Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Interview: Clark Giles Vocalist of the Dream is Dead and hardcore kid Political Scientist

Clark and I have never been close friends, but growing up in the Indiana hardcore scene you get to know people and see faces at shows a million times over. Hardcore kids may know Clark as the vocalist of the band “The Dream is Dead” or as the person behind the record label “Happy Couples Never Last.” Alot of my interaction with Clark has been on the internet various message boards, the Indianapolis Hardcore Boards, and now on Facebook. What I like most about Clark is that even though I disagree with him intensely sometimes, other times I think damn what a smart dude. He has very conservative and radical progressive views at same time. I may not always agree but I respect Clark deeply. Amazing how you can disagree and respect at the same time some people don't realize that is possible.
Clark has interesting non-party line view on political issues, as a Political Science teacher and punk rocker I thought he would be a great interview. Many of my friends (who are fans of his band) outside of Indianapolis would be shocked to know that Clark often votes republican, that being said he has read many of dead Russian anarchists and is very committed to bring back the hardcore scene he grew up in. Anyways I'll let Clark speak for himself. We'll start with showing how little I know about Indianapolis hardcore, growing up an hour away and dropping in to see shows there most of my life...

Talk about growing up on the west side of Indianapolis. Most Indy hardcore kids from back in the day came from the northside, a few southsiders but west was rare too how did you discover hardcore music pre-internet?

Well, I have to respectfully disagree. Most of the straight-edge kids maybe came from the northside but almost every hardcore kid I knew growing up was from either the west side or the east side. This might sound like a little bit of inside baseball talk here but if you'll indulge me for a second. The hardcore scene in general would have been pretty much non-existent from 1992-2000 if it weren't for the west side of Indianapolis. The India Community Center (located on the west side) started to have shows because some kids from Pike High School worked it out with the owners. After the Sitcom (the main DIY show space in Indianapolis during the Nineties) moved downstairs into its longest running incarnation, the core group of kids who actually ran the place were all west side kids (Brett, Jackie, Katie, Bridget, Britts, Me, etc.) This isn't to say that northside bands like Birthright didn't play there or that some great kids didn't come to the monthly meetings and help out from all over the city because they did but I am talking about the people who were in the trenches and working the door nightly and dealing with all the b.s., they were pretty much all west side kids. The greatest Indianapolis hardcore band ever IMHO, Ice Nine, was almost exclusively west siders. And if you look at what is going on today and the metal/hardcore bands that are still around with 30-35 year old+ members who are putting out records on national labels or enjoying a lot of success within the scene, it is those same west side dudes: Apostle of Solitude is ex-Merrick, The Gates of Slumber are ex-Merrick/Burn It Down/The Dream is Dead (though they probably don't want me to point that out...haha), Coffinworm is ex-Emotion Zero, The Dream is Dead is ex-Ice Nine, Burn It Down, ad nauseam. Finally, the main collective space in town right now (The Dojo) was initially organized by ALL west side transplants with the exception of Todd (who moved here from Arizona so we just like to think of him as EXTREME west side). So anyway, this is probably boring to anyone not from Indianapolis so I'll stop being nit-picky, I'm just overly sensitive being a west side kid. ;)

As far as how it was growing up, I think I had the typical west side kid life. Broken home, questionable step-dad, a latchkey kid existence, and really not much to do at night except drive west until you could find a corn field to pull into and get drunk. I actually think I discovered punk from a combination of the movie Repo Man. I remember watching Repo Man with my dad and during the party scene thinking "this is the kind of music that I like" when Black Flag was blasting in the background. I didn't eat lunch for a week in junior high and instead saved up all the money to buy Dead Kennedys "In God We Trust, Inc." and I was hooked. Then I think I pretty much exclusively based my musical purchases based on the shirts that I'd see older punk rock guys wearing who I'd skate with who also wore Dead Kennedys shirts. I always liked the more cerebral hardcore punk though: Bad Religion, DK, etc. so I think that kind of just naturally led me into the hardcore scene once it started to diverge from more traditional punk. I'm glad the internet wasn't around in those days though. I think I have a much deeper and more diverse set of friends now because I didn't have such social network that would have basically let me select my friends through some process of categorical reduction. I see kids doing that now and I'm not sure it is the healthiest way to form long lasting relationships.

Your last band the Dream is dead had a following in the radical hardcore scene, i have alot of anarchist friends who were into your band but your views were a little different can you explain what difference there is?

I would always describe our band in interviews and such as an "anti-authoritarian" band because anarchism comes with so much historical baggage nor do I really agree with most of the popular anarchist narratives that currently dominate the diy punk/hardcore music scene which I think run the gamut from reactionary to utopian to outright parasitism. I was an angry kid in my college years just like everyone else but I have never been able to escape what I would call the gravitational pull of pragmatism. I think a lot of punk/hardcore bands were ok with calling themselves "anarchists" and are perfectly content just putting that in a box and pretending to live in the "idea" of being an anarchist essentially declaring their allegiance to an abstraction knowing that almost everyone will participate in the collective conspiratorial act of never asking each other what the ramification of that action truly means. After all, if one were truly an anarchist in a manifested form here in the real world, you'd be living with survivorman up in the hills, eating berries, and waging war against the government. If we were different as a band in any way (and I don't think one could say all of us in the band would agree on anything necessarily when you talk specifics), it is that I hope we never presented ourselves as anything more than four dudes who tried to do their best to bite the hand that feeds without trying to present this narrative that we were somehow fighting the 21st century version of the Spanish Civil War. The bottom line is that I inherently mistrust all hierarchical systems. I don't know if we are at a point in history yet where they could all be eliminated but I think it is healthy that we as a society or a collective whole agitate for changes to disperses power when it is concentrated and minimizes hierarchy if not eliminating it outright where and when we can.

How did you come to a pro-capitalist libratarian stance in the hardcore scene?

Well, first, I have to define what I mean by "capitalism". When I say that I'm a capitalist, I mean that I believe in the right to private property and the free exchange of goods and services between willing participants. It does not mean that I support what are essentially abstractions such as "corporate personhood" that have been dreamed up by the rich to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few. So my pro-capitalist stance is essentially a philosophical one but it is probably too nuanced to discuss here at length. I support capitalism/free markets because I think a capitalistic society is ultimately the only society that could allow for alternative economies to exist within the larger framework while still maintaining person freedoms. For example, I think in an anti-authoritarian capitalist society, you could still have communes or alternative communities/collectives that bore none of the earmarks or characteristics of what we would think of as capitalist society (e.g. property could be collectively owned, etc.) But in a collectivist macrosociety, there is not room for dissent. By necessity, everyone must conform. So in this sense, capitalism maximizes freedom. Additionally, I think quantitatively, capitalism has had net benefits for human society in terms of almost any measurable standard (lifespan, standard of living, technology, etc.) It is a difficult issue to talk about however because I don't really consider there to be any free markets in the world right now, at best, we practice a perverted form of quasi-capitalism mixed with corporatism. I'm not even sure if capitalism can exist simultaneously within the context of the State because the State is inherently force and coercion reified. So to that end, I'm a (small "l") libertarian because I find myself agreeing with many of the early American thinkers in this tradition. As far as the capital "L" libertarian party goes, I maintain a cautious and respectable distance.

Can you tell me about your record label Happy couples never last? what did you want to bring to forefront with it?

The label actually started as a joke. I had saved up some money to take a trip with a girlfriend, we broke up, so I decided to do the logical thing and blow the money putting out some of my friends' bands. I was never trying to start a label or a "business venture". I basically picked a label name out a hat and slapped it on the records. Lo and behold, my first couple of releases actually sold pretty well so I just kept it rolling. Long story short, I put out 49 releases, made a bunch of friends, toured the whole country over four times and put the whole thing to bed a few years ago when I started my Phd program and my distributor went belly up. I'm still going to put out one final release someday just to end everything at a well-rounded 50 releases but it will just be something small and local.

What types of bands did you put out?

I basically just put out bands that I liked ranging from indie rock to punk to hardcore. I did try to make every other release to be from a band in Indiana to try to keep it real and support the home team. I did try to keep an overall DIY ethic to everything I did however, I wasn't looking to deal with rock star attitudes or to even make money for that matter. When a band got too big for the label, I would try to help them get on a bigger one. Basically, I was a farm team but I was totally okay with that...

What was the idea behind the Dream is Dead?

I started The Dream is Dead with Jason McCash (Burn It Down/The Gates of Slumber) because we basically felt like hardcore was dead in the year 2000. All the bands that were popular then were basically glorified cock-rock bands with some "jump the fuck up, I said, jump the fuck up" slam riffs. I found the sexism and homophobia to be disgusting. I could see the worst qualities of the metal scene (materialism, nihilism, apolitical douchebaggery) creeping into a music scene that held a lot of good memories for me and that I identified with closely. I think we just wanted to make a final statement with the band that the direction the scene was going was not a healthy one and to call some people on the carpet for participating in its decline.

In the 90's Indy had an awesome somewhat collective show space called the sitcom. What are your favorite sitcom memories?

My favorite sitcom show was MK Ultra and Los Crudos. That show simply blew my mind. I could try to put it into words but I don't think I could really do it justice. It was one of those rare moments that most people can count on one hand where they feel truly alive.

You helped start a new show space called the Dojo what is different about the way you folks are doing it this time?

The Dojo is a little more legit. The core group involved is still a lot of the same people involved with the Sitcom in its later incarnations but we all have jobs now and have learned to navigate the legal system somewhat. We actually have permits and adhere to fire codes and we are working to build a ramp to make the space easily handicap-accessible. We are trying to run a tight ship and keep an eye on making the place as sustainable as possible. Ideally, we want the Dojo to be around for a long time. Long after I have moved out of Indianapolis. I want to come back and visit in ten years and go to a show at a place that I help start after no one remembers me and just stay totally anonymous. I want all the kids there to wonder who the random old dude is that just showed up to see some of the local kids bang through their first 20 min set. Then I want to never say a word and just melt back into the night. :)

What would my readers find surprising about Clark Giles?

Ironically, I'm a former(?) anarchist that teaches American Politics at a local university. I am considered the "Republican" by most of my colleagues and I let them think that because I find it amusing. I have worked on several political campaigns (more Republicans than Democrats actually), I own a huge pickup truck but I try to ride my bicycle everywhere as much as possible, I practice Buddhist meditation and I have a lifetime concealed carry permit for my handgun, I am a study in contrasts. I think the political stances that I make confuse the hell out of most of my friends but they all seem perfectly consistent to me.

Some of us left indiana, you talked about a few times but your still duking it out, what keeps you in Indiana?

School and school alone. I have two years left until I have my doctorate and my second master's degree done then I am out of here. Ideally, I'm headed your way or to South America so watch out!

final comments?

I think this is a really cool idea for your facebook page. I really like to read about all of your other friends who I don't know. Thanks for doing this...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Count Agranoff's summer horror reading list!

You spend to much time on your computer, yeah you. Most of us do. Ok here is a solution. Sit on your porch, or in a park and read a damn book. I have some suggests for you sift through and see if they work for you. I suggest you buy them, a lot of the new releases are by struggling indie writers who need support. If you can't afford to do that, hit up the library. If your library doesn't have them then do the authors a huge favor and request the books. Most libraries let you do that on their websites.

If you can't be away from your computer Check out awesome web-zines like the Freezine of Fantasy of science fiction, apex and Rudy Rucker's amazing Flurb. a I'm starting with horror but I am going to suggest a few others as well in future posts. Science fiction and non fiction.

New releases:

House of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli – My top pick for several reasons. Before I talk about the book let me say admit bias. I love Gina as person. A soft spoken vegan and warrior of the weird. Her books have depth and range all coming with a unique voice. Socio- Political fantasy like Suicide Girls in the Afterlife, dystopian science fiction satire like mother puncher and a Shirley Jackson-ish quiet horror piece like House of Fallen Trees.

HOFT shows mastery of pace and deep knowledge of genre that Gina has never had chance to show off in her many bizarro books. A Creepy story with strong characters and a little early Stephen King influence. A short but effective read you might be able to fly through this one on a flight to your summer vacation. Set here in the pacific northwest it is a great escape.

Perfect Union by Cody Goodfellow
- If you like strange books this master piece of bizarro body horror and super weird political commentary is in a class all it's own. Not to mention the over the top insanity of the conclusion. Cody Goodfellow is the freshest most exciting writer in genre today. He had a tough time getting publishers to understand what he was doing, just as one of his biggest influences John Shirley had with his original and ground breaking novel City Come a Walkin in 1980. They didn't get it.

Thankfully fellow bizarro Jeremy Robert Johnson (author of Angeldust Apocalypse and Siren Promised) knew what he had on his hands when he read it. This book is not for everyone but if your in for a wild ride give this book a shot.

Last Days by Brian Evenson – Made of two interconnected novellas Last Days is one of the coolest books I read in the last year. It is the story of a very hard boiled detective who is the only person set infiltrate a shadowy organization. Why is he the only one, well it's a cult of self mutilators and he cut off one of his one hands for his last case.

Amazingly hard boiled dialogue in this book which I am told is a literary novel. It's also a hard boiled mystery, a bizarro horror tale and a short but amazing read. Published by a Portland press!

The Castle of Los Angeles by Lisa Morton - This is a neat debut horror novel by Lisa Morton, who is one of my favorite short story authors. Here she stretches her wings and thankfully she soars. Traditional horror that manages to play the power cords of the genre and sound original. If you like a scary spooky haunted house story, dig into this story of an old haunted theater in Los Angeles.

Children of Chaos by Greg F. Gifune
– This book blew me away. A modern re-telling of Conrad's heart of darkness set in northern Mexico, near Tijuana A city I am familiar with since I lived in San Diego and had friends who lived down there. This is a brutal and power journey that takes a classic tale a re-spins it in fresh manner. Hard to put down but worth it.

Horror Classics

Demons by John Shirley – Day 70 of the greatest environmental disaster to hit the United States, celebrate the devastated summer with book that is a decade old but feels ripped from the headlines. As the Corporate CEOs make excuses to congress I thought about this genius novel. Funny, freaky, intelligent and all around amazing. Demons is master work of using horror fiction express a point of view.

Swans Song By Robert R. McCammon
– This miracle of a novel is over 900 pages and never drags. It is an epic post nuclear war fantasy that is unfairly discounted as a rip-off of Stephen King's the Stand. This novel works on a deeper level and may be one of the darkest and heart wreaching novels I have ever read. You really as though you have survived a massive journey as reading this. Why would such a brutal and dark book make a great summer read? I have never appreciated the warmth and sun as I did while reading this novel that makes McCathary's the Road look like a feel good book, one fit for the Oprah book club.

Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk – This is still a pretty new book, but I needed something funny and could not think of anything better. William Shatner fighting a legion of his fictional characters including Captain Kirk with lightsaber. I don't need to say more this is a funny and surreal bizarro that could be read in single afternoon on the porch or on a long flight. Be warned you'll be laughing a lot. You want funny you can't beat bizarro books like Fistful of Feet by Jordan Krall, Cursed by Jeremy C Shipp but most of all the books of D.Harlan Wilson. Start with Shatnerquake. Short but super loaded with bell laughs.

The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
– This is an anti-war novel written by a former soldier in the NVA. He was the only surviving member of the unit that captured John Mccain strangely enough. After the American war ended he penned this autobiographical novel that has since become a bestseller and banned in Vietnam. It's not light summer reading but it is a good way for americans to the other side of the war.

Choir of Ill Children By Tom Piccirilli
– This super bizarro horror southern Gothic about conjoined triplets is one hell of freak show. A horror masterpiece like no other. Surreal while being real enough to feel the humidity and environment dripping off the pages. A really intense and moving book.

Story of B by Daniel Quinn
- Quinn's first book was a obvious attempt to make a point with a thinly held together story, but it was powerful enough of a message that it caught on. Quinn's follow up to the amazing Ishmael is story of B, a better and more thought out story as well as message. I find this book challenging because It's major point something I think is right but don't want to agree with at all. It is not something inherit to humans that make them so awful, it's there culture that is to blame and it's time to deprogram from your culture.

Shameless plug!!!!

My most importantly the biggest and best summer read of all my debut novel Hunting the Moon Tribe which should be out soon. Fingers crossed. but don't take my word for it. How about Bram Stoker award winning author Lisa Morton who wrote that awesome Castle of Los Angeles..."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." Or the bizarro author Jordan Krall who released a badass italian style western novel this year Called Fistful of feet. Jordan had this to say "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.”

So yeah get Moon Tribe when it is out. Request it at your library.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Interview: Erich Foster Vegan Straight Edge owner of Rise Above Tattoos.

Getting back to the interview series I started awhile back. If you have not read the past interviews check them out. I have interviews with Novelists Gina Ranalli and Cody Goodfellow. Bookstore owner Robert Garfat and novelist Jeremy C. Shipp. Ok Erich...
Life is strange, I am not sure how I lost contact with Erich for a decade or so because he is one of my favorite people. When I met Erich I was visiting Syracuse in the early 90's and we were going to fur protests together. Erich had already been straight edge (100% drug-free subculture of punk rock) for several years. So we bonded quickly. When I moved to Syracuse, I left all my stuff in Ohio where had been going to college at Wright state. I didn't know how to drive But Erich, who barely knew me at the time offered to ride the unholy greyhound with me to Ohio and rent a u-haul. We loaded up my shit and made the 12 hour drive back.
We had a great conversation, more importantly I made a great friend that day. Erich is hard working dude, who has created a DIY niche for himself owning and operating his own Tattoo shop. He remained true to his beliefs well into adulthood proving that Vegan straight edge is not a phase of youthful angst and idealism.
And I named the hero of my first novel after him. Names in my novels are often random and meaningless in the case it was intentional. The idea behind this series was that my 400 plus FB friends ought to know more about he other when they are trading here meet Erich Foster.

David Agranoff: So What do you do for a living?

Erich Foster: I make tattoos for a living. More specifically, I own and operate a tattoo parlour in Buffalo, NY, called Rise Above, in which I am also a tattooer. I consider myself a tradesman, not an artist. I specialize in traditional Americana imagery, with a strong focus on pre-1940's style and design.

DA: How did you get interested in doing tattoos?
EF:I have had an interest in tattoos as far back as I can remember. My father had a few smaller tattoos on his upper arms that I thought made him look tough. I loved seeing old guys with blue-green "blobs" on their bodies because I knew it meant they had stories to tell. I suppose being a fan of music added to the interest. Ozzy had some well done tattoos for the time, and those struck a chord with me. Punk rock, skateboarding, heavy metal, my father, then finally the hardcore music scene all had an important part in my fascination with tattoos and tattooing. At sixteen years old, I received my first tattoo and it's been all downhill since! I loved being around it, the smells, the sounds, the chit-chat, the pirate feel to it all. I knew I needed to find a way to make that my life. I began an apprenticeship at the ripe, old age of twenty-six, now ten years later and I love it more than I ever would have dreamed. It's my life.

DA: How did you discover hardcore?

EF: Hmmm... I have always gravitated toward music that had passion as it's motivation. I grew up on hip-hop and metal for the most part until my sister got into punk and I followed suit. She hung out with some skater kids, and she was listening to Black Flag, Dead Kennedy's, Circle Jerks, etc. This was 1985-86 probably. I got into GBH, The Exploited, X, Sex Pistols. She ended up getting into The Dead and weed and such, and I stuck with punk. I started hearing Minor Threat, Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Slapshot, etc. on the local alternative college station, and was relating a bit more to American hardcore than to British punk bands. I had some issues with alcohol and decided to be straight edge in January of 1988. I fully immersed myself in hardcore, more specifically straight edge hardcore. Youth of Today, Chain of Strength, Uniform Choice, Slapshot, Judge, DYS, SSD. I still call myself a hardcore kid, although I am a bit out of touch with most of today's bands.

DA: How did you get into straight edge and Veganism?

EF: I guess I answered the straight edge question. The story behind me going edge is a bit graphic, and embarrassing, so I'll keep that one out of it. I went vegetarian shortly after going straight edge in 1988. The song "No More" from Youth of Today got me to do it. It was on and off for my through high school. I wasn't armed with the knowledge to back up my decision, just a bit of guilt and being trendy wasn't enough I suppose. After high school I committed myself to being a "real vegetarian" until I read Holocaust zine out of Syracuse. I decided to become vegan in January of 1993. I became very active in the animal liberation community in Syracuse, and created the Animal Defense League in Buffalo.

DA: What was it about the Syracuse ADL that was such an influence?

EF:The Syracuse ADL struck me because it was young people, with very little knowledge on how to run an activist group, yet couldn't contain their enthusiasm and youthful energy to make a change. They knew that something had to be done, so they did what they could. I realized that I could do the same. Setting up protests, having tables of information at local universities and high schools, arguing at hardcore shows... Haha. We helped to eradicate Bonwitt Teller, a large fur distributor) from Western New York, which allowed Old Navy to move into their former location. So, the place went from animal cruelty for sale, to child labor and human exploitation for sale. I guess we all choose our battles. The ADL era were some of the best years of my life.

DA: Favorite hardcore when your were a senior in high school?

EF:When I was a senior in high school I listened to Underdog's "Vanishing Point" everyday I think, along with Gorilla Biscuits' "Start Today" a close second.

DA: Favorite hardcore band five years out of high school?

EF: five years after high school, Earth Crisis. I saw them in 1993, and they honestly changed my life. I related to the sentiments behind the music, and it kept me energized and motivated to continue dedicating my life to a cruelty-free lifestyle, and continue to be environmentally and socially aware.

DA: Where did you first see EXC did you have any idea they were going to become so huge?

EF: I first saw EXC in Syracuse at the Lost Horizon in 1993 I think. I had no idea they would be anything that big. Their demographic was so specific it seemed. I was really into any band with an ideology I could relate to, and socio-political bands always appealed to me a bit more in that time. I loved the "vegan death squad" atmosphere. Non-apologetic, angry, sincerity. I don't always agree with everything they do or say, however it's the similarities and passion I embrace. I'd love to see their merch printed on organic, fair-trade shirts. It's a bit of a bummer to hold such a militant stance on the environment and human rights, yet pay into an ugly industry.

DA: Favorite today?

EF:Gorilla Biscuits... "Start Today" is played a few times a week still. I never grow tired of it. Minor Threat "Out of Step" is a close second. Still love Earth Crisis of course. Just listened to "To the Death" twice today.

DA: Five favorite straight edge songs?

EF:Best question in a long time.
Here goes... In no particular order... Top sxe songs...

"The Current" by Outspoken
"Promises Kept" by Champion
"Something More Than Ink" by Have Heart
"We Just Might" by Youth of Today
"Just How Much" by Chain of Strength

They may not be the most blatant edge songs, but to me they encompass my feelings toward it.

DA: dumbest tattoo you tried to talk someone out of?

EF:I just talked a great client, a real sweet kid, out of getting a Jeffree Star autograph tattooed on his neck. He came in with the signature on his neck... He didn't get it, whew. If you're not familiar with Jeffree Star, don't bother. Dumb tattoos are a daily thing. Sometimes dumb is fun though.

DA: I admit I looked up Jeffree Star,yikes. Tattoo your most proud of

EF: Tattoo that I have that I am proud of? I love my knuckles... They read "TATT-OOER" which says it all. Tattoo I've done that I am most proud of? Hmmm... I don't really have one. My dad now has a Japanese body suit from me, down to his elbows, and to his knees, open down the chest. 70 years old and still getting worked on by me. That's pretty damn cool I'd say.

DA: Five books everyone should read?

EF: Five books... By the way, I read very little fiction...
"Diet for a New America" - John Robbins, "Animal Liberation " - Peter Singer", The Autobiography of Malcolm X" - as told to Peter Haley, "The Communist Manifesto" - Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Gareth Stedman Jones, "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" - Christopher Hitchens

DA: How has you feelings about veganism changed over the years?

EF:Veganism has progressed for me from a lifestyle within the hardcore/activist community to something I simply am. It has opened my eyes and heart to many other issues. I seek to avoid any non-fair trade, non-organic/local, frozen and processed foods. I avoid sweat-shop products and companies with poor track records for enviromental and worker matters. With the realization of the profit motive driving these businesses, especially the animal agriculture factories, I have also recognized the tremendous flaws within the idea of capitalism. So, through veganism and sober eyes, I have been able to see a larger picture, and can begin to cleanse my life of more injustice.

DA: Straight edge mean more or less to than it did when you were still in high school?

EF: Straight edge has always been a fun way to embrace sobriety. I am forever appreciative for finding the idea of straight edge, and embracing it. I love being straight edge. At thirty-six years old, and Twenty two years edge, I still get chills from listening to certain songs and putting on certain shirts.

With that said... I'd trade 10 straight edge, non-vegan lazy slobs, for one good vegan activist any day.

DA: totally. It's like Earth Crisis said “whats important is what's done with the Freedom.” Alright New Yawkers get some ink!

2533 Delaware Ave
Buffalo, NY 14216
(716) 874-1675

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video interview with Horror author Lisa Morton

A few months back I gave a review to an amazing debut horror novel "The Castle of Los Angeles" by a favorite writer of mine Lisa Morton. I didn't do this interview I'm just re-posting it because Lisa is a great writer and I think you should check out her work.

Lisa Morton - Interviews with a Horror Writer from Ricky Grove on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Interview: Bizarro Author Jeremy C. Shipp

Sorry I have not put an interview up in awhile. I have been trying to do interviews with my non-author friends, some of the other interesting people I know. Should I be surprised that the authors are the ones that are good at sending me these interviews back? Anyhoo, I only know Jeremy from his books and the internet. I am hoping he'll join us for bizarro con this year. Creme filled Vegan donuts are on me Jeremy! I reviewed all three of his books here on this blog. Look them up, read them you'll be glad you did.

Most authors have one book or books that first inspired the love or narrative story telling. What did it for you?

When I was a kid, my muse burst from her cocoon after I read The Time Machine. Then, she danced a jig of joy after I experienced The Count of Monte Cristo.

Your prose and narrative structure is what most would consider experimental. Can you give us an idea how you developed your style?

I started writing novels when I was 13, and I’ve been writing at least one a year ever since. And so, my style has evolved ever so slowly. I’ve grown more and more minimalistic over the years. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve learned that a meaningful sentence can be worth a thousand words as well.

How different is the writing style between your short stories and novels? Or one novel to another?

I want each of my tales to be a unique experience for my readers, and so I mold the narrative style of each story to reflect the psyche of the point of view character. For instance, Nicholas from Cursed is quite obsessive and neurotic, and so he thinks in lists. And Bernard from Vacation often thinks in literary terms.

Vacation your first novel is in part about a corporate retreat. Is this inspired by a job in your past?

Vacation isn’t inspired by a job, but it is, in part, inspired by real life travel experiences. For instance, I’ve volunteered at an orphanage in a poor part of Mexico, and I’ve also visited some rich port cities. The differences between these two areas are staggering. My novel, Vacation, is in some ways about this dichotomy. I know people who have traveled the world, but have never seen the world at all, because they have merely hopped from resource bubble to resource bubble.

Vacation got some rave reviews from authors like Gary Braunbeck and Piers Anthony. Between all three of your books the blurbs have come from a range of authors. How has that been for you?

The praise has indeed come from a diversity of authors, from Piers Anthony to Gary Braunbeck to Carlton Mellick III to Jack Ketchum to Susan Straight. I’m monumentally honored by the praise my work has received over the years. And these reviews have helped me to connect with a wide range of readers. My fans tend to be readers of Bizarro, horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and literary novels.

You have a fantastic collection of short stories called Sheep and Wolves. Can you tell me about the selection process?

Thank you for the kind words. I’ve written over two hundred short stories over the years, and so I had a lot to choose from when building Sheep and Wolves. Basically, I wanted to include what I viewed as my best work. I also wanted the stories to fit the theme of social and personal abuse. Most of the tales I ended up using were newer stories, although I did include one older novella: Flapjack. Flapjack is very different from the other stories, in terms of narrative style. Still, the tale fit with the theme. This is one of those stories that people seem to either love or hate, but I decided to include it anyway, because it holds a special place in my spleen.

Cursed is a fast paced novel. The prose style is tight through out. Was there a longer version that was stripped down?

Nope. Cursed was always minimalistic and boney. And this means that writing Cursed was an exercise in obsession. For me, the tighter my prose style, the longer it takes me to write each sentence. Each word.

What does the Bram Stoker award nomination mean for you as a Bizarro author?

The nomination is a blessing. My readership has grown since the announcement, and I’ve received several offers for interviews and other projects. And, of course, my hope is that Bizarro as a whole will benefit from the nomination. Bizarro is a community and a literary movement, and so no Bizarro author is an island.

How does living in a haunted house affect your life, writing?

For the most part, my ghosts are rather lazy. However, they do manage to freak me out from time to time. One example: my father and I were working in the attic (this is before the clowns moved in up there, mind you), taking apart the old chimney, and we came across a mound of ash. After a while, something started rising out of the ash. At first, we thought it was an animal, but it turned out to be an old doll. It’s during those times that part of me wishes my house were haunted by Casper or Boo Berry. The other part of me appreciates those horrifying moments, because they inspire me creatively. For instance, the incident with the doll inspired my story “Watching.”

You are a vegan. How did you get interested in that lifestyle?

I ate meat for most of my life, and for most of my life, I worked hard not to think about where my food was coming from. Then, a few years ago, my wife became vegan, and her compassion inspired me. And so, finally, I opened my eyes to the true horrors of factory farming. I read, I watched, I cried. For me, becoming vegan was an act of love and respect; a natural reaction to reality. Of course, I don’t expect everyone else in the world to make the same choices that I do. Everyone chooses their own acts of love, and they’re all important.

Final comments?

1. I like lists.
2. You know you’re eating peanut butter too ferociously when you find some inside of your hat (at least I hope that’s peanut butter).
3. A barrel of monkeys is actually quite heartbreaking.
4. The Chupacabra really gets my goat.
5. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, if you throw it hard enough.

Book Review: Resurrection House by James Chambers

Resurrection House by James Chamber
178 pages
Dark regions press
New voices of Horror #3

You think when Black Sabbath played there first local show that the people watching knew what dark force was about to be unleashed on the world? I got the feeling while reading this collection of short stories that James Chambers is a big deal. You people (As in librarians primarily but readers as well.) need to start buying his books. He deserves to be read damn it. I am sure he works full time, and he has kids so I know for fact the dude is not devoting the time needed, or deserved to bring his brand of horror out to the mainstream.

Sounds like hyperbole, but I really loved this book. Chambers is a very balanced and creative word smith who in his opening stories brings old school Ray Bradbury literary horror feeling while later stretches his muscles for a brutal erotically charged Lovecraftian tale “The Feeding Things.” There are westerns, crime stories and more in this short but powerfully packed to the brim collection.

Chambers has a skill for evoking the emotions that are needed in the horror field. It's one thing to have fantastically intense and creative ideas but but without the balance and understanding of the human emotion and motivation it's meaningless. James Chambers has that balance down to science. The title story was a personal favorite about house that is a magnet for zombies and the man who decides to call it home. The opening story “Mooncat Jack” captures childhood fear in the story of a bogeyman who stalks a neighborhood. Perhaps most effective for me “Gray Gulls Gyre.”

The main character that story Jennifer Truth is a compelling character with an interesting back story. I am aware that Chambers is working on developing a novel about her, I think that is one of the main reasons to get this collection a chance to be ahead of the curve, read the first published short story about a character who I think has a great chance to become a popular character in dark fiction.

Avid horror readers will enjoy this collection. Libraries who are serious about stocking the new talent of the next generation of horror masters should find a good spot for this one.

Note: I know about the Jennifer Truth novel in progress, because I read a sample and outline for it for the Borderlands novel bootcamp, where James and I met as grunts. I had a high opinion of that work too, before I met James. Very excited to read more from Chambers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

E-Book Review: Airlocked by Bret Jordon

Airlocked By Bret Jordan
70 pages E-book
Purple sword publishing

So I am not sure why Monster Librarian was asked to review this novella. It is for E-readers only, and I am not sure how the librarian's whom our site is geared towards could help them. I know more than just librarians read our reviews. I can tell you one thing I am glad I did not judge this book by it's “Cover.” This book looks like a deep space porno, a blond woman closes her eyes in rapture while a scruffy man kisses her neck, in the background a phallic ship cuts through space. I would be embarrassed to hold this book and read it on the bus. It's a shame, because the Author Bret Jordan is a talented artist. I looked at his website, he is a great artist. Yet this is the cover of his “book?”

I had no idea a publisher existed that produces science fiction, horror and fantasy meant to be the harlequin of genre fiction. Airlocked is better than it's cover suggests, the author certainly has talent, but I do not think he is served at all by this format. This book is about 70 pages and it is a titanic style doomed love story set on a doomed ship in space.

The plot centers of three survivors on the empty (at the time) cargo ship Valkyrie. The plot is sent in motion when they are awakened by the malfunction of their cyro-sleep chambers. Apparently it just weighed to much to store a single shred of food on the empty cargo ship just in case. As you can see this a massive plot black hole that sucks the rest of the story into the void. I just couldn't believe that they would not have back up food. That no one would considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe a sleep chamber might possibly malfunction. A Cargo with no room for a single box of clif bars? There is no ship in range so with three protein bars and six months of journey, they are going to die on board. I could have lived with this plot if the food had been there but a meteor hit the hull and the food was lost or something. Nope the morons just didn't pack emergency food.

Ok so lets move on. Two of them fall in love while the third speaks to god and goes all Jack Torrance on them. This is where Jordan flexes his muscles. It's impossible to discuss this novella without spoilers, they are going to die. I thought when I was reading it that maybe they would find away to survive, and the characters could enjoy the romance that flourished when they were starving to death in deep space. It gets more and more hopeless all the time. Being a bleak fiction fan I enjoyed that Jordan didn't have a ship show up to save them by miracle.

Tyler, the character that thinks in his starvation that he is speaking to god is an interesting dude. Jordon does his best work in creating this storyline. The love story is syrupy sweet at times, and the insanity of Tyler should have been the story if you ask me. The most effective part of the book comes in the reveal that starts off the third act. Jordan shows he can tell a story because even though I knew it was coming I thought the reveal was powerfully told.

That being said I can't suggest this book, it is in need of serious editor. Someone who can work with dialogue(where characters explain things the reader should be smart enough to already know), inconsistencies (most of the time the ship has no gravity but it does when characters need to run, or fist fight) and worst of all that implausible plot hole. The best element and most effective part of Jordan's novella was the pacing and structure. The third act gets pretty horrific. As a romance novel I couldn't see lonely ignored housewives wanting curl with a book about slowly starving to death.

You may think I'm being hard on this author, but you see he is close enough to doing really good work he doesn't need me lying in a review. Stronger editor and this would have been solid Science Fiction horror, instead it's not. It's laughable at times and should remind authors the power of a hard working editor.