that will be made clear momentarily):

Karin Tidbeck’s gorgeous “Migration” – possibly my favourite piece in the volume – with its focus on dissociation, tension, and abstract roles and redefinition in the face of atavistic migration that is not as unguided as it seems. All this layered into a puzzle box world in which the characters are mutable components, dreamlike as much as the vistas and landscapes that inhabit the story as much as the characters do.

Siobhan Carroll’s “Wendigo Nights” with its achronological unfurling, deliberate obscuring of the protagonist’s gender, and as with the Tidbeck a slow, dream-like quality to its telling. Combined with questions of familial and parental obligations, culpability, archaeological quandaries, frigid landscapes, and idea as epidemic vector.

K.M. Ferebee’s “The Earth and Everything Under,” that plays with grief in variable, multi-layered terms, witchcraft in equally subtle ones, and surreal beauty in magic and relationships and quiet moments, all in simple, beautiful, haunting prose.

Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” with its subsuming of fairytale gothic storytelling into feminist horror, its subtle deconstruction of women as object in narrative use, and its inevitable, beautifully sharp conclusion. All with gossamer-delicate prose, and Machado’s ever-present flair for layered revelation.

Isabel Yap’s “A Cup of Salt Tears” with its restrained unfolding of slow alienation and the inevitability of loss, its focus on personal, mythological, and cultural ethics, and additional focus on the emotional lives of both women and kappa. A tale whose prose is as subtle and quiet as its trajectory. A piece revealing itself in miniatures and minimalist motion.

In addition to which I will also note Julio Cortázar’s “Headache,” though it does break pattern from the above discussion, because it’s also one of the strongest stories in the book. Michael Cisco’s translation renders fluid prose, arguably the equal of Cortázar’s own work, that matches the lucid devolution of the tale’s two farmers raising at once symbiotic and parasitic livestock whose presence unhinges the mind and warps reality.

It’s an exquisite collection overall. Different enough from the one preceding it that it doesn’t feel like a retread. Grounded enough in its subject matter that it is clear continuation, as well as generous promise for forthcoming volumes. I spend a fair bit of time re-reading anthologies, and this one too I will come back to.

And I will, as we come to the close of this review, take a moment to note that Mike Kelly and I are friends and occasional colleagues. Which it only seems fair to disclose lest there be argument of undisclosed bias in the reviewing.

Though it doesn’t take bias to note that Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two is an extraordinarily strong entry in the series. Kathe Koja has done a fantastic curatorial job, pulling together work from an international perspective of writers working in vastly different fields, and what the volume ends up presenting is a unified whole, assembled from highly disparate parts.

Whether you’re already familiar with the Weird or not, this is an excellent volume speaking to the state of the field, as well as just an excellent anthology overall. Do yourself the favour of picking up a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Further Review Adventures of … The Humanity of Monsters

There’s a new review of THoM up at Examiner.com. It is a 4/5 review.

Some shoutouts in there too, for six of the authors in the book. With lines like these speaking to the reviewer’s reaction: “… a walk into the shadows of a darkened room at midnight as well as a journey to the darkest corners of the human mind.” and “… overall the book is much stronger than most anthologies.”

I’ll take it. :)

And generally speaking, The Humanity of Monsters has been getting pretty consistently good reviews, to the point where it’s sitting at 5/5 on Amazon.ca, 4/5 on Amazon.com, and 2.92 on Goodreads. It’s actually had the most reviews at the latter, which is why the larger spread of opinions. Which is more interesting truthfully. I like high ratings as much as the next person, but I also like seeing how people are interacting with the book when they don’t care for it, and seeing why.

I know there’s at least one more venue-specific review of THoM coming down the line, and I’ll share that and whatever else shows up when it happens.

Oh and you should totally go buy the book if you haven’t already. :p

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Up in the Air

Well, I was yesterday. The plane has since landed.

Which is to say that I’m currently travelling. And though I’m continuing to work while out of town, will be taking on new client work as it comes in, and will still be posting to the website for the duration, if anyone’s trying to contact me until the end of February your best bet is to get in touch with me via e-mail (mathesonfreelancing@gmail.com, or whatever other address you’re usually contacting me at).

I will still answer my work phone (the number that’s up on the frontpage of the Matheson Freelancing site), but I’d prefer not to rely on it in the interim.

And in completely unrelated news, there’s new starred reviews on both the American (a cross-post) and Canadian Amazon pages for The Humanity of Monsters. Which I mention because, you know, not that I want you to do something crazy like … buy the book ….

:)

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The Humanity of Monsters and the BPL

You know what’s awesome to have going into 2016? The Humanity of Monsters updates. :D

And this one I am particularly delighted by. Because it pertains to libraries, which is a topic that always makes me happy anyway. But in this case, we are speaking specifically of a library system which Google Alerts informs me now has a listing for THoM: The Boston Public Library!

The mobile version of the listing states that all copies are in use, though given that the non-mobile version of the site is lacking tags and other things it seems possible the book’s just coming into the system. Then again, the book apparently has an average of 4 stars (out of a possible 5), which is deeply gratifying. No idea if that’s multiple votes or just a lone individual who loved the book. Not being a member of the Boston Public Library system I have no way of knowing.

But damn it feels good to see the book getting picked up by libraries. :)

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Superhero Universe (Tesseracts Nineteen) Table of Contents is Live

In truly timely fashion Claude Lalumière has posted the ToC for Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen, in which my story “Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire” will appear.

Timely as I just mentioned the story again in the writing roundup post on the 1st.

Also nice to finally see all the story titles associated with the writers involved. The promotional reveal of the writers back in the Fall of 2015 gave us names, but not story titles. Now the fun begins.

Everyone starts thinking about what the shape of an anthology will look like in terms of both internal and external conversation when a ToC goes live for it, right?

Right?

I mean I’m thinking about it for all kinds of reasons. But not the least of which is that my story has the anchor slot. Which would be the first time for one of my pieces, actually. So I am decidedly happy about it.

Came close before. I was one slot away from having the anchor slot back in Masked Mosaic. Which is an anthology also worth bringing up (aside from the fact that it was a good anthology) because “The Many Lives of the Xun Long” appeared therein, and “Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire” is a companion piece to the former. Though you don’t have to have read that story to read “Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire.”

Yes, I just like typing that title. ;)

So. The book will be out in April in paperback, and you can pre-order it here to get an early jump on having a copy. It looks like the e-book may be coming out a little earlier, but I won’t swear to it.

Pretty sure I’ve actually got two stories coming out in April at this point, so it’ll be a busy month. And that’s never a bad thing. :)

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