Saturday, May 14, 2016

Product of your time? NO

I'm currently writing a story for a project that addresses Lovecraft's racism through stories that put all kinds of minorities front and centre. Of course, some people decided to piss and moan about this because "pandering blah-blah-blah" and "Lovecraft was a product of his time".

Product of your WHATEVER

So here's my response to this, which I will repeat here from the FB group page for this project.

"Product of his time" is too often used as an excuse. People are not mindless automatons. We have free will. We can decide what we want to believe.

I am South African and as such, racism has been a present force in my life for a very long time. Of course, as a child it was a force due to its pervasive absence - not talked about by adults or the media. 

As a teenager I was able to actually start thinking for myself, as was the case with many of my peers. Schools became bi-racial when I was around 16 and of course, unlike adults, teenagers were like, what the fuck is the big deal? Then Nelson Mandela was elected president and for a couple of months, South Africa basked in the glow of democracy and everything was rainbows and unicorns.

Then everyone got angry. Real angry. People who had been oppressed horrifically for years were in a position of power, were making the new laws of the country. God bless Nelson Mandela, because that man didn't have an ounce of hatred in him. But once he was no longer president, things began to turn ugly. People were drawing strength from hate. And once Mandela died, there was no reason for anyone to any longer hold to the ideals Madiba proposed. 

Today, there is a great deal of positivity in South Africa, but there is also still very defined racism. Blacks against whites, whites against blacks, black tribes against one another - it's a long list. 

Was Apartheid a "product of its time"? Fuck no, it was a choice. Because in the midst of Apartheid, there were thousands of whites who chose to accept black people as equals, who fought alongside them for the same rights bestowed on those of the so-called "Vaderland".

Hating someone because they are different is a choice. It's like saying homophobia is a product of it's time. Well, homophobia is still very rife, and we live in the 21st century. So no. 

I wrote my MA thesis on Lovecraft. I like the guy. I think he wrote about very important things before anyone else, and these themes are still extremely relevant today, which makes him a kind of visionary. But he was a jerk in terms of how he viewed those who were different from him. He clearly wasn't a hick in terms of how he thought about Big Ideas. But it's easier to hate something you don't understand than to actually look at your own shortcomings and fears.

[Project Editor] - when I did WITCH HOUSE, I luckily only got a small number of people complaining about publishing a Lovecraftian antho with women only. Those people missed the point of the antho entirely. Someone is always going to complain, you can bank on that the way you bank on the sun rising each morning. It's not a reflection on you or anything you're doing. If anything, you're confronting people with their own biases, and that's a good thing. You're doing just fine.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Black Wings of Cthulhu 5

Black Wings of Cthulhu V (ed. S.T. Joshi) featuring my story "In Bloom" is now available for preorder at Subterranean Press!

"This fifth instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series features twenty stories that use H. P. Lovecraft’s mythos as the basis for imaginative ventures into the weird and terrifying. One of the central themes in Lovecraft’s work is the problematical nature of science in human affairs, and in this volume we find stories by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan, Lynne Jamneck, and Donald R. Burleson where scientists come face to face with the appalling implications of their discoveries."

While the implication of "In Bloom" might be appalling, I sometimes think that the outcome of the story might be a better option, considering what we're doing to the planet.

Read more about BLACK WINGS V at the Subterranean Press website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Forthcoming Short Story

Something something PLANTS I have a story in the upcoming Black Wings of Cthulhu V (Ed. S.T. Joshi) alongside some other splendid writers.

Interview for Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

Brian M. Sammons interviewed me for Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, where I talk about Lovecraft being a genius, a jerk, and blue ducks in your stories.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recently Read

Man, I am so woefully behind on my reading list. There's a digital pile of awesome on my tablet and not nearly enough hours in the day.

However, I did finish two books recently that I'd very much recommend, not only to readers of the Weird, but anyone who enjoys speculative writing. Actually, if you never read any fiction at all, you're missing out and should read them, too.

Molly Tanzer's Vermilion (Word Horde) is a highly entertaining read that blends the weird with the Wild West and the paranormal in a way that reminds me of Bravestar and Big Trouble in Little China. Protagonist Lou Merriwether is a psychopomp who aids the transition of the dead to the afterlife. It's a sometimes dull, sometimes risky job, but it's one Lou's good at, having learned the business from her father. Lou chain smokes and carries a big gun for a little girl. But she gets into trouble when she decides to investigate the mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, who she begins to believe is responsible for the disappearance of numerous Chinatown boys, lured from Lou's own city of San Francisco by the promise of work on a railroad that shouldn't exist.

If you like unconventional, gender-bending heroines, Vermilion will no doubt appeal to you. Tanzer's novel is also a great introduction to the weird for those who want to get to know the genre better, but not necessarily via its pulp roots, which are set firmly in the early 20th century.

The Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol. 2 (Undertow Publications) edited by Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly. I'm a huge fan of Koja's writing, and knowing that she had selected the stories for this volume was for me, essentially, a moth-to-a-flame affirmation. While it's always difficult to pick favourites in a collection like this, I will highlight Nathan Ballingrud’s “The Atlas of Hell”, which I really loved (more so than "Skullpocket", actually), and as a result, I know have another book added to the ever-growing pile, Ballingrud's "The Visible Filth".

Weird fiction is not always an easy genre to penetrate, but then, I don't particularly think it is supposed to be. Which is what makes it so enticing. Like Vermilion, The Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol. 2 is perfect for introducing new readers to weird stories. While not every single entry might speak to you, the ones that do will keep at it for a long time to come, even when it eventually dies down to a whispering worm in your brain.