Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Following links can be a grand waste of time, particularly if you're randomly jumping from one blog to another. But eavesdropping can learn you all kinds of useful things, like where Victorian Goths shop for perfume. I give you the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Dig the fonts and the illustrations, but the real triumph is the descriptions of the scents, for instance:

In 1897, a new form of entertainment was presented to the people of Montmartre, Paris: the Théâtre du Grand Guignol. During the course of an evening at the theatre, one would watch several small plays, ranging from crime dramas to sexual farces, a violent, throat-ripping, eye-gouging, acid-tossing good time, which always included shock topics such as infanticide, necrophilia, insanity, murder, paranoia, vengeance and death by common household object. Our Grand Guignol perfume is a shot of sweet apricot brandy; just enough to settle your nerves after a ghoulish, gory brush with the macabre.

Now see: that's what I want in a Halloween party.

Among other things, Black Phoenix Alchemy has an entire line called "Mad Tea Party, or, The Dodson Collection"--inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I love it.
Hell, I want one of each.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

speaking of genius

I've been having the itch for some time to do some journaling in Sabine's persona. This is partly because I really adore carrying around small fancy overpriced "writing" books like they sell in Barnes & Noble, and I've been looking for an excuse to buy a fountain pen (not really sure what happened to my old ones). Up to this point, however, I haven't known what to say. There hasn't been anything for her to say, except maybe to rehash how Trace keeps giving her a hard time, and that would be just really boring and pointless.

Today on the drive into work, though, I had an idea. I knew eventually I would have to revisit some of Sabine's past, particularly with regard to the Mereck years (months? weeks?). I wasn't sure how I'd work it in, because I didn't want to shift out of Trace's POV. But today it dawned on me, I could have him find her journals of that time. I could write that part of the story in grand old epistolary form, á là Dracula and Frankenstein. How apropos. How frivolous and therefore satisfying. And I have just the useless little leather-bound book for the job.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the age of paleontology

I'd always kind of wondered about the study of paleontology and how it came to be. As with so many other of our modern sciences, I had a vague idea of it rising from the muck of the Industrial Revolution, but I didn't really know how or when. I had a sort of collective image of the late-Victorian Egyptologist grave-robbers and the early fossil-hunters being cut from the same cloth. And perhaps they were; before the turn of the century there still wasn't a lot of differentiation between the sciences or the scientists who studied them--an educated man was supposed to know a little about everything.

Today I found a site that overviews the rise of paleontology in America and Europe and now I'm all excited and discombobulated.
Colonial Americans understood neither the concept of geological time nor the actual process by which fossils were created. Their society was one that still looked largely to scripture for explanations of much of the surrounding natural world. For instance, the fossil fish and seashells found at quarries and construction excavations in the 1700s were widely believed to be residue from the great flood survived by Noah.

In 1841, Dr. Richard Owen, a leading British authority on anatomy, published a report concluding that the individual bones [found up until that time] were from animals that had all been members of a group of large reptiles that had completely died out in some past age. Because of their apparent size, as well as their fangs and claws, Owen called them by a combination of the Greek words for "terrible lizards" -- dino saurs.

The very idea -- that previously unknown species of monstrously large reptiles could have existed outside of the events documented in the Bible -- was a highly controversial one. It also exerted a deliciously exotic pull on the imaginations of nineteenth-century scientists and laymen alike.

I should think it would. And every time I read something like this I'm appalled to realize just how narrow and shaky the platform of science and reasoning is. Barely a hundred years ago we were still living in the dark ages. Most of the world still does. Hell, most of humanity still does. What passes for logic these days is not, by and large, a structured method of thought.

Of course now I'm brainstorming ways of letting Sabine work a lecture about dinosaurs into casual conversation and wondering if Trace will run across any dinosaur bones while he's out in the desert and musing over whether dead monsters buried in the earth could serve as a metaphor for anything else--or at least provide a horror sequence. The temptation with a character like Miss Fairweather is to give her a miraculous insight into all kinds of things we understand now--germ theory, for instance, which was in its infancy--antibiotics, anesthetics, stuff like that. But I must restrain myself, or I'll come off sounding like Clan of the Cave Bear chick, with cavegirl Ayla feeding digitalis to the mongoloid kid with the heart murmur.

At the same time, part of my interest in creating Miss Fairweather was to explore the collision of science and faith, which I have not done much of to this point because the science keeps taking a back seat to the occult overtones. Maybe something useful will come out of this new bit of knowledge.

Monday, October 03, 2005

update on EOTL, submissions in general

There've been several little flighty writing-marketing type things going on in the past week, which while fascinating and head-spinning to me, are not worth reporting in minutia here, and in some cases are quasi-confidential between me and my editor.

But to recap in general, Raechel at Jintsu has been in contact with me a few times about End of the Line. It's scheduled to come out in February, I may have said that already. She's preparing to send out Advanced Reader Copies to various review sites, none of which I had ever heard of--so much for being market-savvy--and asked if I had any author-friends who could contribute quotes for marketing purposes. Thank you, Rob and Joy.

Raechel's new marketing assistant wrote a "back-copy" blurb for EOTL; which was a relief to me, because I hate writing synopses, and the marketing chick got to the heart of the matter quite nicely. I was also asked to choose an excerpt, which I did--it's the same bit that made y'all squeal when I put it up here. It was a good excerpt, I knew it as soon as I wrote it.

The thought of having ARC's send to reviewers, though--that terrifies me. I keep remembering that Anne Rice debacle on Amazon--not that she wasn't asking for it. I said then, I'll have to be sure not to read any reviews of my work. Maybe I'll bribe someone to read them for me and forward the good ones. Worse, though, would be if no one bothered to review it. I can handle being hated, but ignored? That's cold.


In other news, I sent off "Gretel" to an upcoming anthology I happened to hear about, a collection of rehashed and reimagined fairie tales. Got back a nice email from the editor. He said their list was full, alas, and it was a pity because my story was at least as good as the one they'd already accepted. He said they may do a Volume Two, in which case I was "wholeheartedly invited" to submit again. So that was nice.

I have this curious feeling, and it may just be my ego talking, that I am standing alongside a carousel, watching it whirl past, moving in time to the rhythm and gearing myself up to jump for it, catch hold of one of those gilded posts and get whisked away. Of course I'll probably throw up once I'm on board, and some punk will try to sit beside me and make conversation, but from the ground it looks so bright and exhilarating. I'm eager for the ride.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

exhibits C, D, E, F and G*

I'm on a continuous scavenger hunt for other examples of western-horror novels. When I find one, which is seldom, I tend to approach it at an angle and with eyes half-shut, like it's going to spray me with acid or bite or something. Truth be told, I haven't found many, outside of the comic book realm. Here's a brief rundown:

Dead Man's Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West, by Nancy A. Collins. Nancy has a bit of a reputation for her Sonja Blue series, which sadly for her takes a back seat to Laurel Hamilton's Anita Blake series. Dead Man's Hand was apparently published by Two Wolf Press originally, but yesterday in Borders I found a trade paperback copy with Tor's imprint on the spine. I flipped through it; don't care for the style myself, and the stories are definitely horror shorts, as opposed to the dark-fantasy epic thing I'm shooting for.

Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin. Martin is probably the best-known of the authors whose works I have found in this genre; however I haven't read anything of his beyond A Game of Thrones, and I suspect few of his fans of that series ever heard of Fevre Dreams, which is a very cool title, by the way. It's the name of a paddleboat, rolling up and down the Mississippi in the 1840's, Huckleberry Finn time. The paddleboat captain unwittingly takes on an aristocratic vampire as a business partner. Lord, I am so sick of aristocratic vampires. My impression is, this is more an Anne Rice-style historical dark fantasy thing than a real western. But that's okay.

One of my writer's group informed me that an alumi of our number, William F. Wu, had written a supernatural western, but in reading the description of Hong on the Range I remain skeptical. It's more a pseudo-futuristic cyberpunk western. The reviewers were not kind, and neither is the $0.72 price tag. Bill is great fun to hang around with, but I personally don't go for broad humor and puns in fiction.

Then there are some contributions from the minor leagues:

Over at Yard Dog Press there are a couple of books by a guy named Ken Rand, whose name is vaguely familiar to me. Look at "The Golems of Laramie County" and "Tales of the Lucky Nickel Saloon."

I'm sure there are others--Joe Lansdale I know has a western-zombie thing out there called Dead in the West-- but I'm tired of looking.

For further reading, and a little listening pleasure, some guy named "Ruthven" over at Amazon compiled a handy list. I can't personally recommend any of it. What I find curious, though, is there's a fairly established subgenre of western horror in gaming--both live and video--and in comics. I wonder why not in fiction? Too hard to market, maybe?

*Exhibits A and B, in case you were wondering, were King's Dark Tower series and the comic series Desperadoes.