I'm about 3/4 of the way through Brian Keene's The Rising, probably the best zombie novel ever. Nice how he plays with the "rules" of zombies, but I think keeps some of the more interesting ideas (without getting hung up on the details of whether they're fast or slow) - the constant contrast between people who become more noble and heroic under these incredible circumstances, and those who immediately descend to the worst, most savage and sadistic behavior possible. That to me is the essence of a post-apocalyptic tale.Then I read over cantos 10-15 of Inferno, to flesh out the next series of scenes in Valley of the Dead.
Summer / Fall Appearances
Broken Oil Pan?
How, pray tell, do you make the oil pan in a car so fuckin' shoddily that it breaks? It has ONE FUCKIN', MOVING FUCKING PART! And that part only moves 4 or 5 times/year! The car has had the oil changed maybe 25 times - how can the threads be stripped after screwing and unscrewing something just 25 times??!! But there you have it. Threads stripped, barely got the drain plug in so that I could drive it home, and now it needs a new oil pan, lest we have this problem at every oil change. And a new oil pan? A part that is just a dumb piece of metal, nothing mechanical or electrical or electronic? How much is that? How much did you say? FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY FUCKIN' DOLLARS??!!I used to have a 1980 Toyota. Most things on it could be fixed with duct tape and wire. If not that, then it could be driven around, smoke billowing out, no heat, no wipers, bald tires, no brakes, but you could still drive it in a pinch. I probably delivered several hundred pizzas in that car in that condition. Not anymore. Anything goes wrong with the 20k dollar car, it's 500 dollars and there's no way to drive the fuckin' fucker w/o the repair. EDIT/UPDATE: Slight consolation: I'm waiting for them to put the overpriced oil pan on, and they call my cellphone, and say they've found a bunch of suspension work THAT'S STILL UNDER WARRANTY! But it'll take all day, so they send me home with a rental car, and I'll have a bunch of work done for "free" (not really "free" since I paid for the extended warranty when I bought the car four years ago, but at least I feel good about it).
Review of Orpheus and the Pearl
No Writing Today
Got to go pick the family up from the airport, where they will hopefully arrive after a more extended stay in France than I had!
Perhaps it will give my Beta reader time to catch up.
A lovely one from Michael McBride:"Dying to Live: Life Sentence is a thought-provoking study of the human condition. Paffenroth showcases his literary talent and maturity in this sequel that pulls off the impossible: it surpasses the original. Terrifying and uplifting, tragic and heartwarming, Life Sentence is more than just another zombie book. It's a true work of art." -- Michael McBride, author of Bloodletting and the God's End trilogy
Our intrepid heroes have made it to the circle of the wrathful (Circle 5, cantos seven and eight in the original). Dante especially liked this paragraph: "Dante looked at the men again. They were not the red-faced, wide-eyed drunks they had seen at the bear-baiting. The faces here were dark, grizzled, with dirt, soot, and blood filling every crease, and their eyes squinted slightly. These men didn’t loll about and laugh like drunks; they stood there as erect and solid as tombstones, their huge fists waiting at their sides. These were not the kind of men who drank to forget and to lose control; these men drank just enough to gain control and direct their fury more effectively and destructively. These were the kind of men who could come home every night and beat their wives nearly to death, or who could come home and beat the neighbor to death, because he had been beating his wife or children. Or because his dog was barking. Or because it was Tuesday. Or they might go their whole lives without ever striking anyone in anger, though the thought had been with them every waking moment of their lives, as well as filling their every dream. These men were not dissipated; instead, their animal essence was too tightly packed within their huge frames. They were not brash and loud, but that made them all the more dangerous."
I hate writing them! I have to spend so much time blocking them in my mind, so they'll make sense from a tactical, physical point of view, and I just don't find them all that exciting (in my work or other people's). I can spend 500 words describing how someone feels about it being a dark, rainy day, and when I get done with it, I feel refreshed and I think I have something really beautiful down on paper. But a similarly lengthed fight scene just drains me, because I have to think about it too much, and the payoff to me isn't that great. (It's probably further complicated by the fact that I have to reverse everything, since I'm left handed.) Well, I guess a great zombie novel needs lots of both!And this one even ran to a rather longish 2100 words. I worked right through naptime! Well, since I slaved so hard on a scene that's so difficult for me to write, Dante promised me some hot wings and beer! Isn't that nice of him? That's why I'm writing this book about him - he's just such a sweetie!
Cerberus - Improved!
Cerberus makes a very brief appearance in Dante's Inferno, but just to show that the sinners around him/it are bestial (like he/it is), and to show that Virgil can easily overcome this obstacle (he throws mud at the monster and they walk by it w/o a fight). But, in my version, they have a much more involved interaction with the Cerberus analog, so it's not just compared to the sinners, but also contrasted with them - the big, mean animal isn't as gross and bestial as the people around it. And the Beatrice character is more responsible for neutralizing the beast (the Virgil character can state why they're able to neutralize it, but she does so), since (for me) it is not just an overcoming or conquering of animal nature, but a right appreciation and respect for it, which is represented by my much more carnal version of Beatrice. (Her interaction with the Francesca character is heartbreaking, IMHO.)Neat! Dante and I are going to have some Pinot Grigio and scungilli tonight in celebration of this improvement!
From the brilliant and extremely generous Gary Braunbeck: "With Dying to Live: Life Sentence, Kim Paffenroth has done something I didn't think possible: surpassed the achievement of Dying to Live. Paffenroth is arguably the only writer of zombie fiction to present the living dead as being victims as much as the living human beings who fear them. He tackles some pretty heady subject matter, grappling with themes of spirituality, accountability, loneliness, alienation (in the dictionary sense of the word), and how a society shows its true face only when it begins to collapse in on itself. This is existential horror fiction pushed to the limit: terrifying, disturbing, with some surprising moments of humor, and a deep, abiding humanity that extends from his living characters back to his zombies. Life Sentence unfolds like a grand tragic opera, and in the end emerges as a poignant and powerful meditation on love, sacrifice, and mortality...one that also just happens to scare the bejeezus out of you."
--5-time Bram Stoker Award Winner Gary A. Braunbeck, author of Mr. Hands and Coffin County
I just got an invite to appear on the zombie panel at Fanexpo in Toronto next month! I was hoping to go just as a regular attendee, but this'll be nicer!In the meantime, I'm off to the much smaller Expo of the Storm King Fire Department's annual carnival. You know that mechanical game, where a sliding platform pushes quarters off the edge and down into a hopper from which you can collect them? I'm gonna play that for an hour and eat an elephant ear and call it a night!
Less Is More
I keep harping on this principle, for sex, violence, and profanity in writing. I just did a chapter, where there has to be two very violent acts (perhaps not surprisingly, a zombie feeding frenzy, and then zombies being killed). Only one should be described in detail, however, because two rounds of violence in the same chapter is pointless and counterproductive, to the point that it would diminish the effect of either description. So you pull out all the stops in one description, make it as nauseating as you can, and then the other violent act is barely implied by the what you describe. That came out nicely.
Kim's Sabbatical Schedule
So far. Hopefully this won't change much for the next year, as it seems pretty productive, yet fun:7am-9am - breakfast, coffee, NYTimes online, email, shower9am-2pm - WRITE2pm-3pm - nap3pm-5pm - WRITE5pm-7pm - dinner, dishes, laundry, housework, take out the trash7pm-10pm - World of Warcraft10pm-12am - TV12am-7am - sleepTotal writing per day has been ca. 1500-2000 words. Not pushing myself too hard, do you think? And, as you can see, I'm biting into my nap time right now, so I better go!
It was as good as Iron Man, maybe better, and I was blown away by Iron Man. Dark Knight might have the edge, since the villains and their subplots were so well done. Ledger was great, but I was impressed with the Harvey Dent subplot, as I was expecting it to be more of an afterthought, and it's integrated perfectly. I would say this would be one of the few comic book movies (the Spiderman series would be another candidate) that should definitely be seen even by people who don't like comic books, just for the excellence of acting and writing.
The World Is Dead - Guidelines
Check them out carefully, please: http://www.permutedpress.com/worldisdead.phpIf you do check them carefully, you will see reprints are allowed (since the rate of pay for them is listed), you will see that flash fiction is not desired, and you will know not to send in your submission before August 1. Thanks!!
Back from World Tour!
I guess the summary will have to be short, as I've been gone three whole weeks.Europe. I'll never quite get what the fuss is about Paris being so beautiful and romantic. I like cities, lots of cities, but I don't see anything special there. If anything, I had more fun in London. (And yes, of course one has to factor in that not being able to communicate effectively diminishes one's fun.) With so many south Asian people, it seemed nearly as cosmopolitan as Paris, and more compact to get around the downtown area. As often happens, sometimes the lesser known gems stand out more than the "big" stuff that everyone "has" to see. I thought the Imperial War Museum was amazing, and really conveyed a lot of the glory and horror of war, and all in a very compact experience, whereas the Louvre and the British Museum are impressive for sheer size, but after a while, another 12' high statue of an Assyrian winged man-lion, or another 10'x20' canvas of some gaudy, 18th century artist all start to blur together. And the tiny (one full floor of galleries) art museum in Liverpool contained what were to me the most inspiring paintings - two of Dante that I immediately recognized from across the room, by some guy named Rossetti who was obsessed with him. The cathedral in Strasbourg also stands out now in my mind much more than I remember Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur. It was amazing to see it crammed in among so many tiny buildings in the downtown, towering over things built since it was, with modern technology. The stained glass was almost all destroyed in WWII, but the carvings on EVERYTHING are unbelievable for their attention to detail - every thing looks like it's alive, it's so covered with angels, saints, and gargoyles. Every surface has something on it - apparently, we were told, right up to the top of the steeple, where no one ever sees them (!). NECON. Nice to see all my horror friends again. The zombie panel was well received, but the next day I had to put up with an hour of my favorite monster being maligned as part of (though not the cause of) the problem, in the "Killing the Genre" panel. But (I think!) it was all in good fun, as I had a good laugh with everyone afterward. Jack Haringa was on his tear about how "literary" and "intellectual" are used as pejoratives by too many fans, and I agree with him - and have even had those labels attached to me, by people who meant them as insults. (I can't wait for someone to use them about me and mean them in a good way! That'd be great!)So, a very successful and full three weeks, and now for some sleep and hopefully get right to writing first thing tomorrow morning.
British Airways switched me to an earlier flight (w/o telling me) so when I checked in, the machine refused my advances! So they put me on other flights from AirFrance and Virgin and I just got home!!
I Should Blog from the Hotel Lobby!
At least once!Well, I'm sitting here with jet lag and having drunk too many hard ciders. London is a great place, if you don't mind a city that's more expensive than NYC (even before the horrible exchange rate is taken into consideration). Seriously, it is very historic, very cosmopolitan, and we're having a great time, even if we have to be circumspect about every purchase. And a shout out to Harriet Crabtree's coworkers, of Interfaith Network (http://www.interfaith.org.uk/index.htm). Saw Hatty yesterday and had a great dinner and conversation!!