Coming to Town: Nathan Ballingrud for “Noir at the Bar” at 106 Main in Durham

Tonight (Thursday, June 18) at 6:30 pm, Downtown Durham’s 106 Main hosts the city’s second Noir at the Bar event, with eight authors of dark fiction from across North Carolina holding court over drinks to talk about their work, including Durham’s Eryk Pruitt (DirtbagsHashtag) and Chapel Hill’s Jeremy Hawkins (The Last Days of Video), as well as Asheville’s Nathan Ballingrud who took the time for an email interview ahead of tonight’s event. Ballingrud is the author of the award-winning 2013 collection North American Lake Monsters (Small Beer Press) and the recently-released novella The Visible Filth (This Is Horror). Listening to Ballingrud read his story “The Good Husband” from North American Lake Monsters at Quail Ridge Books a couple years back, I could feel my chest tightening, my breath straining, my stomach clenching. He infuses his work with such realism and dread, an unease born of infidelity, weakness and inadequacy, of irrevocable violence, of disconnect, of inevitable mistakes, of decay. Whether grounded in the everyday dirt of reality or, as he does as well as anyone I’ve read ever has, on that rusted knife’s edge between our reality and another which lurks, ever-present even if not mentioned directly, under the surface, just out of your peripheral vision, or even in your own mind. The Visible Filth combines elements of crime fiction and The Weird, with nods to books like Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow and films like Koji Suzuki’s The Ring, as bartender Will deals with the aftermath of a fight and a misplaced cell phone. I’m looking forward to catching up with Nathan, Eryk, and Jeremy, and meeting the rest of the fantastic lineup that Eryk has put together for this one.  See you there!

The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud

Q: What are some of the essential differences to you when writing horror v. dark fantasy v. weird v. crime fiction, other than, say, “in some of them there are some possibly supernatural bits”?

I’ve never set out to write crime fiction, so I’m not sure I can answer that. I even like to keep descriptors like “weird” and “horror” out of my mind when I write. I like to keep my own mental field as uncluttered by genre expectation as I can. As far as differences go, crime fiction seems to me to be more about the condition of our society. When I think of the novels of Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith, John D. MacDonald, and others, the focus is either on transgressions against the social order, or they’re interrogations of that order. Horror fiction — if you’re going to set aside the supernatural for the purposes of this question — seems more focused on personal transgression, whether that’s spiritual or physical. Now, that’s a simplistic answer to a question which deserves several thousand words devoted to it, and I’m not sure I won’t change my mind about it as I think about it further.

Q: Tending bar is one of the staple occupations of crime and other dark fiction. Particularly a dive bar. How do you make these elements more than “genre markers”, keep them interesting and not just variations on a theme? Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Quick Updates: Red Adept, Brian Posehn, Noir at the Bar, and a crowdfunding roundup

Saturda, June 13, 2015: Upcoming events, books on sale, new podcasts, a new writing contest, and a crowd-funding roundup await you in this belated Saturday installment of “Friday Quick Updates”. But let’s be quick about it, because there are three (count ’em) events today alone:

  • June 13 (Saturday) 11 am to 2 pm — Raleigh’s Event Horizon Games hosts a multi-author book signing event for Garner-based publisher Red Adept along with publisher Lynn McNamee. Among those appearing will be local author Karissa Laurel, whose debut novel Midnight Burning is forthcoming from Red Adept.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 1 to 3 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts comedian and Deadpool comics writer Brian Posehn for an in-store signing.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 2 pm — The Burlington B&N hosts Samantha Bryant for a reading and signing of her debut novel Going Through the Change.

Meanwhile, on the latest episode of the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, editor David Afsharirad hosts a discussion of his recently-released anthology The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera with authors Matthew Johnson, David D. Levine, Linda Nagata, and more. As Afsharirad says, “It’s a good one, if I say so myself.”

Speaking of that anthology, voting on the first annual Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera Award continues through August 31. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: John L. Deboer, Erica Lucke Dean, and Stephen Kozeniewski for Red Adept Publishing’s annual book signing event at Event Horizon Games, interviewed by Karissa Laurel

On Saturday, June 13, Event Horizon Games welcomes authors, John L Deboer, Erica Lucke Dean, Stephen Kozeniewski, Kelly Stone Gamble, Mary Fan, Claire Ashby, and Karissa Laurel for Red Adept Publishing’s annual book signing event.  John is the author of Skeleton Run, a mystery thriller. Stephen will be signing his horror mystery, Braineater Jones, and Erica’s newest release is Ashes of Life, a women’s fiction novel. Here, Karissa Laurel interviews John, Erica, and Stephen about their books, writing, North Carolina, and Saturday’s event.

Skeleton Run Ashes of Life Braineater Jones

Karissa: Y’all are coming to town for a book signing event hosted by Red Adept Publishing (RAP), which is a small press located in Garner, NC. John, you’re a local guy, is there anything about North Carolina that is special to you as a writer?

John: I’m not originally from North Carolina, but I’ve lived here since 1988. I’ve featured the Tar Heel State, especially Oak Island, where I have a summer place, in my last three novels.

Karissa: Erica and Stephen, I’m pretty sure you’ve both been to North Carolina before. What has brought you here in the past?  Read the rest of this entry »


June newsletter: Darin Kennedy, Stacey Cochran, Karissa Laurel, Brian Posehn, “Noir at the Bar”, the Manly Wade Wellman Award nominees, and more

Vol 5 No 4. Saturday, June 6, 2015: Well, maybe this is turning into a bimonthly thing instead of monthly, as I didn’t manage a newsletter in May, either. Since late April we’ve seen plenty of local writers have stories, books, and audiobooks published, added a pile of new events to the upcoming readings calendar, and! found out this year’s nominees for The Manly Wade Wellman Award.

As usual, let’s start with some highlights from events that are right around the corner:

June 7 (Sunday) 2 pm -- Flyleaf Books hosts Darin Kennedy for his paranormal thriller The Mussorgsky Riddle. June 18 (Thursday) 6:30 pm -- Noir at the Bar with Nathan Ballingrud, David Terrenoire, John Saunders, Eryk Pruitt, Eric B. Martin, Jeremy Hawkins, Bryan Gilmer, and more, at 106 Main in Durham.

  • June 6 (Saturday) 8:15 pm — Durham’s Manbites Dog Theater presents the last performance in the opening run of the world premiere adaptation of Nick Cave’s Australian/Southern Gothic/cult novel And the Ass Saw the Angel.
  • June 7 (Sunday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Darin Kennedy discusses his paranormal thriller The Mussorgsky Riddle. “Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind.”
  • June 13 (Saturday) 11 am to 2 pm — Raleigh’s Event Horizon Games hosts a multi-author book signing event for Garner-based publisher Red Adept along with publisher Lynn McNamee. Among those appearing will be local author Karissa Laurel, whose debut novel Midnight Burning is forthcoming from Red Adept.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 1 to 3 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts comedian and Deadpool comics writer Brian Posehn for an in-store signing.
  • June 18 (Thursday) 6:30 pm — Noir at the Bar with (among others) Nathan Ballingrud (The Visible Filth), Eryk Pruitt (Hashtag), Jeremy Hawkins (The Last Days of Video), and more, at 106 Main in Durham.

And there are more readings, panels, discussions, and even writing workshops going on next week — check the full listings below. But while I’m in “highlights” mode, how about a few picks from the newly listed events: Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Darin Kennedy for The Mussorgsky Riddle, at Flyleaf Books this Sunday

As I wrote in the intro for his The Hardest Part essay: “Charlotte “doctor by day, novelist by night” Darin Kennedy‘s debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is squarely right up my alley. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) is one of my favorite pieces of Russian symphony, and Kennedy turns the mythopoeity up to “11” combining music, paranormal mystery, and classical mythology in a heady, panpsychic mix. All set in Charlotte — and the infinite mindscapes therein.” In that essay, he wrote about the hard part of discovering the first person present tense voice of psychic Mira Tejedor, as she struggles to unravel the riddle of 13-year-old Anthony Faircloth’s catatonia, as well as the difficulty and payoff of writing first person from the POV of the opposite gender in and of itself, and of making the various pieces of Pictures at an Exhibition and Scheherazade fit together. Here, Kennedy took the time via email to answer a few brief questions ahead of his upcoming appearances in the Carolinas, at Flyleaf Books (this Sunday, June 7, at 2 pm) [Facebook],  at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro on the 11th (Thursday), and Joe’s Place in Greenville, SC on the 20th (Saturday). Enjoy!

Q: The phrase “paranormal thriller” isn’t all that common. Are there some more well-known cultural referents that can help shorthand things, like maybe the J-Lo film The Cell, or is that the wrong direction?

Let’s see… Paranormal Thriller vs. Paranormal Mystery seems to be where Mussorgsky lies. The main character is Mira Tejedor, a psychic who explores a comatose boy’s mind for the answers to both his catatonic state and a missing persons case in the real world. Between her psychic abilities and the dreamscapes she walks to find her answers, I think these are the best descriptors. It’s funny you mention The Cell, as there are some similarities there. I actually hadn’t seen that movie until after I finished The Mussorgsky Riddle, but I think that writer and I definitely touched on some similar themes, albeit coming at them from very different directions.

Q: Do you believe in any psychic phenomena yourself? Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: David Afsharirad on The Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera

I think that I first met David Afsharirad at an NCSU MFA get together a year years ago now, ahead of fall classes getting started one late summer. With his trademark thick-black-rimmed glasses and friendly, casual air, I looked forward to seeing him around at readings and other events, catching up on what he was reading, how his writing and teaching were going. I was beyond thrilled when he joined Baen Books as a consulting editor and copywriter, and still, my eyes opened pretty widely when Baen announced Afsharirad as the editor for a new annual anthology series for The Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera — as the press release put it, he was certainly a “newcomer” to that level. Still, Afsharirad had his life-long interest in short sf to lean on, his (by then) two years copy editing for Baen, his work with John Kessel at NCSU, as well as the support of rest of the Baen brain-trust in this area of short sf literature. (No shortage to be had, there, as he notes in his acknowledgements.) You can get a further sense of Afsharirad’s passion for short sf in his preface, which along with David Drake’s excellent introduction (offering a brief survey of both space opera and military sf) is available in the sample chapters at Baen’s website, and you might get a sense as to the book’s success by a short snippet from Publishers Weekly‘s starred review: “Every story takes the reader on a fascinating, thought-provoking, enjoyable journey into the militarized future.”

Here, Afsharirad writes about the hardest part of putting this first annual edition of the anthology together, work that included scouring the hundreds (thousands) of stories under his remit, resulting in an anthology which draws from online magazines (Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, Lightspeed, and Baen.com), print magazines (with “the big three” of F&SF, Analog, and Asimov’s all represented), and themed anthologies (War Stories, Extreme Planets, and Monstrous Affections) alike. But how to pick the best from the good? That’s the question at hand.

The slush pile, that quagmire of stories that clutters every editor’s desk. It’s full of dreck, of course, but it must be read. Because occasionally one finds among the detritus a truly worthy piece of writing. Editors complain about reading slush all the time, and it is true that working your way through all those manuscripts can be a slog. But really, it’s not that tough. You can usually tell within a page or two (or less, let’s be honest) if a story has what it takes to make the cut. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, May 2015: The Clarke Awards and new releases from Kirsty Logan, Peter Higgins, and Paolo Bacigalupi

From the Other Side, May 2015
By Paul Kincaid

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

One of these days I will discover why literary events in Britain are so drawn to venues like this: large but low-ceilinged, so that it is hot and loud. I came out of this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, held on the top floor of the new Foyles bookshop in London, with a sore throat because every conversation had to be shouted. At least there was plenty of wine for lubrication and to assuage the heat. And there were a lot of people to talk to, though I only spotted one of the shortlisted authors, Dave Hutchinson. (A few weeks later I met another shortlistee, Emmi Itäranta, at a reading she gave at the University of Kent, Canterbury; her forthcoming novel sounds very interesting.)

The ceremonies this year were kept to the minimum: the usual speeches and long list of thank yous, and then two-time Clarke Award winner Pat Cadigan was called on to open the envelope. She delayed proceedings just a moment while she took a selfie, and then announced that the winner is Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. A bit of a surprise maybe (talking to different people I got a sense that the smart money was on Hutchinson or Claire North), but a popular winner nevertheless. A representative from Mandel’s UK publisher read out a short speech which noted that the first Clarke Award winner was Mandel’s fellow Canadian, Margaret Atwood.

 Sleeps With Angels (Imaginings #10)

Next year will be the thirtieth Clarke Award, and administrator Tom Hunter is promising a year of special events to mark the occasion. If I have the stamina, I’ll report back on as much of it as possible. Read the rest of this entry »


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