A CONVENTION’S TALE—A JOURNAL OF IMAGINARIUM 2019

A Convention’s Tale

Thursday, 10/11:

A slight delay in Chicago landed me in Louisville around seven o’clock. Greeted Holly and Stephen and was pleasantly surprised that my partner-in-crime Daniel Dark was also already present. Set up my table alongside Dark and we went for dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant and got to hear about each other’s new projects. As far as I was concerned, Imaginarium was already in full swing, as this type of exchange is what it’s all about.

After dinner we made our way back to the Ramada for a bourbon and a cigar. Ever prepared, Dark had black folding chairs with cup holders in his car. A kind of haunted midnight tailgate party ensued. Stephen, Holly, and family joined us, and all were in a good mood with the prospect of enjoying the convention ahead. Although I suck at smoking cigars, I managed to finish one this time around, and it probably also helped me set down the bourbon and say goodnight early so that I could wake up and finish the last chapter of Red December, a horror novel involving hunters and werewolves to be published with Seventh Star Press at a date to be determined. Getting the draft done “sooner the better” is a part of that determination.

Friday, 10/12

Up early and writing. I love writing in the hotel room’s spartan quietude. In many ways, basic is better. The uncluttered desk and the single functioning lamp on a dark, overcast day were the right magic. I finished the final scene, leaving only the epilogue and edits. It was pushing 11:00 a.m., so I would have to hurry to put the finishing touches on my vendor’s table. Happy though that I was disciplined enough to have rested and gotten work done.

Arrived in the dealer room and discovered that Dark and I were set up beside Steven Shrewsbury and J.L. Mulvihill. Was pretty stoked to see Shrews again and his impressive array of fantasy and weird west novels. It was also was a pleasure to meet Jen Mulvihill, and serendipitous to be among these cool folks as the convention kicked into gear in earnest and folks started coming to our tables.

Friday evening we had a fun on the Murder and Mayhem panel (moderated by Dark), followed by dinner with friend and writer Dean Harrison. We got talking and arrived a bit late at publisher Per Bastet’s room party, but had a great catch up chat with author Sara Marian Deurell of Per Bastet, along with R.J. Sullivan and many other friends old and new. By the time I made it back to the room I had a handful of books and business cards and a belly full of Kentucky bourbon. Life was good, but there was more to come, so tried to catch a few zzzz’s.

Saturday, 10/13

Was up reasonably early, made coffee and hit the writing. I had messed up the time the dealer room opened and arrived at my table at 11:00 a.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. Handed out a lot of Mommy and the Satanists flyers, and had a few people download it on the spot. Seems folks took the title in the spirit intended (so to speak) and hope those who downloaded it enjoyed the read. Also sold some copies of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales and swapped a few, too. Met and talked with Tommy B. Smith and Robb Hoff, who I hope to feature here on the blog in the future, and took a walk around to see the other tables. Highlights include the retro post-apocalyptic VW bus and getting to chat with Michael Knost, Stoker-winning author of Return of the Mothman and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

Later that afternoon I saw him again at the Books and Booze panel. This was also moderated by Dark and featured several other authors and friends as panelists. Not going to say much more about this particular panel in order to, as Bon Scott once said, “protect the guilty.” Suffice it to say that the Imadjinn Awards and ensuing dance party that followed were extra-extra-festive for all who attended…

Sunday, 10/14

Wasn’t up early, but was up feeling good. Took some time to write, working on Red December’s epilogue. There’s always a bittersweet feeling on a convention’s last day, the coffee flows a little freer, wistful thoughts of the good times coming to an end mix with the excitement to roll up your sleeves and put to use all the new knowledge and inspiration. Went off to a How to Blog panel I had at 10:00 a.m. moderated by Marian Allen. There were only two of us on the panel but it was fairly well attended for a last-day mid-morning time slot. Had a lively discussion about blogging which feels a little eerie to write about while writing a blog post, like standing between a pair of mirrors and trying to see where the reflection ends…

Arrived a little late at the dealer room due to the panel. Some of the dealers had already packed up, but had a great afternoon with Dark and Jen Mulvihill. Good to keep your table open the last day if you can because a lot of folks decide which books they really want to buy that day. Sold the last of the paperback copies of Slash of Crimson that I’d brought with me and swapped a few for books I’d been eyeing over the weekend.

By evening it was time to say farewell and enjoy the traditional outting to the Troll Pub downtown Louisville. Had a great conversation with Ana Maria and Val Michael Selvaggio and family covering topics from William Gibson to how to draw forest elementals. And of course we all raised a toast to Stephen Zimmer and Holly Marie Phillippe of Seventh Star Press, the originators and organizers of Imaginarium. Without them, the convention would not be, and we thanked them with all our hearts.

Afterward, and since the convention was technically over and I wasn’t flying out until noon the next day, I recruited Dean Harrison to take an urban hike across Louisville and see a bit of the city. As an outdoorsman who has spend a fair amount of time in the woods, and someone who just likes travelling, I’ve always found the urban hike’s a great way to experience a city. Good to do them in stout company and with a certain respect for caution. But really, nothing like watching the neighborhoods and landscapes unveil themselves a block and a street at time.

Going on the good advice of Sara Marian Deurell, we set Highland Tap Room on Bardstown Road as our GPS destination. How we’d get there allowed for some improvisation. Though the “by car” directions call it 4.7 miles, on foot it’s a mere 2.4. Either way, it’s a short jaunt. We headed east out of downtown and ended up on East Jefferson Street. The walk had already taken us through some concrete landscapes dotted with the kind of trees and grass that grow wilder than expected in those corners between highway ramps and industrial lots. Once on East Jefferson, the architecture turned to a mix of historic-abandoned, historic-restored, and a few newly constructed large apartment buildings. Continuing east, we passed the original site of the St. Vincent Orphanage. The buildings had that low-roofed brick with slightly stylized cornices look I’ve taken to be somewhat trademark of southern and mid-western cities. A larger brick building loomed in back. It looked restored and repurposed, though a few of the smaller buildings look rather dark late on a Sunday night.

We moved on to pass under a railroad bridge where a graffiti-laden train slinked above us like a slow moving, tattooed serpent. Our right turn onto Baxter Street beckoned us on. Dean was great company on the urban hike, undaunted by ghosts or serpents, with his eyes on our prize of the refreshment ahead. We stopped briefly by the Bluegrass Canal which was lit up by some construction lighting. It was another spot where the vegetation and trees couldn’t be contained by the concrete and kept whatever secrets it had snug and unseen among its roots. Pressing ahead we discovered we had crossed into a neighborhood called “Nulu”, complete with an abundance of scooters and record stores. The 19th Century townhouses looked a little more restored here, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in an exquisite distillery, Prohibition Bar, which makes “Agave” spirits in bourbon barrels. I think the bartender thought we were the ghosts when we appeared late on a Sunday night. But he was a good dude for an original take on an Old Fashioned and took us on quick tour of their distilling room. By the time we were done, the bar filled up some and we learned Louisville is undaunted by some after-hours nightlife on a Sunday, hells ya!

Another half-mile past the Eastern Cemetery and some intricate and moderately creepy churches, and we made it to Bardstown Road and the Highlands Taproom. Looked like there were a lot of great vinyl record shops we would have stopped in along the way had it been earlier. And yet despite the late hour and missing the performance of a punk band intriguingly named Nice Job, we deemed the urban hike a success. We killed off the post-convention blues as well as celebrated those electric new prospects already coursing through our veins. The shots of Old Forester and Malort, chased down with a couple glasses of ale also helped. Farewell Imaginarium and Kentucky. See you next year!

Carl R. Moore is the author of Mommy and the Satanists and Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, published by Seventh Star Press.

REVIEW OF ARI ASTER’S MIDSOMMAR (WARNING: SPOILERS)

Graduate students Dani Ardor and Christian Hughes are suffering a meltdown in their relationship. Dani has suffered a shock—her parents and mentally ill sister have committed suicide. Christian has come to the realization both his anthropology thesis and his relationship with Dani are failing. They decide to take a trip to their friend Pelle’s home, a creepy commune in northern Sweden where the couple and their group of friends take a journey of self-discovery that parallels the unveiling of the darker plans the commune has in store for them. 

While MIDSOMMAR contains several familiar horror movie tropes—scary Scandinavia à la THE RITUAL, and the “we gotta get away from the twisted cult” of THE APOSTLE, it manages to steer off the heavily trafficked highway into its own territory. It dispels any typical “pagans are so wild and scary as opposed to what we’re used to” themes. It doesn’t go into great depth as to what the Hårga cult actually worships. In fact, Hårga’s cosmology/mythology is very sketchily drawn. It is refreshingly not “Cthulhu-esque”, there are no deities emphasized. Instead it is a kind of sun-cult mixed with a fear of a dark beast/devil from the woods. It draws in part from the lyrics of a folk song in which the young people of a village are seduced into an addiction to dancing. The cult’s beliefs center generally on cycles of nature drawn in basic terms.  

One twist is how the cult views time—on the one hand, it strictly delineates what is appropriate for each period of a person’s life. As Pelle explains to Dani, “spring” lasts until age eighteen, “summer” thirty-six, when a person is free to wander, “fall” thirty-six to fifty-two, when it is time to work, and “winter” lasting the remainder of their years until seventy-two, when it’s time to die. A time outside this structure is the Midsommar celebration during which the film takes place. This is a symbolic “time outside of time”. It parallels the period of life the main characters are going through, and the heavy ingestion of psychedelic drugs serves to prolong it. The lingering scenes where the Dani and her friends talk about their relationships and their careers meander from places of happiness and confidence to those of fear and anxiety about the future, and whether or not the members of the group will successfully transition to the next stage of life. They try and fail to escape their fates—they receive punishment for turning the cult into a graduate thesis, taking casual sexual pleasure from its members, and even for hubris at a simple potential marriage and career success. All collapses at the hands of the Hårga cult which itself becomes a metaphor for respect for the complexity of time, stages of life, and relationships. 

Dani remains the ultimate focus. The story belongs to her more than to the group and she and Christian as a “couple”.  As the cult dissects the group of friends, bringing them one by one to gruesome ends, Dani must navigate her own fate. Her family’s death and her flashbacks and memory of it also take on a metaphorical status. Her sister is very much her old self, and her parents a home that is now gone. Startlingly grotesque scenes follow, showing the price of failing to transition. The film takes on a feel more like a Grimm’s Tales for grownups than pagan bloodbath. Dani must outlast the Hårga cult members in a Maypole dance in order to become the May Queen. Christian must mate with a chosen maiden to supply new babies for the cult. They are two last chances for transition, but only one will make it through. 

In the end, MIDSOMMAR celebrates Dani’s awakening. She breaks free of the group that is slowing her down. She learns to show no mercy to the past and embrace her future, even if it involves the brutal sacrifice of those she once loved. Like a carnivorous flower, she gives us a new flavor of horror and follows through on how scary seeing the light can be.

THE REAL REASON THEY DON’T LIKE GAME OF THRONES

So it’s a thing now—to chat, post, go-off generally on how you’ve never seen Game of Thrones, don’t know no Game of Thrones, can’t stand the “G.O.T.” Some of this is honest apathy, nonchalant, “Sorry, just don’t know this stuff.” That perspective I certainly understand—I barely know who Kim Kardashian is myself. But for others, there is something more insidious going on. That’s right, there is an outright hostility toward the popularity of G.O.T. What is it? Is it the sex and violence? For some it may be. But I believe, deep down, there is something else at play—that’s right, somewhere between Jethro Tull, Dungeons & Dragons, and Revenge of the Nerds, what really gets the haters about G.O.T. is how it brings geek culture into the mainstream culture.

Imagine you see a geek at a bar (it happens—a lot of geeks make good money and enjoy good beer, right?) Imagine you see the same geek on a date with another geek—“Aw, look at those two little nerd-types out on a Friday night, aren’t they cute?” But then imagine this—you see a geek on a date on a Friday night and realize, “Hey wait a minute—what’s that D&D dude doing with the Miss All American Prom Queen? What’s that RPG chick doing on a date with the football star?” As Hamlet would say, there’s the rub. With the arrival of Game of Thrones, suddenly geek culture doesn’t know its place. Poindexter comes strutting into the club in a track-suit with diamond rings and an entourage. The Wall Street Journal is talking about nerd net worth. The President is referring to his office as the Iron Throne. You turn to your accountant husband to complain, but find he is halfway through A Storm of Swords. You tell your athlete wife a joke about the Throne-heads but she doesn’t laugh. This is a problem that needs to be thwarted, that deserves derision—geek culture is storming the gates of all we hold dear and must be stopped…

When I was a kid, to say you played Dungeons & Dragons was basically to say, “Hi, I don’t date. I’ve given up on a social life. PS, I suck at sports.” Not so anymore—it’s cool to post pictures of painted miniatures and having skills as a “dungeon master” is like being the lead singer for a band. RPG culture has developed a hip side, with all the positives and negatives that come with it. It could be argued much of this is owed to G.O.T.

But what about Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings, Twilight? True, these are popular fantasy stories. Yet none of them have a certain unique quality that G.O.T. possesses. Harry Potter, for all of its popularity among young and old is still mostly seen as a kids’ story. Twilight gets pigeonholed as teen romance. And while Lord of the Rings is arguably a forerunner of G.O.T., complete with a touch (but only a touch) of grimness, Lord of the Rings is ultimately Romantic with a capital “R” in that the good-guys prevail, the world is righted, light prevails over darkness and it reassures that epic fantasy is about saving the day.

What makes G.O.T, different is how it champions the beauty of Tragedy. It shows that the D&D players, the RPG fans, the nerd-world, can confront something the mainstream world usually has trouble contemplating, let alone enjoying—that is, real darkness, real tragedy. We are in the show’s last season, and we have yet to see whether George R.R. Martin’s once stated thesis—that the “bad guys” are just the “good guys for the other team”—will hold true to the end. But even at this point in the show’s narrative enough sympathetic characters have met tragic ends that we see this story, for all of its swords and dragons, has more to say more about real-world consequences than its critics want to admit. So let’s give it up for what fantasy can do when skill brings innovation to its clichés—it can make D&D as powerful as politics, give us a game where a checkmate is as potent as making—or losing—a touchdown.

Carl R. Moore is the author of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales and Mommy and the Satanists (Seventh Star Press).

REVIEW OF TOM PICCIRILLI’S SHADOW SEASON

Every March I start saying to my daughters, “This is the last cold day.” It begins early in the month and continues until a week or so after St. Patrick’s Day. Technically the first day of spring is March 20th, but here in Albany, New York, it’s about 30 degrees on March 23rd and it snowed last night. But today really is that last cold day, because tomorrow is in the fifties and the weather will stay over forty during the day until next fall. So that’s how I know today is meant for reviewing my winter re-read of Shadow Season by Tom Piccirilli.

For those not familiar, Tom Piccirilli is one of the late 20th – early 21st Century’s finest authors of thrillers, crime noir, and horror. I have featured his work on the blog before, and will again, because I feel his prose occupies a space that is uniquely insightful with regard to the crisscrossing of American cultural forces, and is also so skillfully rendered that it always reads with excellent pacing.

Shadow Season represents one of the novels where Piccirilli has already switched from crime noir-horror mashups to more straight ahead crime noir. It tells the tale of an ex-cop turned private school English teacher who is snowed in at his school’s campus in upstate New York. But Finn contends with something more than an already daunting list of trials from his time in law enforcement. Finn is also blind and must contend with a looming threat to St. Valarian’s Academy for Girls. Walking from building to building while three plus feet of snow is falling is no small feat even for one who is 100% fit—for someone who can’t see yet still detects that there is foul play afoot, it becomes intense and nightmarish.

Piccirilli already knows how to layer an elaborate description into a story without slowing the pace. But in Shadow Season, he delves into descriptions that are at once surreal in their engagement of a blind main character, but also stark in their realistic language so as to keep the mood of the sharp, hard-boiled crime novel alive. Many of the characters he interacts with are given faces from those Finn knew when he could see. This weaves in his backstory as a New York City cop without bogging the narrative down with backstory. It also meshes the present and past, the worldly and the dreamlike, in a web that is clear yet splendorous. When the plot reveals exactly what type of criminal threatens his colleagues and students, the reader has already developed an intimate concern for the Irish expat groundskeeper, the school’s alcoholic head mistress, and the deviant and snide, yet also talented and at times crying-for-help, students. The reader also witnesses a fusion of Finn’s quiet life as a teacher with his volatile past—the love of his life Dani, and Ray, his partner on the police force. Such are brought together in a story that walks the edge of triumph and tragedy, contrasts the animosity and kinship of the urban and the rural, and calls into question which is which.

So when winter comes around again, give Shadow Season a try. It will be there, as will all of this author’s many amazing books and stories, likely to continue to grow in their reputation and importance in the years to come.

 

Carl R. Moore is the author of Mommy and the Satanists and Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, published by Seventh Star Press. His lives with his family in upstate New York.

Welcome to the Deep Dark Night

So what’s up with the blog? I could come up with excuses—a trail of family health issues, domestic responsibilities, and as always, the rickety old house in need of attention. I could say it was overtime at the day-job (night-shift day job), that it was the polar vortex, the stressful political environment, the bastards who pass out drunk with a pile of losing scratch off tickets in my yard in Albany… But in years past I’ve been able to juggle all this and keep it up in despite, so really, what’s the difference?

Well—no excuses—in fact, only good stuff. In truth, I’ve been playing a lot of guitar and writing songs because I have had a few gigs. After the yearly nightmare of the commercial holidays, winter settles in to the part I love—February, the time for writing, reading, picking tunes by the fire with an ale. I’ve indulged in getting into the new novel I’m working on like it’s a game, an adventure in a snowbound forest with wolves and hunters, blood and lust. I have no apologies for having fun with it all. Because that’s what it’s supposed to be about, that’s why we do these things over others, the excitement, the discovery, the addictive dreams.

The time has come, however, to get things going again, yet with a few tweaks. The Crimes of Heaven and Hell blog as this has been named in the past, featuring the review/interview series Is That an Old Book? and Author’s Own Words has a new name and URL—Deep Dark Night blog—(www.deepdarknight.net).

The name change comes from a desire for a more fluid format. Some of my new material is still set in the Crimes of Heaven and Hell world, but I’ve also been having fun experimenting with more standalone work, the above-mentioned werewolf novel, and even dipping into some fantasy pieces. So I wanted a name that reflected this expansion in themes.

I think kicking off the new name dovetails nicely with Women in Horror Month. It’s always been my goal to read widely, review widely, and interview widely. My vibe is one that celebrates all the art and stories out there. I also try to avoid a lot of the bull. So it’s funny how many conversations I see on various social media platforms about the value of Women in Horror Month as if its existence should be debated. Egads—if nothing else can motivate us to be as inclusive as possible, can it not at least be that the promotions and celebration of women horror writers makes the genre larger, more interesting, and more fun? Any meat-headed resistance and stupid joking (like, When are we going to have Men in Horror Month? (gulp…)) is revolting beyond comprehension. It reminds me of that scene from the Simpsons way back in the day when the comic-book nerd finally finds himself talking with a girl. For a moment, it looks like he might have a real social interaction. Then she disagrees with him about a character and he’s like “Don’t try to change me!” Funny as it is sad and scary…

So for me this month has made me ponder not just who the new female voices in horror are, but also some of my favorite writers from the history of the genre. In keeping with my ‘antiquarian’ proclivities, it’s got me remembering the first time a friend turned me on to Clay’s Ark and the work of Octavia Butler. I think I might snag that one from the shelf and give it a re-read. And as I get the interview series going again, I most certainly be looking for the widest possible range of voices to feature here on the Deep Dark Night. Stay tuned and looking forward to digging into blogosphere once again!

Carl R. Moore is the author of Mommy and the Satanists and Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, published by Seventh Star Press. He lives in upstate New York with his wife Sarah and daughters Maddy and Izzy.

MOMMY AND THE SATANISTS EBOOK RELEASED TODAY!



Very excited to announce my new Ebook Mommy and the Satanists is now available from Seventh Star Press (also publisher of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, July, 2017). A disturbing, fast-paced little piece of sardonic horror, it might just brighten your Halloween lights, bring you back up from a sugar crash, cure your hangover, and perform a resurrection on el día de los Muertos!

By way of synopsis:

Overwhelmed suburban mom Annette Williams enlists a Satanic cult to help with the house and kids. When her husband George tries to stop her, all hell breaks loose in their quaint Vermont home.

So have a gander at this evil little book in hopes it will serve as an appetizer for more new work on the horizon!

Hailz and Horns up!

 

 

 

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble

Welcome to the Crimes of Heaven and Hell–the author page for  Slash of Crimson and Other Tales by Carl R. Moore, published by Seventh Star Press, and a number of new works coming soon. This is also the home of the Is That an Old Book review series. Looking forward to many new announcements, the first of which will be a special Halloween Ebook release of the satirical horror novelette Mommy and the Satanists. For now and for those who have not yet picked up a copy of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, please see the link below:

Thanks and read on!

Carl R. Moore