Thursday, April 22, 2010
Children of Chaos
• Paperback: 308 pages
• Publisher: Delirium Books
I don’t say the word masterpiece lightly, this novel is pretty close to a perfect horror novel. It has a brilliant concept and it was enough to make buy immediately. Over the years I heard things about this author but it was the concept that really intrigued me. Basically this novel is a modern re-telling of the Joseph Conrad classic “The Heart of Darkness” set in north Mexico in the dessert outside of Tijuana.
Cool concept for a novel. The prologue reminded me of Clive Barker and Ray Bardbury, the set up three boys involved in the murder of a strange magical seeing man hide the bizarre looking book that the strange man is holding. As adults thirty years later the main character Phillip is hired by his childhood friend’s mother to track down him down in mexico. He is not just hangin down in Mexico he has started a cult and has followers.
You see where this is going. Gifune has created a chilling brutal and dark horror epic that follows Phillip on his journey to discover the awful truth. The novel is creepy, action filled and operates slickly on every level. What impressed me was how vivid the story was and I could really feel the characters terror.
If I were to look for weakness or holes I can only think of two minor ones. There are times I wish the novel was not written in first person, but I am rarely a fan of first person. The only real problem I have with Children of Chaos is the Phillip being an author. To me it doesn’t serve the story and I feel if we are going to have a writer character there should be a good reason for it at this point.
These are minor problems; this is one of the strongest horror novels I have read so far this year. That is saying a lot. This year I have already read new releases like Lisa Morton’s Castle of Los Angeles and Cody Goodfellow’s Perfect Union. Those were prime examples of new generation of strong horror writers hitting their stride. This novel like those others I mentioned proves that our generation of writers still has vital and important works to add to the genre. I am excited to explore Gifune’s work further.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
For my second interview I choose Robert Garfat. I met Robert the old fashion way, I was living in the middle of no where in Washington state a few years back. I wanted to see the movie The Fountain in the theater and the closest place it was playing was across the water on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The first place I go in a new town are the vegan restaurants and the second place are used book stores.
I was excited that two stores down from one of Victoria BC’s vegan restaurants Lotus Pond was an amazing used bookstore. It was the perfect bookstore for me. It had tons of used Science Fiction, horror and books on radical politics. Even better was the beautiful store dog Unity and the owner at the time was Robert.
Dark Horse became the highlights of my visits to Victoria. Not just because of the books. So here is Robert…
I first met you when you owned Dark horse bookstore in Victoria B.C.. It was a very cool store what was the concept behind it?
Victoria is a city of bookshops. When we founded the Dark Horse bookshop, there were eleven used book stores in Victoria, a city of just over one hundred thousand population. None of the bookshops offered much in the way of alternative subject matter. We set out to provide a venue for bibliophiles with a decidedly alternative bent a place to find something to tickle their fancy. We specialized in Science Fiction and Fantasy titles, but also carried Metaphysical and Occult books, books on alternative health, spirituality and lifestyles, et cetera. My philosophy in stocking inventory was simple: if I saw myself reading the book, I'd buy it for sale.
How did you did get into Science fiction as a genre?
My mother was an avid reader of Science Fiction. She had over five thousand titles at one time or another. I grew up reading Heinlein and Norton, Asimov and Clark. As I grew older, I read the 'newer' authors: Delany and Disch; Spinrad and le Guin; Joanna Russ was a particular favourite and, of course, PKD, Philip Kindred Dick.
It just seemed natural that I'd specialize in the genre I loved so well.
Having said that: When we founded DHB, I was reading mostly murder mysteries and playscripts, in addition to Theatre criticism and trade journals. Kids kept coming into the shop asking for SF and Fantasy writers that I'd never heard of, and I realized that a whole generation of writers had emerged that I hadn't read. I thought that I'd better start reading them so I could converse about the books I was selling. Imagine my surprise that some of these 'new' writers were every bit as good as the classic writers I grew up reading!
How were you inspired to get into radical politics?
I've never really been a joiner. I'm a doer, not a follower. That self-imposed 'outsider' status gave me a distanced perspective on the status quo. And I suppose that I just think too much to swallow whole what the media feeds us daily.
Activism became an avocation when I sat on the board of the Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance. Then, when I became President of that association, I took it as my job to advocate for theatre to funding agencies and community groups. I became comfortable rubbing elbows with politicos and bureaucrats.
As the Artistic Director of an emerging theatre company (Dark Horse Theatre), I had to fight for our place in the theatre community at large.
Then when my partner and I moved, with our young son, to Vancouver Island, and my community changed, it seemed natural to advocate on issues that affected the rural community in which we lived, the Cowichan Valley. Those issues have to do with preservation of agricultural lands and sustainable development.
On another front, my work in Victoria placed me in direct contact with the issues of the street in that city: homelessness and shelter, dignity and safety, youth empowerment and fair play and justice issues.
A great source of inspiration for me was Pot Activist and Trickster, the late Ian Hunter, who invited me to sit on Victoria's Downtown Neighbourhood Association. Ian was a humanist and radical thinker. He was a tireless activist and had boundless reserves of energy. He was also a great motivator and agitator. I think of him often when I get disheartened and his memory helps me carry on.
So, mentorship, I suppose, is what inspired, and continues to inspire me the most. The value of compassionate role models cannot be over stressed, in my opinion.
You seem to have had a connection to radical politics in Canada. How has the radical community in western Canada changed in the last say 20 years?
The designation 'Western Canada' usually includes Alberta as well as British Columbia, an association which has always made me somewhat uncomfortable. Alberta is the Texas of Canada, whereas BC is more like, well, let's say Washington, Oregon and California. We have more in common with those states, in many ways, than we do with our neighbouring province. So let's start with the designation, the "West Coast".
In BC, the past twenty years have seen a political move to the extreme right.
Electronic Social Networking has made getting information out a much faster proposition, rallies are brought together more expediently, protests get thrown up, often before there is time to plan them properly. While a fast response time is often a good thing, movements that are thrown together overnight often fall apart a day or two later, leaving the usual handful of stalwart, overworked organizers to pick up the pieces and move along the next leg of the journey toward justice.
It has been my observation that the radical element has become younger, but that is largely because I am becoming older.
I feel that the radical community, here on the Island are living the lives they propound in much the same way as ever. Living within the beast, chipping away internally on a daily basis while conserving personal energies for the next big push.
If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have been much more optimistic in my answer.
Expo '86 (the 1986 Vancouver World's Fair) was a great radicalizing event on the West Coast. The fallout from that Roman Circus was a politicized populace. Over the next couple of decades, protests and rallies were well attended and, as often as not, got their point across and effected change that was faster, more extreme and more effective than proposed by government.
As I say, I was pretty optimistic about the way the West Coast was headed. We would de-elect this provincial right wing government, preserve our wilderness and animal habitat closer to populated areas, we would save our farms and green spaces through our Agricultural Land Reserve and our cities would become safe, just and sustainable. It would take time, but it would happen, change would come.
Then, several years ago, the province put its weight behind a bid to host the Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler in 2010. No one saw that this was the first manoeuvre in what was to become a radical right wing social experiment.
Over the ensuing months, government ministries began making cuts in preparation for the 'Big Event' and IT JUST DIDN'T STOP. Cuts came, across the board and, seemingly, with neither rhyme nor reason.
As an organizer, I became charged. Here was a single event that surely would galvanize groups with separate specific agendas into one huge movement that would bring down this Neo-Com government.
Well, I couldn't have been more wrong.
The Olympics may have been the flagship of the fleet opposing the people of this province, but the rest of the bureaucratic navy cleared the way, devastating social programs, school programs, amateur athletics and the arts (which have undergone an astonishing ninety-two percent funding cut). The cuts have come so fast and furious that most British Columbians who care are shell-shocked.
Oh, yes, we have organized rallies and protests. There was a point, just six months ago, when two or three protests were happening per week. Well.
Unification did not occur. Each protesting group protected its autonomy, afraid of losing its purpose in the face of the mob. When the Olympics opened, the planned activist Anti-Olympic "Convergence" proved to be little more than a blip in the face of the Opening Ceremonies.
Black Blockers caused some damage around the city of Vancouver while the masses watched Bryan Adams and Nellie Furtato strut centre stage at BC Place. The response to the Black Block actions among the radical community was a rush to distance themselves from these 'destructive forces' and assure the people of the province that the majority of those opposed to the Olympics were not against the Games, per say, but against the economic totalitarianism of the blah blah blah blah blah.
The radical community rolled over and 'played nice' out of fear of distancing a populous that was infected with Olympic fever. And Canada won gold.
So, all in all. I am not optimistic regarding the future of radicalism in BC.
That won't stop me from becoming involved when there is a need for me to be there.
Sometimes the left in America think Canada is so much better and progressive how do you feel about it?
If by "left" you mean socialist forces, then I would agree that we have a history which is rife with social agendas. Most notable and noted is, of course, socialized medical system.
If by "left" you mean contemporary humanist and cultural forces, I would recommend a re-think.
Canada is a world leader in polluting the environment. Look at Northern Alberta, fuck, that abomination is visible from outer space! We are a strong supporter of NAFTA and MIA and our federal government has failed to sign beneficial international treaties on indigenous rights, global warming and animal protection, to name three of many. Our health care system, the envy of the world, is under constant attack by private interests (with government complicity through complacency) and seems to be undergoing a kind of death by a thousand cuts. Our Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCFP) have unrestrained authority and often resort to violence without clear motivation or threat.
You know, I could go on, but I won't.
Canada is progressive in some areas and regressive in others. We have a right wing government that wants us to become more like America. With the recent equalization of our currencies, one can't help but think that amalgamation is in the not so distant future. Goddess help us both if that happens. Best of both worlds? Nope. Lowest Common Denominator, more like.
Still and all, Canada is a great place to live at the moment. It could be better...
What are some of the most thought provoking Science fiction and fantasy novels you've read?
Books by Doris Lessing (Briefing for a Descent into Hell, Memoir of a Survivor), Samuel R. Delany (Grendel, Neveryon, Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand), Ursula leGuin (The Dispossessed, all of her Hainish novels), Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita", David Scott Wallace's brilliant "Infinite Jest" and any of the last few Phillip K. Dick novels. These are all pretty standard 'thinking person's' Science Fiction. Some of the more unusual stuff is good also, books by Barry Malzberg, John Sladek, John Shirley, Joanna Russ, Nicola Griffith. And for a lark, try the Borribles trilogy (The Borribles, The Borribles Go for Broke and The Borribles: Across the Dark Metropolis), by Michael de Larrabeiti: good dirty crustypunk fun.
You sold Dark Horse what are you doing now?
I will still keep my hand in the book biz by finding and selling good books on-line and to select bookshops; scouting, in other words.
My three main focuses, personally, are:
Completing my long-neglected MFA in directing for the theatre (involves writing a ten thousand word paper, from which I am playing hooky to do this interview), carry on into an MA program on Theatre History and thence into a PhD program of some sort relating to the Arts; and secondly,
Finishing my pottery studio so I can carry on into working in clay; and lastly,
Tending the cider apple orchard my son and I are currently planning (and pressing and drinking the eventual product thereof).
5 books everyone should read:
Be Here Now - Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary's cohort, post-psychedelic guru and a radically beautiful man)
From Chocolate to Morphine: Understanding Mind-Active Drugs - Andrew Weil, MD and Winifred Rosen (simple, extensive and positive)
The Velvet Monkey Wrench - John Muir (illustrated by Peter Aschwanden) "Mankind will learn to progress without contention and live in co-operation."
You are all Sanpaku - Sakurazawa Nyoiti (English version by William Dufty) The original macrobiotics book.
Journeys Out of the Body - Robert A. Monroe (I'm not afraid to die anymore.)
One Cheater Just for Fun: Good Omen by Pratchett and Gaimen: Angel and Demon conspire to save the world from destruction by the "Powers That Be". Huge fun.
What would you like the whole world to understand or learn from this interview?
The most important thing one can do is to mentor another. Be good to yourselves and each other. You are not alone.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The design may change slightly, but I couldn't wait to show off the artwork by eiser award winning graphic novelist Eric Shanower. Eric is fiend from San Diego and one of the most gifted artists I have ever met. His age of Bronze comics are an insanely in depth look at the Trojan war. He is talented writer, artist and creator very blessed to have his involvement!
check out his website and full bio here:
Oh yeah the quote at the bottom:
“HUNTING THE MOON TRIBE should mark Mr. Agranoff as one of the most original and exciting new voices to emerge in genre fiction in a dragon's age." -Bram Stoker award winning author Lisa Morton
Saturday, April 10, 2010
So I am doing this series of interviews on my blog. The reason for this is simple. As I watch my friends from very diverse and varied backgrounds interact on Facebook I had the idea that those people needed to know more about each other. I also know many writers, musicians and artists who have tons of amazing creative projects to promote. I want you to discover their creations as well.
Who do I start with. From the start I decided that I would launch with Gina. She is one of my favorite writers and more importantly one of my favorite human beings. This Seattle based writer is a Wonderland award winning author(Best collection for 13 thorns). She made a splash on the bizarro scene with slew of successful books for afterbirth books starting with Chemical Gardens.
One of the most impressive things about Gina's books is how different each book is. House of Falling Trees (my personal favorite) is straight gothic horror. Chemical Gardens is a hilarious punk rock spin on the Wizard of Oz, Suicide girls in the afterlife is a dark social comment, so is mother puncher but in a totally different way. Then you have books like Sky Tongues which is a surreal mindfuck.
Gina is the reason the small press is vital. An author like Gina no matter how brilliant didn't stand a chance in the traditional genre publishing. Now she has awards under her belt, a loyal following and is considered to be one of the top selling authors at the Horror Mall. (Horror-mall is one of the big DIY horror fiction websites, check it out.) Hear she is...
Where does the first act of the Gina Ranalli story begin?
I grew up in Massachusetts and was really excruciatingly shy. Just always buried in some fantasy world, either of my own or some book or movie. Any book or movie, really. And thank god I had those kinds of escapes because I never would have lived through my upbringing otherwise. My childhood was, sadly, much too typical, full of woe and loneliness. I wish I could say otherwise.
What was the first book you read the inspired you to become a writer?
It was probably something by Paul Zindel. He was my favorite writer when I was a kid. His stories were just so different from anything else I had read up to that point. Just full of misfits and whacky adventures. I completely related with those outsider characters. They sort of became my friends.
Chemical Gardens has been called a punk take on the wizard of Oz. You have had some years and some distance from that book how do you feel about it today?
I never re-read my own stuff, but I do still like the story, which kind of relates back to the previous question. A bunch of weirdos in an extremely bizarro situation. Plus, I think it might be my funniest book. At least I think it's funny, but I don't know how many people would agree with that assesment.
Suicide girls in the Afterlife was really where you first made social commentary but was also much darker than your first novel. What inspired this book?
It began with the characters rather than the commentary. I never start out with the intention of talking about a particular social observation in mind. The books eventually take on a life of their own and at some point I have kind of an AH HA! moment where I say, "So, THIS is what I'm writing about." I don't know if I could actually write a book with the intention of writing a social commentary. I need people and humor first and foremost.
A man couldn't get away with writing a novella like mother puncher, did you have the title or the story first?
I think I had the title first. And I've caught some flack for the book myself, despite not being a man. It made a few feminists mad, which is interesting to me, as I myself identify as feminist and think the book is actually very pro-feminist. I mean, that's kind of the whole point. It's satire.
House of fallen trees is a more straight forward horror novel, written before mother puncher do you approach a horror novel different from a bizarro novel?
Oh, yeah. For me, bizarro is more fun to write, but less challenging. The genres are very yin-yang for me. I can write bizarro really fast, which works best for me, but some people like my horror a lot more, but the horror takes a long time to do. They are both great in their own ways.
I love Thai. Probably anything with curry. Put some curry on an old tire and I'm sure I'd eat it.
One book, one DVD and one toy to survive the apocalypse with?
This is a hard one. For the book, I'd probably pick either A Confederacy of Dunces or The Alchemist. For the DVD-I'm really into Watchmen right now, but maybe the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Would that count? The reason being it's so long. But, I'd really probably pick Bringing Up Baby, despite having seen it about 20 times already. And a toy. Hmm. Computers are toys, right?
What should a librarian know about your books?
They're in English and should be filed next to Ayn Rand. Besides that, I don't know. They could save your life?
Which books are you most proud of and why?
Well, I'm really proud of 13 Thorns because it was a bitch and a half to write, but we somehow pulled it off and I think it came out pretty good. House of Fallen Trees for the same reason. I also have another book coming out called Praise the Dead and that one was tough too. So, I guess I'm proud of the hard labors.
Which famous persons would like to see in a thunderdome?
I'd love to see Ann Coulter and Fred Phelps duke it out. It would be a win/win for all involved. (except the loser, of course.)
How did you get into veganism?
I came to veganism later than most do. Growing up, I didn't even know any vegetarians and I just didn't question the consumtion of animal products and secretions. Just never occurred to me. But, as an adult, I went to a city fair or something and they had a petting zoo. Those animals-most of which I'd never seen close up, always having lived in a city-looked so pathetic and unhappy. I remember looking right into their eyes and they looked back. I saw souls in there and had to stop eating meat. After that, giving up dairy was easy and I hadn't ever bought fur and hadn't bought new leather in something like two decades, so it was easy once I finally realized that I needed to be vegan. Now, knowing what I know about the cruelty and sadism involved with animal slavery, I just couldn't live with myself if I was anything but vegan.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
My short story collection Screams from a Dying world is available right now!
Were starting the design work and the final edits with Afterbirth for my debut novel Hunting the Moon Tribe. A wuxia pan (martial arts fantasy) horror crossover monster mash. I just received the second blurb for the novel from One of my favorite authors Lisa Morton. She is a triple Bram Stoker award winning author who just released an amazing horror novel I reviewed last month on this blog called "the Castle of Los Angeles."
More importantly for this project is the fact that Lisa is a a blogger who writes about the kind of Asian cinema that inspired this novel. She also wrote a fantastic book on the films of Hong Kong director/producer Tusi Hark whose films were a inspiration for this project.
"David Agranoff's HUNTING THE MOON TRIBE mashes up Chinese mythology, some seriously unnerving horror, Maoist politics, a sweet coming-of-age story, dark magic, and high-kicking martial arts into a compelling and unusual page-turner. I've never read (or seen) anything like it, and HUNTING THE MOON TRIBE should mark Mr. Agranoff as one of the most original and exciting new voices to emerge in genre fiction in a dragon's age." - Lisa Morton
And for good measure here is what Bizarro author Jordan Krall author of Fistful of Feet said about it: “Remember that old Shaw Brothers / Hammer Studios flick The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires? HUNTING THE MOON TRIBE is what that movie should have been. It is an extremely entertaining epic of kick-ass martial arts and bloody horror. Agranoff not only dazzles us with breathtaking action scenes and vampire violence but also tugs at our heartstrings with realistic family drama and romance. It’s a scary martial arts fantasy that will please just about everyone. David Agranoff is a gifted storyteller.” - Jordan Krall Author of Fistful of Feet and Squid pulp Blues
I'm sorry the book is not out today, but if you can't wait check out the online serial prequel the Fallen Guardian's Mandate Published in the January issue of the the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.