Saturday, April 30, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Forgive the content mill-ish title. Anyhow. Major mass market paperback house Leisure Books/Dorchester Publications has been in a death spiral for some time now, owing money to both their authors and a number of creditors. Recently, they have engaged in a number of shenanigans, like selling ebooks they no longer hold the publishing rights to.
This goes beyond horror, including also mystery and romance mmpb writers. A lot of writers haven't seen a royalty check in eons, and Dorchester as a whole has been dragging their feet on legally returning all publishing rights back to their rightful owners. In short, Leisure Books / Dorchester publishing has become as reliable as a some of the more fly-by-night print on demand small presses (like the one operated by notorious psychotic crank from just outside ofChicago, who lives in his grandmother's basement, cannot string a coherent sentence together and has a record of stalking mid-list and successful horror novelists). Yes, Leisure Dorchester has gotten THAT bad -- possibly even much more toxic, since a fall from grace is involved. For further information on why Dorchester/Leisure needs to be actively boycotted, further information can be found on Brian Keene's blog, as well as the Boycott Dorchester FaceBook page.
However, there is one major loophole to the boycott that needs pointing out. There is a way to buy Leisure Books' novels and collections while keeping your hard earned money out of their hands. First, lets go through a few caveats, first. If you really, really, really have to buy that Tim Lebbon paperback, do yourself and the author a favor. Go to their blog and website and see what is in print, what is out of print, and what is slated for reissue. Brian Keene, for example, recently signed a contract with Deadite to bring most of his back catalog back as trade paperbacks and ebooks. So, most of his books can be bought with him earning a royalty off of the purchase (if not now, then eventually).
Some Dorchester authors, however, have not been as fortunate as Keene, in terms of obtaining a rights reversion. So, there may not be any reissues in the near or immediate future, both on paper and in e-ink. Plus, there may be older titles, say from Dennis Etchinson or Rick Hautala, that have been actively out print. These books can still be bought, if you must absolutely have them.
Go visit your local used bookstore. The used book business is fundamentally different than the local Barnes and Noble. These businesses buy books off of readers for very little, mark the price up slightly, and then pocket all the profit. True, there are no royalties that go to the author, but none of the revenue goes to publisher either. On the surface, that may sound exploitative, but it actually isn't. Used bookstores are usually not thriving business at the moment, and you will not see their owners driving Bentleys anytime soon. Besides, used bookstores offer an extremely valuable cultural service.
First, it saves books from being pulped or crammed into a landfill, offering a novel a second, third, fourth or fifth reading life. For this reason, used bookstores are cultural repositories. For example, in a particularly good used book store, a shopper can leave with Sarah Pinborough titles, the collected poems of Anne Sexton and a number of titles of the decline and fall of Rome -- while spending under $20 total. Traditional bookstore frequently purge and pulp their lingering inventory to make space whatever bullshit New York City marketing geniuses think will sell!, sell!, sell! (Usually with abysmal results, too). Typically, used book stores also sell items that are long out of print -- want to find Robert Bloch novels?--here's where you go.
Besides, used book stores are a dying breed, unfortunately. Ever since the economy entered a vortex of shit in 2008, a good number of them have been going out of business. If you factor in online shopping and the rise of ebook, it's made it a lot harder many to stay afloat. I'm only going by observation in my part of New Jersey on this, as I've noticed the numbers here dwindling every few years.
So, if you absolutely must have a Dorchester/Leisure paperback, buy them at used bookstores. After all, the authors won't be getting the money either way. (Which is why you need to buy their reissues, if they have them). However, your local used bookstore also needs both your support and your patronage. This is just another reason to shop at one.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
While at Walmart, I started writing many things that I just never finished, due to be tired all the time and then being distracted by my mom's ongoing health situation. At one point, I was seriously thinking of writing a book about the use of the macabre in poetry -- a how-to writing book. I'm not sure if I'll ever get back to it. However, here are the first couple of pages....
Simply because you want to—that should be a good enough reason by itself. Poetry allows a certain level of creative freedom fiction cannot afford. A poem does not have to live and die by narrative rules, and you do not need to follow the rhetorical strategies found within an essay. Of course, you can employ both, but a successful poem can create its own system and rules, so long as one iron clad commandment is met: it has to work, successfully, on the page, and claiming that it needs to be read out loud is a cop-out, just like hiding behind “but it’s how I feel” is the mark of an amatuer. This is why good poetry can run from ancient alliterative narrative, like in Beowulf to Shakespeare’s rhyming pentameter and more post-modernist work, like what one would find in Charles Olson’s body of work. No one system of prosody is superior to another, especially if you take the different shapes and forms as different types of tools to be used. No self-respecting carpenter would ever suggest that every job can be completed with only a hammer. This is why no serious student of poetry should ever dismiss fragmentation over rhyme, or language abstraction in favor of metrical lines. Sure, some poets, like Marilynn Hacker have spent a career writing formal verse, while more experimental poets like Ron Silliman have spent their time pushing the boundries of language. This is not an argument against specializing in a certain type of poetry. Just like a carpenter would never do every job with a hammer, a very skilled cabinet maker wouldn’t take issue with somebody who spends most of their time working with a lathe. Craft is craft. And a craftsman can recognize solid workmanship, even if it is outside their day-to-day relationship with their own favored set of tools. In short, the vague sense of “what is poetry” can open a whole new universe of writing possibilities.
That freedom, however, comes at a very high price. You will not make money. If you want to make a living writing, try writing novels or non-fiction books. Zombies and how-to essays sell. Poetry does not. In fact, writing poetry will likely cost you money. Pay-to-enter book contests are common, and a lot of journals still do not take email submissions. You will not be compensated very well for your work, and in many cases, you will only be paid in contributor copies. So, enter into this proposition carefully, with your eyes open. Most of all, you should know one other truth: while most of society does not take contemporary poetry seriously, poetry labeled as “horror” or “speculative” will be taken even less seriously. Pursuing a career as a poet is to actively consign yourself to obscurity. So, the question comes again: why the hell would you want to write this shit?
Simply because you want to—that should be a good enough reason by itself. Plus, there is no rule disqualifying poets from writing fiction, or essayists from dabbling in playwriting. When it comes down to it, writing is writing. Craft is craft. Yet, before wading into poetry for the first time, there are a few myths you should get out of your head.
1. Poetry is about emotion, and I have feelings!
Um. No. Journaling has positive therapeutic value. If you are writing for a personal sense of catharsis, good for you. However, keep it to yourself. Decorum changes quickly, once you seek to place that work in front of a reader. Writing a poem complaining of a broken heart may elicit a pat on the head from a loved one, but a potential editor or reader really doesn’t care how you came to terms with your mother’s cancer, or how you got over being dumped in your freshman year in college. Editors and readers don’t care about you; they care about the words on the page. If the quality of writing is not there, then they will stop reading halfway through. If you are writing because you are in need of therapy, then seek a therapist, not a poetry editor. This is not to say “confessional” poetry is all bad. Many poets have successfully written about their personal lives, but their facility and creativity with language keeps their work from being purely navel-gazing drivel.
2. Post-Modernists Have Killed Poetry.
Crock of shit. Pure and simple. People who make this claim usually do not widely read poetry. Metrical poetry is alive and well, and it is still being written and published. There is a theory that politics swings like a pendulum, back and forth, left to right. The history of poetry has done the same. The ascendency of free verse was met with profound skepticism. Then, it became the prevailing norm. During the Reagan years, the formalists pushed back, hard. Then, other poets pushed back against the formalists. Then, a journal like Fence comes along, claiming to try and straddle the line between the two. Yes, there are l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e and oilipo poets out there, doing crazy things with the English language. At the same time, formal and metrical poets are still doing their thing to. Both are not going away anytime soon.
3. Academics Have Killed Poetry
Also a crock of shit. However, there is something important to keep in mind, here. If you are going to spend most of your time writing poems, and not hammering out the zombie or vampire novel mass market paperback houses want to consider, then you will have to find a day job. Many poets are also English teachers, both in high school and in college.
Because poetry doesn’t sell as well as zombie or vampire fiction currently does, there are not a lot of major presses into publishing it. In fact, beyond some of the large New York City poetry publishers like Graywolf, Ecco, or Pengiun, a bulk of poetry is published by college and university presses. The reason is quite simply one of finances. University presses are often run by faculty and poorly paid graduate students. The university itself often helps with funding. It helps minimize the loss poetry can accrue.
Also, most importantly, see point #2. English teachers and college professors are not pointy-headed avant gardists; they are also not conservative minded formalists either. College English departments are filled with a vast array of different types of poets and teachers. Visit an English Department sometime, and you will say a vast array of political and aesthetic disagreements taking place.
4. There is No Such Thing as “Horror” or “Speculative” Poetry
“Genre” sometimes is just a word that describes content or subject matter. It doesn’t describe the over all aesthetic, shape, or form of the writing itself. Dracula, House of Leaves, and The Shining are all considered horror novels, but they are all profoundly different in how they are written. Yusef Komunyaakaa, Langston Hughes, and Reginald Shepard are/were a considered “African-American poets,” but none of those writers are alike either. Go through every genre label you will find on book flaps, from Feminist Poetry onwards, and you will find the same thing.
Horror is only a word describing subject matter. The claim that there is no such thing as “horror poetry” is asinine at best, as it turns to blind eye to literary history. Christopher Marlowe wrote “Dr. Faustus” in verse. Shakespeare wrote “Titus Andronicus,” a play full of rape, dismemberment, and cannibalism, in verse as well. I have yet to find one happy, non-tragic, non-mortified poem about the halochaust, disease, or any the darker aspects of humanity. Death is often the subject of poetry as much as love is.
Sure, you will not see a lot of good poems about zombies or vampires, but in terms of pop culture, those are relatively recent imaginative constructions. It’s largely untapped territory for metaphor. Give it time, and it will come. Many who argue against the mere thought of “horror” poetry argue also that there is a lot of really crappy poetry floating around the internet. This is nothing new.
Theodore Sturgeon once noted that “"Ninety percent of everything is crap." Science fiction, itself as an intellectual institution, should not held accountable for the countless trees slaughtered in the name of silly robots or swaggering starship captains. Shitty writing exists, and it will continue to exist as long as human beings pick up pens or furiously pound on keyboards. But, you cannot hold imaginative territory and metaphoric possibilities accountable for the sins of talentless writers. “Horror” will exist as long as human beings feel dread, fear death, have incomprehensible nightmares, and commit terrible crimes against each other. The Old Testament and other works of scripture were first set down thousands of years ago. Utopia has never come, and it likely never will. Unstanding humanity also requires understanding inhumanity.
Writing “horror” is another way of engaging in life. So what if there is a lot of crap out there? I would wager writers like Harlan Ellison or Phillip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut never stopped, looked at all the poorly written space opera, and said, “You know what? Not today, there’s too much garbage being published as science fiction. So, I’m going to write about sexually repressed teens at a boarding school. That will earn me respect.” So, it all comes back to one mantra.Why horror? Why write poetry? Simply because you want to— that should be a good enough reason by itself.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You is brilliant satire. Bradley Sands takes aim at the artificial construct of "masculinity" as perpetuated by the entertainment industry and does not relent. This novella is a rare piece of absurdity that remains funny on every page and in every paragraph.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Sometimes, SEO writing is awfully banal to write. Other times, it's an interesting challenge. Here is an example of what filling an order can sometimes look like. The order was simple. The word "Depression Quotes" had to be used four times... once as the title and three times in paragraphs. For whatever, reason, this couldn't be used -- the submission system bounced it back, and in some writing interfaces, resubmitting will trip their plagiarism automated-bot (since it already has a record of it word for word in the system). No biggie. Not the greatest bit of writing, I confess, but I was only out of ten minutes worth of wasted time writing it.
Misery loves company—the phrase has been used so much, it has become a cliché. However, it does not change it from being both true. In times of depression, people seek comfort in knowing they are not alone. Yet, a sympathetic friend or clinical therapist may not always be available. This is when some people turn to literature and find depression quotes. After all, a good piece of fiction or poetry allows a person to feel empathy towards the writer. As a result, this often helps with their personal struggles.
Over the course of centuries, many writers have grappled with depression. For this reason, knowing where to look may prove difficult to the uninitiated. Still, there is one genre of literature that may prove useful. In twentieth century American poetry, there was a group of writers called “The Confessionalists.” These writers include Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, John Berryman and W.D. Snodgrass. Each of these poets grappled with their emotions in unique ways, and they often built up their own personal mythologies.
An interested reader will find depression quotes throughout much of their work. As a result, these writers helped change the course of American poetry. Before them, most verse centered on elevated themes, and these made the resulting literature inaccessible to the common reader. Confessionalism brought poetry to a level many readers could emotionally relate to. Now, decades after their deaths, many poets now write like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.
Reading will never cure clinical depression by itself. However, coping with it requires dealing with it outside clinical therapy. Developing a list of depression quotes can help with troubling emotion on a day-to-day basis. To this end, confessional poetry can help
Friday, April 1, 2011
A poem this long has to be broad and deep, and Prime Directive is both, examining fatherhood and son-hood and their avatars-creation and destruction-in many ways, but most powerfully through the astigmatic and revelatory American lens of Star Trek. It’s also a page-turner, a rare virtue in poetry.” - Joe Haldeman, author of The Forever War