Denis Johnson, R.I.P.

Denis Johnson had a way of crafting stories that lived in readers because they felt so real.  I don’t think about Fuckhead that often, but Georgie I think about a lot. My fiancee and my brother are doctors so when I daydream about them I remember  Georgie pulling the knife out of the man’s eye and the overworked nurse saying it was just one of the those things. I think of the baby rabbits that get forgotten and crushed on the car seat too.

And damn, Johnson’s sentences were fine. He’s infinitely quotable. “I knew every raindrop by its name.” “Generally the closest I ever came to wondering about the meaning of it all was to consider that I must the victim of a joke.” “We heard music coming from inside—jazz. It sounded sophisticated and lonely.” He had that wonderful way of mixing adjectives. Everything he did embodied his style.

I’ve only read the one book so far, but if Jesus’ Son was all he’d written he’d still be one of the greats.

Rest in piece, Denis Johnson.

 

 

Halloween Story List

For the month of October I posted 31 horror stories (mixed in with a poem and an incredible essay) on 31 almost consecutive days. Here’s what I chose:

1.) “Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller. Nightmare Magazine.

2.) “The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell.

3.) “The Girl Who Escaped from Hell” by Rahul Kanakia. Nightmare Magazine.

4.) “The Man in the Black Suit” by Stephen King. The New Yorker.

5.) “The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones. The Dark Magazine.

6.) “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The New Yorker.

7.) “Damnatio Ad Bestias” by Kristi DeMeester. Apex Magazine.

8.) “Inverted” by Joey Cormeau. Joyland.

9.) “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards. Slattery’s Art of Horror.

10.) “The Gift” by Robert Shearman. The Dark Magazine.

11.) “Red Mask” by Jessica May Lin. Shimmer Magazine.

12.) “The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter. Electric Literature.

13.) Friday the Furteenth by Ryan C. Bradley. Channillo.

14.) “The Story of William Wilson” by Edgar Allen Poe.

15.) “Where Angels Come In” by Adam L.G. Nevill. Nightmare Magazine.

16.) “Too Many Deaths” by Gabino Igelsias. Mad Hat Lit.

17.) “Stay” by Daniel Jose Older. Fireside Fiction.

18.) “There’s a Hole in the City” by Richard Bowles. Nightmare Magazine.

19.) Original Flash by Ryan C. Bradley: If you vote for Trump, you’re voting for nuclear fire searing off the flesh of children.

20-23.) Spectator and Spooks(5 stories, 2 essays, and 1 interview)

24.) “A Diet of Worms” by Valeria Valdez. Nightmare Magazine via Dread Central.

25.) “Postcards from Natalie” by Carrie Laben. The Dark Magazine.

26.) “Haunting Olivia” by Karen Russell. The New Yorker.

27.) “Houses Under the Sea” by Caitlin Kiernan. Nightmare Magazine.

28.) “Mulberry Boys” by Margot Lanagan. Lightspeed Magazine.

29.) “Half-Hanged Mary” by Margaret Atwood.

30.) “Cruel Sistah” by Nisi Shawl. Nightmare Magazine.

31.) “In Front of a Live Studio Audience” by Ryan C. Bradley. Tethered by Letters.

If you liked this list, you can find similar projects right here on this blog, by following me on Twitter @RyanB4890 or liking Friday the Furteenth‘s Facebook page.

 

Graduation Bingo

B I N G O
Processor trips over own robe

 

Presenter mispronounces name Speakers greets the Dean Baby cries “Hold the applause until the end”
 

Audience member takes off their shoes

 

Proud parent cries Blinded by camera flash  

Audience member snores

 

Spectator holding flowers
 

Speaker mentions recession

 

Family of a graduate whoop obnoxiously Free Space Walk through a photo by accident “I’d like to thank…”
 

Graduate you don’t know wins an award

 

“We couldn’t have done this without…” “I’m honored to be here” Someone trips on stage Rolled up sleeves
Spectator fans themselves  

Phone goes off with absurd ringtone

 

 

Sweat stains

 

“Congratulations”

 

Inappropriate release of gas (burp or fart)

LAWP Roundup

I flew out to California Wednesday morning for AWP LAWP. For the uninitiated, AWP stands for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. It was in Los Angeles, so LAWP.

It’s your typical conference format: hundreds of booths and panels on various subjects. In this particular case the booths were for magazines, small presses, and some strange things that only writers could possibly be interested in. (For example: a company that sold fragrances based on dead writers.) The panels are even more specialized, with about a third catering to pedagogy, and the other two-thirds for writers trying to get the hell away from pedagogy. What really separates the conference is that everyone there is a writer, editor, a writing teacher, or a person who was looking for the jewelry and makeup convention next to ours transported into what could only be their personal hell. Writers and style don’t typically mix.

Writers also make for interesting people watching and bad small talk. I worked the Redivider booth, where I’m a fiction reader. We got more than a few people letting us know that we’d rejected their work. I’m not sure what those folks hoped to gain. The best case is we don’t remember their name. The worst is we blackball them from our publication for being whiney. To reiterate: the best that could happen is that we forget about them quickly. No editor will ever publish a person because they confronted them over a rejection.

There’s also a lot of writers, me among them, attempting to small talk their way into friendships with prominent editors. There are people who can do that, but this being my fifth AWP in a row, and having put my foot firmly into my mouth while talking to an editor who’d published some of my stuff last year, I’m fairly confident that I am not that type of person.

I did, however, get some incredible swag!

The best being from Barrelhouse, who run a great magazine that runs wonderful pop culture essays and fiction that is at times laugh at loud funny and other times hide your tears from the other people on the train sad. They gave me this:

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze 2

which I will cherish forever and ever amen.

More than swag though, I got some sweet books. My good friend Dana bought me Vermillion by Molly Tanzer from Word Horde as an engagement present.

And my friend and old professor T bought me The Girl Wakes by Carmen Lau from Alternating Current Press, which came with a flask and a shot of whiskey to remind me why breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Alternating Current Press Flask and The Girl Wakes.jpg

Lazy Fascist Press had a pretty sweet 3 for $20 deal, and with the books came a sense that maybe I can actually put together a life as a writer, because these books are the kind of books that I’ve always wanted to write but have never found. Seeing them in print is a near spiritual experience.

Lazy Facist Press and Yolo Press

Rose Metal Press, which is run by an alum of Emerson College where I’m getting my Master’s, sold me The Voyager Record by Anthony Michael Morena collection of flash fiction/prose poems about the Voyager Landing. I reviewed Liliane’s Balcony, which I hadn’t realized was associated with Emerson for Redivider a few years ago. I love the format of flash fiction building on more flash fiction though.

Rose Metal Press The Voyager Record .jpg

I also got Age of Blight by Kristine Ong Muslim from Unnamed Press. I read it on the plane back and it had some pretty cool reinterpretations of famous psychology experiments. It really underlined how much of the knowledge that we have comes from cruelty and made me feel kind of icky.

Unnamed Press Age of Blight.jpg

These came from my friend Zoe’s room. She was getting rid of them. She runs this awesome hockey blog, which you should read if you have any interest in hockey whatsoever. Her family kindly opened there home to my roommate Chris and I.

Books from Zoe.jpg

Last but not least, I got a shitload of magazines. Do not ask how much I spent, especially if you’re my accountant.

Lit Mags.jpg

That’s a joke. I can’t afford an accountant.

StrayWP Thoughts:

-The DJ at the dance party looked so sad. There were free drinks and everyone there was a writer. It could very well be the worst dancing he’s ever seen.

-After my second flight, the jetway broke. The pilot came over the intercom and, very calmly explain the situation. The jetway was four feet away from the plane, and the crew was working on extending it the rest of the way but they’d gotten the wheels turned around. From my window seat, I watched them move the jetway back and forth for about five minutes while everyone else was gathering their stuff. The pilot pinged again, and exasperatedly told us that the crew was working their hardest and we’d be getting off the plane real soon. A man went to the bottom of the jetway, where the tractor-trailer sized wheels weren’t cooperating, and I swear to God he hit them with a hammer, as if that would help. The man next to me (who’d eaten a slice of pizza, a meatball and pasta dinner, a thai wrap, a box of pringles, and the airplane zesty ranch snack packet since I first saw him in the terminal three hours earlier) said his girlfriend said the crew was on strike. The captain came back on the intercom and near yelled that if the crew couldn’t get it figured out in the next ten minutes that we’d need to ferry to the next jetway over. I took out my book. The people standing in the aisles grumbled. The jetway went four feet further away from the plane but couldn’t get any closer on the way back. It did this again and again so I decided to finish my book. We disembarked at the next jetway.

-A hundred-and-fifty years ago a trip to LA would’ve taken grueling months and been underlined by dysentery and death, yet I complain about cross-country flights.

-I must’ve thrown out an entire tree’s worth of pamphlets people insisted on handing to me.

-One of the magazines organized a toiletry drives for the local homeless community, asking attendees to donate the extra stuff that their hotel gave them, which I think is wonderful and if I’d been staying at a hotel I would’ve loved to have been a part of it. I wish I could remember who it was and give them the credit they deserve.

Women Who Submit is an awesome organization.

-So is VIDA and I’m finally on their mailing list.

-I may have heard the worst panel question of all time. After an hour or so long panel on how to find balance when writing a novel and short stories at the same time, this poor young woman rose her hand, and explained that one of her professors had told her class they had to write literary stories for his workshop. She finished, “So what’s a literary short story?” I feel a deep well of sympathy for her. Professors, especially in introductory classes, should accept and talk about genre fiction. A story is a story, and you can critique characterization, plot, setting, et. al without being a genre expert, especially for beginning students. What must this professor have said so that his student felt safer asking a panel full of strangers what a literary story was than him or her?

-There is a Horror Writer’s Association and I’m going to join it as soon as I save up the $69 fee.

-Real Mexican food is amazing.

-I’ve now completed the West Coast Hat Trick, having been to California, Oregon, and Washington.

-#bAeWP

Horror Icon Shelf

I’ve been working on collecting these up for a while. I want to trade out the alien for Michael Myers from Halloween eventually. I love all of these action figures.

The picture is going to be my cover photo going forward, but in case that ever changes, here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Blog Cover Photo 3

A Study of Flame

“I’ve made a study of flames. I know things about flames that nobody else in the world knows,” Saul Flemm says near the end of 1932’s The Old Dark House. I watch old dark horror movies for lines like that. Typically they’ve got characters delivering their entire backstories to people they’ve just met in dialogue in attempts to become three-dimensional and special effects and stunt work that doesn’t land for modern audiences, but then there are the lines like this. It would be creepy in any era.

Out of context, it raises eerie questions with the viewer. How does one study flames? And what could he know about them that the rest of the people in the world don’t? Everyone has seen flames. The question of what else there could be to know beyond the heat and the color strikes me in the way glimpses of the abyss strike Lovecraft’s narrators—the kind of knowledge that would drive a person insane. It makes me wonder if Saul actually knows “things about flames that nobody else in the world knows.” Maybe that knowledge is what’s driven him crazy.

In context the line is even better. Saul’s been the hidden sibling, locked away and alluded to by his less-but-still-creepy brother and sister. We’ve heard his sinister laugh and watched the visitors try to figure out where it’s coming from. His father tells them that Saul is insane and tried to burn the house down before. The odd atmosphere of the house and the mystery surrounding Saul have made him dangerous before he’s ever appeared onscreen. And then, there’s the knife Saul’s pointing at Penderel, the protagonist of the movie when he delivers the line. Saul could stab Penderel at any moment. Penderel is wiggling out of danger, and the viewer with him if the movie has invested the viewer in Penderel’s fate, when Saul says, “I’ve made a study of flames. I know things about flames that nobody else in the world knows.”

The living room walls floated away from me. The sun was overcasted and the rain came down in torrents. I was in the old dark house then, sitting with Penderton and Saul, listening to him speak and I was terrified. That line brought me into that world.