Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Readercon Schedule



Since the cool kids are posting theirs...

Friday july 11

11:00 AM CR Teaching the Ghost Story: A Seminar for Instructors. Erik Amundsen, Michael Dirda, Gemma Files, Jack Haringa, Glen Hirshberg (leader). This presentation and conversation will help help instructors inspire fresh, compelling new work in the ghost story genre. Longtime writing teacher Glen Hirshberg will go over essential principles that all instructors will find useful when teaching writers of all levels, and will open the floor for the sharing of tips and techniques.

2:00 PM EM Fearful Symmetries Group Reading. Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, John Langan. Fearful Symmetries is a new all-original anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, published by Chizine Publications.

7:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Marc Abrahams, Gemma Files.

8:00 PM ENL Dealing with Discouragement. Lisa (LJ) Cohen, F. Brett Cox, Gemma Files, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Bud Sparhawk. As writers, we learn very early on to handle rejection, but how do you handle it when a story you're sure is good is rejected by 20 different publications? Or when your carefully crafted novel is shrugged off by five different agents? Or your self-published novella is bought by only 25 people, all of them friends and relatives? Or your fantasy novel disappears from public view after a couple of weeks? This discussion, led by Barbara Krasnoff, will cover personal strategies to deal with disappointments, rejection, and other setbacks.

10:30 PM F Meet the Pros(e).

Saturday July 12

10:00 AM E Autographs. Amal El-Mohtar, Gemma Files.

3:00 PM F Dark Fantasy and Horror: What's the Difference?. Jeanne Cavelos, Ellen Datlow (leader), Gemma Files, Jordan Hamessley, Jack Haringa, Steve Rasnic Tem. "As an editor of both dark fantasy and horror," Ellen Datlow writes, "I've been struggling with differentiating the difference for the last couple of years, particularly when editing the Best Horror of the Year, but also when reading for the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare magazine." This panel of editors will discuss how they draw the line between horror and dark fantasy when selecting stories for publications that are firmly in the horror field—or vice versa.

6:00 PM Women Destroy Science Fiction/Horror Reading, with Livia Llewellyn et al. (Not sure where it is yet.)


Sunday July 13

12:00 PM G Horror for Diverse Audiences. Gemma Files, Nicholas Kaufmann, John Langan (leader), Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland, Shveta Thakrar. Stereotypes and -isms often come from the id, from a place of deep fear. Horror writers have made use of this for ages, particularly describing monsters and monstrousness in ways that evoke racial anxiety, sexual anxieties, and fears of bodily change. However, that only works if your audience is in the racial majority, sexual majority, and able-bodied. What is the place of horror based on normalized fears for someone who doesn't or can't identify with the norm? How can writers effectively write horror for diverse audiences with diverse fears and anxieties? Can horror be a tool for expanding social empathy and social justice?

2:00 PM EM Reading: Gemma Files. Gemma Files. Gemma Files reads selections from her work in progress Experimental Film and the upcoming book We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven

The long Canada Day weekend was a bit of a crazy grind, as ever, but at least I got the corrections in on the We Will All Go Down... proof and finished "In Hell, An Eye." Today will be about trying to finish "What You See (When the Lights Are Out)," hopefully in time for that deadline. If not, I'll at least have something to bank for later. And today Cal starts summer school, and tonight I'm seeing a theatre show with my Mom, all that.

So: onward.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We Will All Go Down Together: An Alphabet (Part One)

Hey, all. As We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven slouches towards publication on August 19th, I've decided to preface it with a bunch of new posts, another alphabetized compendium of themes and characters from the book. Here's the first one, right at the end of June:


A is for All Of Them Witches

The phrase in question references Rosemary's Baby—it's what the first girl the coven who eventually foist an antichrist on our titular character tries to warn her of, with middling results—but primarily it's the phrase that the term “witch” always sparks in my mind, or maybe my personal witchcraft hashtag. And it's certainly appropriate here, where so many of our characters actually are witches, even the ones who don't identify as such.

The Five-Family Coven is, as its name suggests, made up of five families whose brief partnership dates back to the 1600s, when they met during the reign of James the Sixth (of Scotland) and First (of England). Three of these families trace their descent back to three women, two peasants and one upwardly mobile, all witches—a sort of coven inside the coven. The other two are both artistocratic, one led by a changeling and primarily made up of her half- and quarter-Fae descendants, the other led by the latest in a string of hereditary warlocks/heirarchical magicians, who married into the changeling's family. This class disparity allows the aristocrats to eventually betray and abandon their non-aristocratic partners, leaving them to face the mechanics of the Scots witch-hunting machine, and every bit of bad blood between all five families can be traced back to that particular source.

My personal opinion about witchcraft, to head a potential philosophical sidebar off at the pass, is that obviously it doesn't “work” per se IRL, except in a purely metaphorical sense. But I've been fascinated since I was very young by the question of how people could ever think that it did, both from the witch-hunter angle and the witch/warlock angle. One of the first places I ran across a precis of the primary Burning Times myth was in Barbara Ninde Byfield's sadly out of print 1967 The Book of Weird (also known as The Glass Harmonica: A Lexicon of the Fantastical). It's a sort of proto-Tough Guide to Fantasyland in many ways, defining and explicating creatures such as Cockatrices, Dragons, Ghouls etc., while also charting the differences of degree between linked subjects like Wizards and Sorceresses, Giants, Ogres and Trolls, or Oafs, Churls, Louts and Knaves. Yet it also touches here and there on not-so-simple human evils, like Torture, Punishment and Execution.

Byfield's version of witchcraft makes it look nasty, brutish and short, definitely spinning on the idea that the people who ended up accused of witchcraft were, in the main, poor, indigent, ill and female. They swapped their immortal souls for a certain amount of temporal power, but like Schrodinger's Cat, it was the sort which stopped working the minute anybody looked at it (especially anybody from the Church). And while it's possible that Colin Wilson has something with his theory that after a while, people—like Isobel Gowdie, the Scots housewife who just suddenly confessed to witchcraft, without prompting or torment—might imprint on the generalized witchcraft narrative and fetishize it, treating it like the world's most epiphanic S/M fantasy scene, it seems far more likely to me that for people like the Pendle Witches (see Jeannette Winterson's The Daylight Gate), witchcraft provided a kind of outlet for those who felt utterly powerless to effect anything around them, people to whom the devil would necessarily seem like a better invisible friend than the God who propped up all the authoritative structures which kept them excluded.

I also think it's possible to argue that while there may indeed not have been any “real” witch-cults at the beginning of the Burning Times—just vaguely pagan mainly-women (midwives, herballists, etc.) who broke the mold and had to be put down, or aristocrats whose money and lands the king wanted, or scapegoats for whom witchcraft accusations were the further demonization needed to whip public disapproval into a killing frenzy—there actually might have been some, by the end. That these might have been second- or third-generation philosophical “terrorists” who'd seen their families destroyed by witchcraft accusations, and thought: okay, well, if everyone's going to assume I'm a witch anyways... then why not form a little cell of similar malcontents, go down to the graveyard every month and dance back-to-back, eat filth, act out displays of cursing your neighbours, kiss the ass of some dude in a devil suit, engage in an orgy, repeat?

When the North Berwick Witches tried to kill King James by melting a wax doll with his name on it, it may well have been at the instigation of his cousin Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, who himself took on the persona of Black Man at the sabbat: weaponized witchcraft. The myth come full circle.

Anyhow, that's where the image of witches in We Will All Go Down Together comes from. I'm not saying it's true, because it's not. I'm saying “what if?”, and acting accordingly.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014: Let's Try That Again

Hello, everybody--Gemma Files here. Since I've spectacularly failed to keep up my problog (this one) for the second year in a row, let's call third time a charm. Music At Midnight is once more open for business! So let's have all the news:

As of December, 2013, the entire Hexslinger Series has been collected and republished in an Omnibus Edition that's currently available from ChiZine Publications. E-book only thus far, I'm afraid; my publishers point out that a physical version of all three books would run over 900 pages long, especially if it included the almost 30,000 words' worth of supplemental short stories and novelettes that it comes attached to in electronic form ("Like A Bowl of Fire," "In Scarlet Town (Today)" and "Hexmas," all post-canon, starring Chess Pargeter and others). That said, if you want to lobby CZP for a collectors' edition, feel free. (I'd also really love to see the short pieces collected in a chap-book, which I think might be entirely doable.)

Meanwhile, I spent the last part of 2013 writing and assembling We Will All Go Down Together: A Novel in Stories About The Five-Family Coven, which I'm proud to say is finally finished and slated for (I believe) a summer release from CZP, probably in June or July. So I'll be starting a series of lead-up posts which discuss various elements of this mosaic tale--Canadian-ness, legends of the Fae, folk-singing, parapsychological research, King James's crusade against witches, tales of the Catholic saints and martyrs, the Five-Family Coven itself--before the book comes out, which should be fun. I'm both chuffed and a bit frightened to see it's already on a few people's lists of stuff they're looking forwards to this year, but as I've already noted, at least it's done. What happens now is more packaging and promotion than anything else.

And then there's the continuing problem of Experimental Film: A Novel. I failed to write this in 2013, much though I did try; however, I think I may have a method for it now, and I'm already hard at work. Given how scary I'm finding it to complete, who knows? This may well prove to be my masterpiece.;)

At any rate--sorry for the long silence. Look forward to sharing it all with you. Here we go, again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

After a Moment of Panic...

...in which I thought my entire blog had disappeared, an am very happy to discover I'm wrong on that, it occurred to me that I haven't actually written anything in here for months. Here, therefore, is the 411:

I'm still working hard on wrapping up We Will All Go Down Together, hopefully for early December. Short story short--my kid got sick, I got sick, I'm STILL sick, it's a nightmare. But I'm very happy with the way things are going, an am determined to give my readers the very best possible Novel in Stories experience I can. That takes time, apparently. Who knew?

In other news, the Hexslinger Omnibus is almost upon us! Out in time for Christmas from the fine folks at CZP (natch), this e-book-only offer gets you all three books in one huge file, plus almost 50,000 words' worth of brand-new material! These latter stories--"Like a Bowl of Fire," "In Scarlet Town (Today)" and "Hexmas"--are set after the end of A Tree of Bones, and will hopefully tell you interesting things about (most of) your favourite Hexslinger Series characters. I am in the process of inquiring as to whether or not there will be a way to buy the new stories separately, but will keep you updated.

Aaaand...that's it. Thanks for hanging in there. All best.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

So Now It Can Be Told: We Will All Go Down Together Edition

So...as we all know, I've been having a hell of a time with Experimental Film, and while I think I'm in a far better place than I was, some strategic decisions needed to be made about my ostensible October, 2013 deadline. I wasn't sure if I could talk about this yet, but as of last night I've been given the go-ahead, and here's how it's going to be:

Instead of delivering Experimental Film for October, I'm delivering a book called We Will All Go Down Together: A Novel in Stories About the Five-Family Coven...ie, CanCon gone very, very dark, somewhat like Alice Munroe, but with witches, magicians and the Fae. This collects many of the stories I've come to call my “Toronto the Weird” pieces and organizes them into a loose sort of narrative which highlights the fact that the same characters and touchstones show up in a surprising number of them.

The book will therefore package not only (for example) “The Narrow World,” probably the oldest entry in this roster (which first appeared in Queer Fear II and was reprinted in The Worm in Every Heart), but also all the subsequent Five-Family Coven-related stories which have appeared in various anthologies, magazines and what-have-you since then, most of which very few people aside from me have ever seen contextualized in terms of their shared universe—after which I'll add in on top five entirely new pieces, never before published, the latter three of which will (hopefully) bring closure to various ongoing sagas. I'm putting together the initial manuscript submission package right now, and I have to tell you, it's been really exciting to watch it take shape.

My work-schedule until October, therefore, will basically go like this—

Finish “In Scarlet Town (Today)”
Draft and write “Hexmas,” the final short story supplement for the upcoming Hexslinger Series Omnibus eBook, to be released in December, 2013
Finish “Furious Angels”
Finish “History's Crust”
Draft and write “Helpless”
Draft and write “Hungry Ghosts”
Draft and write “Under These Rocks and Stones”
Write various supplementals for We Will All Go Down Together (an introduction, an article about the Five-Family coven, a family tree, a timeline); integrate all material into manuscript.
Also: Write various other stuff, as needed. But this is the core, the stuff that has to happen. And it gives me such an amazing thrill to finally be embarked on it, especially after all the various fits and starts and contortions Experimental Film has been putting me through. Especially since, as it stands now, We Will All Go Down Together in its raw form is already up over 100,000 words.

Let me be clear, though: None of this means Experimental Film ISN'T going to happen, just that I need more time in order to do it the way it deserves to be done. And because of CZP being wonderful enough to let me substitute a project I was always going to do with them anyhow, everyone wins: a new Gemma Files book comes out next June/July, to be followed by the novel Experimental Film was always meant to be—the one I've been blundering towards all this time, but finally believe I've cracked, in terms of outlining/writing.

In other news, school just ended, and summer school starts on July 2nd. Got Cal all up my grill 'til then, and after, though in hopefully smaller doses.;)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hey, all--

Well, it's a whole 'nother year...five months into one, in point of fact...and I've really let things go around here. A large part of that has to do with working on Experimental Film, which is frankly kicking my ass hard (as it should, I guess), but there are other factors at work as well: personal health issues, stress, fatigue, my son's ASD, etc. So I thought I would drop in with a few words about what I'm doing right now, and where to find me for the next little while.

I've been picking up a lot of reprint action, which is pleasant. My story "Kissing Carrion" will be reprinted in Dead North, an anthology of Canadian zombie fiction, in October, 2013. Ellen Datlow picked up my story "Spectral Evidence" for her Hauntings anthology, out right now. She also took my poems "Jar of Salts" and "Haruspicy" for Lovecraft's Monsters, due in 2014, and my story "Nanny Grey", from Solaris's Magic anthology, for Best Horror of the Year Volume 5. Very recently, Stephen Jones picked up my King in Yellow mythos story "Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars", from Miskatonic River Press's wonderful A Season in Carcosa, for the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24 anthology. That makes twice in a row that he's featured something of mine, which makes me feel all tingly, like I'm Joe Hill (or Simon Stranzas).

In terms of new work, I'm still waiting on A Mountain Walked from Centipede Press, which will feature my Lovecraftian novella "[anasazi]", and is edited by S.T. Joshi. My very short story "One In The Morning, And One At Night" will appear in the next issue of The Three-Lobed Burning Eye, while my  Thomas Ligotti tribute "Oubliette" will close out Miskatonic River Press's The Grimscribe's Puppets, which looks absolutely amazing (Joe S. Pulver Snr. edits, as with Carcosa). And for fans of my work involving supremely effed-up QUILTBAG relationships between dudes with magical powers, may I guide you towards what I've been calling my "Hammer Pirates" cycle? Written in non-linear order, the middle instalment, "Trap-Weed", will appear in Mike Allen's Kickstarter-funded Clockwork Phoenix 4, while the origin-story, "Two Captains", is coming later this year from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I just sold what was supposed to be the final movement, "The Salt Wedding", to Kaleidotrope, which will have it up early next year.

Okay, so...that's it, basically. I'll be at World Horror this year, and I'll also be at Readercon. I'm teaching my first online horror-writing course, in order to raise funds for the Shirley Jackson Awards. Everything is sort of coming up just around the corner, constantly hitting me in the face, and I'm moving from deadline to deadline. But this is frankly nothing new, so; there you go.

I'll try to make myself more available here, but do surf by the non-professsional TMI blog (my LJ) if you want more regular updates. All best.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing


Having been tapped to do this meme by both James Cooper (http://www.jamescooperfiction.co.uk/thenextbigthing.htm) and Jonathan Oliver, I've decided to lead with it today, hoping it'll break me through that self-organizational wall I've been wrestling with. So:

What is the working title of your next book?

Experimental Film: A Novel. It's supposed to be my first full-length stand-alone, after finally finishing up the Hexslinger series, so that's its own very peculiar brand of performance anxiety, right there.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Much like my prospective main character, Lois Cairns, I was a film reviewer for eight years and taught Canadian film history for ten, which is an...interesting genre to try and get students excited about, especially Canadian ones. I basically had to cobble my own curriculum together from various sources, and was forced to think analytically about just why the Canadian system “works” the way it does, as well as why Canadians—English-speaking Canadians, in specific—seem drawn towards the types of films we produce. Short story short, a lot of it is about negative definition, ie wanting to distinguish ourselves from the States by making the exact opposite of what we perceive to be a “Hollywood”-type movie. Which may well be why one of the richest veins of Canadian film lies in the realm of explicitly non-narrative, incredibly artsy, experimental film.

But while this is a thematic itch I've wanted to scratch for almost forever, it's not exactly hook material. So let me hasten to add that there is a genuine plot at work, as well: After losing her job and falling into a depressive state, Lois accidentally stumbles across evidence that there may have been a hitherto-forgotten female filmmaker operating in Ontario around the same time as George Méiliès did in France, making similiarly fantastic-horrific films on highly flammable silver nitrate film. Naturally, she pursues this evidence, hoping to parlay it into a documentary and book that will establish her on the Canadian film history map. But what she discovers is that this woman was working out of her own obsessions, trying to create a film that would transfer one specific image she'd been literally haunted by all of her life into other people's heads...and as result, at least one of her films—the last, most effective, one, created just before she herself disappeared under mysterious circumstances—is something no one should ever watch.

What genre does your book fall under?

Oh, horror, natch. Always horror. It's probably closest in structure as well as content to “each thing I show you is a piece of my death”, the Shirley Jackson award-nominated novelette I co-wrote with my husband, Stephen J. Barringer, which makes it a cross between M.R. James and The Blair Witch Project. But because it's a book, what I want is a nested documentarian presentation that juxtaposes subject interviews with a pseudo-CanCon prosefic/True Crime overall narrative voice that you only gradually realize belongs to a completely different yet equally real person, the journalist Gregg Polley.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmm, well: Going CanCon, I'd like to cast my old schoolmate Megan Follows as Lois, because we're almost the same age and I want to see her onscreen again. For Lois's much put-upon student turned intern Safie Hewsen, I'd like to cast an explicitly Canadian-Armenian actress, though an American-Armenian actress of the right age (25 or so) would also be okay; if I had to cross-cast, though, I'd tap Agam Darshi, because she also needs to work more. Gregg Polley would be David Hewlett, while Colm Feore would be perfect for the smallish yet important part of Dr Guilden Abbott, head of the Freihoeven Institute for Psychic Research, through whom another lynchpin character I'd like to cast out of French Canada would be discovered, a very old man who we only get to “know” through interview footage. Jonathon Young would be perfect for the self-obsessed experimental filmmaker/former National Film Board of Canada employee Wrobert Barney, in whose sample-heavy movies Lois first discovers traces of the work of our lost female filmmaker, while the filmmaker herself...here I'd have to break ranks and cast Alice Krige, just 'cause. But then again, she was in Guy Maddin's Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, which makes her an honorary Canadian.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The elevator pitch is: “Martin Scorsese's Hugo meets John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns”, but this obviously works better if you've seen either of those movies, so...(Shrugs)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It's due in September, 2013 to ChiZine Publications. If things go the way they have thus far, that means it may be out sometime in early 2014.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Again, if things go as they have thus far, I expect the first draft to be roughly on time, with edits done a month after that. This will hopefully be a shorter book than either of the Hexslinger sequels, given that it's a self-enclosed narrative.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

In a lot of ways, I think this is going to be my attempt to write something like Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, an outright creeper with a Jamesianly matter-of-fact antiquarian tone. But I also want it to have some of the impact of books by people like Kathe Koja (Skin) and Adam Nevill (The Ritual), which will be interesting to deal with, because I'm trying to write about the book's events from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. My CanCon prosefic models, OTOH, would be Lynn Crosbie, Michael Ondaatje, Susan Musgrave and Gwendolyn MacEwen biographer Rosemary Sullivan.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See above, but: The notion of a haunted film has always provoked and fascinated me, probably because creating fear through the visual image is one of the hardest things imaginable. I also always wanted to write something which was specifically “Canadian”, perverse and outrageous and self-mythologizing, my very own version of a Telefilm-funded project that'd never, ever make it past the first few assessment rounds. Then again, I always have to remember that one of my old teachers, Paul Donovan, once wrote a satirical novel eviscerating the Telefilm experience, then got Telefilm to fund him to make a movie out of it.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Well, it's a lot less of a sausage-fest than the Hexslinger books were, so that might be a draw or a drawback, depending on what you like: Female main character(s), female monster(s), female mythology, female-driven story. In a way, it's a nightmare fantasia about female creativity with sidebars about being the mother of a special-needs child, as well as the info-dumps about Canadian film history. But then again, hopefully, it'll just make you really uncomfortable to be reading it alone.;)