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.