March 2010


Except for the chilly wet weather (Richmond had much better in my absence), this was a terrific conference.  As usual, I went to lots of the readings.  Kij Johnson’s “Spar” stood out as an absolutely phenomenal short story.  It appeared in the October 2009 issue of Clarkesworld, one of the best of the online zines.  Kathy Goonan read from a novel in progress, This Shared Dream.  Tom De Haven read from both my favorite novel of his, It’s Superman, and a companion section from his extended essay about the Man of Steel, Our Hero.  Other standout readings included an unpublished story by Andy Duncan (whose performance skills are unrivalled), an excerpt from Donkey, a novel in progress by Nalo Hopkinson, and an excerpt from Joe Haldeman’s Earthbound.  Nalo’s luncheon address as the guest of honor—”A Reluctant Ambassador From the Planet of Midnight”—was also something of a remarkable fictional performance.  A special treat for me was meeting and hearing the work of Bernando Fernandez (“Bef”) and Pepe Rojo, two Mexican sf writers in attendance.  We found we had a lot to talk about.  Libby Greenway’s paper on Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer was terrific, but even better was that Rivera came for a screening of the film, and I was able to talk to him briefly.  All this helped persuade me to use Sleep Dealer in the sf class this summer instead of District 9, which will already get plenty of attention without my assistance. The best academic paper I heard was on Lost (I told you this is a cool conference).  Elizabeth Berkebile McManus’s “Protecting the Island: Interior and Exterior Space in Lost” provided an excellent perspective for viewing the enigmatic series.  Finally, not wanting to attend a conference without making a fool of myself, I volunteered to be in Timothy J. Anderson’s short play.  I swam around the auditorium with my fellow thespians in a drug-addled state (in the script).  I had several compliments on my swimming-without-water technique.  The other two plays, by Jeanne Beckwith (who also directed Tim’s play) were hilarious.  Andy Duncan and Brett Cox were bickering Martian astronauts, and John Kessel, Sydney Duncan, Kij Johnson, and Jim Kelly were a riot in “The Last Detective Story.”  The theme for next year’s conference is The Fantastic Ridiculous.  I can’t miss that!

Tomorrow I head for Orlando for my favorite convention, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, held every spring at the Airport Marriott.  It’s a scholarly conference that invites several of us writers to attend and generally lower the level of the discussion.  The poolside conversations are a delightful blend of gossip and literary criticism.  My reading is the very first time slot, so I can kick back and relax the rest of the time. Nalo Hopkinson is one of the guests of honor, and I’ve always liked her work.  This year’s topic is Race and the Fantastic. I’ll let you know what we decide.

Friday night, 5-7 pm, at Book People, 536 Granite Avenue (near Libbie and Grove) will be Richmond Noir Open House with editors and contributors available to mix, mingle, and sign.  Saturday, we’ll be at the Barnes & Noble, 1-4 pm, at Libbie Place.  Stop by PetSmart and see the dogs, then come by and visit us, maybe adopt a copy or two of Richmond Noir.

Finally, here’s a wonderful review from the Library Journal:

Richmond Noir. Akashic. Mar. 2010. 290p. ed. by Andrew Blossom & others. ISBN 978-1-933354-98-9. pap. $15.95. M
Richmond, VA, is a city of contrasts. Steeped in history—as the capital of the Confederacy and a center of slave trade—the city has become known for state politics, commerce, culture, and crime as it has become increasingly diverse, while still symbolizing Southern gentility. Although each of these 15 stories reveals a side of Richmond, its contrasts are shown most vividly in Dennis Danvers’s “Texas Beach,? in which a man finds the body of an immigrant killed accidentally while illegally felling trees so that a prominent white politician would have a better view of the James River from his mansion. Murder, scattered through these entries, is most chilling when it is imminent, as in Tom De Haven’s “Playing with DaBlonde,? in which a laid-off ad exec who’s into porn sees premonitions coming true. VERDICT A lovingly compiled entry in Akashic’s strong regional noir series, this could have appeal beyond the Commonwealth and its capital.

  WRIR, 97.3 in Richmond, one of our favorite radio stations, was in attendance at Fountain Bookstore the other night for one of the Richmond Noir readings.  Check it out:  “Richmond Gets to Tell its Own Dark Story.”  Don’t miss the audio clip, and be sure to wait for the end where I give it my best Texas for the first paragraph of “Texas Beach.”  A big thanks to Kelly Justice of Fountain and Caroline Jackson of WRIR for their support of local writers.

Toothache, root canal,

muffler clatters to the road—

Watch the money go.

Brian Castleberry and I were on TV Thursday morning promoting Richmond Noir and the wonderful New York Deli event.  Here‘s a link to the video.  Jay Leno, eat your heart out.

I’ve always wanted to use the word extravaganza in a post, and this is the event for it.  Richmond Noir Editors Tom De Haven, Brian Castleberry, and Andrew Blossom will all be there, and I’ll be reading, but wait, wait, there’s more.  X.C. Atkins, Clay McLeod Chapman, David L. Robbins and Howard Owen will also be reading, but wait yet again, there’s even more. Musical Guests, The Scott Burton Trio, will be performing, and Ward from Chop Suey Books will be selling books, and people will be eating and drinking and generally having a great time, and then…  Well I’m sure there’s more, but that’s up to you how you end the evening, but whatever else you do, come to New York Deli tomorrow night, March 4th, 8:30 pm.  Later on, I understand, there karaoke for those who totally lose their minds.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve waited a long time for this.  I keep looking at the name on the cover.  Gordon sees fit to give the story an adult WARNING, so I suppose I should too.  Any adults out there?  Never mind.  Here’s the first paragraph to get you started:

Let’s start with the part where you won’t like me much, then take it from there.  No excuses.  I was married to a nice man with a little girl three years old, when I fell in love with another man and left my husband, lost my child in the custody battle, and ended up in the high Rockies with my lover.  He changed.  What did I know?  I’d known him nine months when he shot himself in our cabin, the dead of winter.  I dragged him outside so he’d freeze solid and I could figure out what to do with him, but before I figured it out, something dragged him off.  When the thaw came, I got down off the mountain.  I live in the city now, a different one from where my husband lives.  He’s remarried, moved on.  My daughter calls her stepmother Mom last I heard, though she’s old enough by now to have a daughter of her own.  I leave them alone.  That’s the only thing I’m proud of in that story, not that I ever tell it.  So that’s who you’re dealing with.  In case you think it matters—a person’s best-forgotten, sordid past.  For what it’s worth, I’ve changed too.