Centipede Press’ Amazing Hodgson, with Visionary Art by Fabian

(Click the four outward arrows for full-screen glory)

Centipede Press…words fail me. I’ve never seen a publisher, outside of the brazen brilliance of Savoy, tackle such stunning projects—and whereas Savoy works within a set format of regular-sized hardcovers collecting uncompromising, edgy outsiders that William Burroughs would laud, Centipede Press often creates oversized hardcovers of the more outsider horror writers. (The two presses are like cousins with a subset of similar interests.)

These projects by Centipede Press are, to me, insane in the best possible way. They seem, from the outside anyway, to require staggering resources and time to create, and they are always made with an eye to detail and a sophisticated aesthetic that doesn’t shy away from the pulp origins of the material.

Now Centipede Press has come out with a book fully the equal of the Lovecraft art volume from last year, this time collecting the work of William Hope Hodgson in a slipcased oversized hardcover featuring the art of Stephen Fabian. Every element of this book has been chosen with care, all possible options weighed before execution. From the full-page bleeds of Fabian’s visionary art to the lovely half-translucent page that balances the marvelous title page art by Ian Miller, from the choice of type to the introduction by Sam Moskowitz, this edition of Hodgson may never be matched.

See the slideshow above for some highlights–and feel free to share it. Honestly, if you’re a collector you need this book. Wow.

Sunday Miscellany: Books, Crutches, Mantels

(The FTC can stick this where the sun don’t shine. This caption would’ve been more effective a couple days ago.)

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Murder by Death Finch CD in the House

Yep, it’s in the house–my copies, and the extra copies I’m taking on the road for the book tour. It’s simple but very nicely put together. And, of course, the music is awesome.

Below the break all the mundane details about ordering it or Finch or both.

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Sea Planes and Citrus: Vintage Art from an Imaginary Past

The first time I met Steve Hlavac it was on South Beach, where he had a busy night ahead of him as a professional photographer. We followed him to a bar where Warren Zevon was playing–he got his shots even though a customer wanted to punch him out. (Ann’s known him ever since he was her boss at a Record Bar in Tallahassee.)

In addition to his professional work for national and and international magazines (see also his page on photographed celebs) Steve’s had a couple of cool exhibits in recent years, one based on his travels in China and another called Floridustrial that you should really check out.

Now Steve’s got a new exhibit called Seaplanes and Citrus: Vintage Art from an Imaginary Past in which he’s repurposed some of his photographs in the context of vintage imaginary advertisements for various products, from Little Hailey’s Extra Large Baby Jumbo Shrimp Miniatures to Laughing Tiger Sour Citrus. Most of it is Florida-specific. He’s still adding context to the site, but the images are up there now. (For those still addicted to the meat world, you can also find them on display in the Tavares City Hall–north of Orlando–until the end of October.)

Below find a small sample of work from all three exhibits (all images copyright Steven Paul Hlavac). Steve also has prints of some of his work available.

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My Complicated Relationship with Facebook

(A screen capture from my profile photo album on Facebook; I love how the juxtapositions form a kinda cool collage.)

I’ve got a complicated relationship with Facebook. When Matt Staggs first set up an account for me, I kind of scoffed at Facebook. Me? Wanting to interact with people using status messages on a daily basis? Not this curmudgeon.

Then I started using Facebook and became an addict. On a basic level, yes, the appeal was that I could keep up with my friends despite being frantically busy. I could actually remember their birthdays using this great external brain called “Facebook”. I started using Facebook while doing projects that didn’t require all of my brain—like editing, writing reviews, etc., so I found it a nice way of feeling connected and also of having some fun while getting stuff done.

Eventually, I began role-play using Facebook, as a lot of these profile photos should demonstrate. Role-playing is a form of storytelling, and since I had so many book projects on my plate but not much time for writing fiction, I think I used the role-playing in the guise of, say, a capybara or a giant bear or a komodo dragon as a way of fulfilling a creative urge on a micro level. This was also important because, well, after writing my novel Finch I didn’t really want to write any major fiction. It usually takes me awhile to recharge.

At one point, in the guise of an alien baby icon, I wrote the beginnings of a short story in first person—on Facebook. I know many of my friends didn’t know what the heck I was going on about, and others thought I was joking, but I found the process fascinating. As long as I stayed in character and answered the responses to my little posts of story fragments, I was advancing the narrative—and because many people didn’t realize I was telling a story, the narrative took twists and turns I wouldn’t have thought of without the prompts from my friends. In another case, I took on the persona of Mord, a giant Shardik-like bear who will figure in several future stories, and doing so gave me some idea of the parameters of the character.

Now, about eight months since I became serious about Facebook, I use it as a mini-blog as well as a source of creativity, and, still, to keep up with friends. I have almost 2,000 friends now, many of whom I don’t know, and so it really is more like a micro-blog platform than anything else. I post thoughts and content there that don’t overlap with Ecstatic Days, or I try to provide it in a different context. (If you’re not my friend on Facebook, feel free to add me—it’s a mix of close friends, colleagues, readers, fans, industry professionals at this point.) I’ve also thought about finding some graceful way to include a Facebook feed in the sidebar, since this blog and my Facebook activity are often linked in some ways (blog posts here have sometimes started as posts/responses on Facebook).

When I go on tour this fall, it’ll be interesting to see how it affects how I use Facebook. It might mean I’ll break from it and won’t come back for awhile. In part because there have been instances at which Facebook has felt cramped—as if it allows thousand of voices into a mind already crowded with information. And I’m also aware that I may simply be conditioned to the response, much as a rat in an experiment becomes conditioned to receiving a food pellet if it performs a certain function. It’s also led me to mistake it for a diary, in that I’ve posted status updates containing information I’d never divulge here on the blog, and in a couple of cases I’ve regretted it. (Other stuff is just perhaps too silly–like an updated status message at two in the morning about a flying cockroach.) And, finally, I’m sure Ann’s felt like a Facebook widow at times.

But I do know it has served a creative function for me this year as well, and three or four creative relationships that have led to projects have come about because of being on Facebook. So I may just have to accept the aspects of it that sometimes stress me to get the benefits from it . One thing’s for sure—as in all things, moderation is the key. Currently, I’m glutting myself on Facebook, but eventually I’ll have to pull back a bit.

Aidan Doyle: International Man of Mystery

(Full story here.)

For the past few months, Aidan Doyle, who I first met at Clarion South, has been traveling the world—countries like China, Mongolia, Russia, Estonia, Finland. He’s done more than a bit of travel writing for various places, but also keeps a blog here where he’s been posting about his experiences. Really interesting stuff.

Here’s Aidan at an undisclosed location picking up mad skillz, and a few teaser photos from his travels below the cut.

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BOOOOKS! Featuring Ballard and Kiernan, BOOOOKS From Delany, Doubinsky, Biancotti, and More, Always MORE…

First off, just to catch up, two new features on Amazon: an interview with Caitlin R. Kiernan about her new novel The Red Tree and a short appreciation of The Collected Stories of J.G. Ballard, complete with a selection of first lines from the book.

In addition, I’m pleased to note that I just turned in the introduction to Kiernan’s forthcoming 2010 collection The Ammonite Violin & Others, which reads in part:

Part of this authenticity—part of the reason I find them disturbing—comes from the simple fact that the people in these stories don’t really survive their encounter with the supernatural. Whether in, among others, “Madonna Littoralis” or the two “Metamorphosis” stories, this inability to survive can be literal or figurative, or both—and it occurs because the supernatural isn’t so much something terrifying in Kiernan’s view—it can be, but that’s not the true point. The supernatural to Kiernan is also something beautiful and unknowable in intent, and often wedded to the natural world. In a sense, trying to know something unknowable will always destroy the seeker.

(Also, I must mention Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s ongoing brilliant freelancer survival guide series, this time focusing on emotional setbacks.)

Now, on to books received. You want coffee table books, I’ve got coffee table books. Comics? Check. Novels. Yep. Story collections? Yessir, including two from Ramsey Campbell and the debut from Deborah Biancotti, A Book of Endings, which is presented in a sweet design from one of my new favorite publishers, Twelfth Planet Press (watch them–they’re smart, savvy, and when you get one of their books, you just know from the look-and-feel that they’ve got that extra little something that makes a publisher special). Pull back the veil and, voila! Books, for you. (And while you look at that, it’s time for me to go hike in a thunderstorm…)

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Paradigms & Fairytales: What’s Your Favorite Eccentric Nonfiction Book? (Er, and Beer)

(So, like, what’s with the beer in the photo? Over on Omnivoracious, I’m soliciting suggestions for books to feature with Stone Brewing’s latest act of genius–said act included sending us two bottles of amazing beer. So, here, your fav nonfic crazy books. There, your fav books to pair with beer. Go to it, my peoples!)

I love eccentric nonfiction, in part because I get some of my funniest fictional ideas from such books. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of any number of slightly “off” texts, including a book on penguins where the author went off on long rants about misclassifications and the backstabbing that goes on in the penguin studies community. There’s something about eccentric nonfiction that points out the inherent absurdity of our situation as living beings. Which is to say, we establish these parameters for reality and we abide by them, the data reinforced by the evidence of our five senses and our brain’s ability to process and analyze information. We tell ourselves that certain things are more real than others—for example, chemistry is more real, based on more facts, as a branch of science than, say, a soft science like sociology. And yet, when it comes down to it, everything is still processed through our slightly illogical, definitely subjective, maybe-having-a-bad-day brains.

So, you wind up with a lovely subset of nonfiction that often reads like Kinbote from Pale Fire is your narrator. Sometimes this is because the writer is truly a bit cracked. Sometimes it’s because even a decade can turn a serious nonfiction book into…fiction.

Then, there are books that you can’t not take seriously and yet also seem full of crazy in the best possible way. For example, I’ve recently been reading the two-volume set Paradigms & Fairy Tales: An Introduction to the Science of Meanings by Julienne Ford (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975)

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Matrix Reloaded: Fifteen Pounds of (Pouncing) Chest Cat and Major Kung-Fu

(Looks so evil. Not evil. Demented and nuts, but not evil.)

So. We have a new cat, who looks like the devil sometimes (see above) and sometimes looks like this:

Other times, the cat looks like this:

We got him from neighbors down the street who had put up a “Free Cat” sign as part of their garage sale. Because, with three cats already and all kinds of time commitments, we needed another beast in our lives. But Ann bonded and I enabled, and we took the cat, which otherwise might’ve gone back to the pound. The cat seemed well-fed, healthy, and apparently had a chip already.

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Emerging Writers Interview at Clarkesworld with Jesse Bullington, N. K. Jemisin, Tessa Kum, Meghan McCarron, Shweta Narayan, Jeremy C. Shipp, Angela Slatter, Genevieve Valentine

In addition to the usual great content, the latest Clarkesworld has run my round-robin interview with eight writers I think of as cool and “emerging,” since “new” doesn’t quite cover it: Jesse Bullington, N. K. Jemisin (also in this issue with fiction), Tessa Kum, Meghan McCarron, Shweta Narayan, Jeremy C. Shipp, Angela Slatter, and Genevieve Valentine. (A tip of the hat to the Emerging Writers Network, by the way–they don’t own the term “emerging writer,” but they’re why I thought of using it.)

Every once in awhile, it’s good for a fool like me, entering mid-career, to check the pulse of what’s going on among the emerging writers who will one day call you a curmudgeon. Keeping tabs on this unruly, diverse lot not only lets you see the end of the road coming from much farther away and softens the often abrupt transition from “young turk” to “old fart”—it also re-energizes you and helps ensure that your reading patterns don’t get too predictable. Usually, I keep up via blogs and online fiction, but I thought it would be interesting to interview a few emerging writers about subjects like their connection to the larger community, where they see themselves in five years, what they’ve been reading, and their take on mammals versus large reptiles. A kind of core sample, if you will.

Go check it out–and below the cut here, since the interview was already running long, and they couldn’t include photos, you’ll find–the photos! What a bunch these writers are, from their mugshots. Bullington was such a tough I couldn’t even get his photo to load into flickr. Heh.

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