Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse Review – Dark Faith: Invocations

Back when I was the managing editor for Fear & Trembling I was contacted for an interview by Lea Lawrynowicz who was writing an article for Rue Morgue titled “Divinity in Darkiness: The Rise of Christian Horror.” That article appeared in Issue 87 (March 2009). One of my quotes that made it into the article was “Regardless, it’s here to stay and other subgenres may branch out because of it. Who knows? We may be reading Buddhist horror one day.”

Three years later (an interesting number there) my prediction comes true with Dark Faith: Invocations, edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon. Both in the general sense in that this anthology of short stories can be more broadly defined as Spiritual horror or Religious horror than just Christian horror, and also in the specific sense with Elizabeth Twist’s story, “Kill the Buddha.”

The writers in the anthology are practically a who’s who list of short speculative fiction authors—like Jay Lake, Lavie Tidhar, Mike Resnik, Nisi Shawl, Tim Waggoner, and Lucy A. Snyder—as well as up and comers like Michael Ehart and Lashawn M. Wanak. The writers, both new and seasoned and in between, are among the best of the best. And the stories in the anthology show it, too.

While all the stories are spiritually themed and revolve around faith this isn’t your kiderized horror, whether it borrows from Christianity, Paganism, or Buddhism. And a lot of literary and slipstream elements can be found among the stories as well, like Jay Lake’s “The Cancer Catechism” or Tom Piccirilli’s “Subletting God’s Head.” Every story keeps you reading, makes you feel for the characters, and a few throw some excellent plot twists your way. As anthologies go, this one is far above average.

Not only do I highly recommend this anthology, I also think it should be required reading in theology and religion classes the world over. But, then again, I’m crazy that way.

Best read while listening to: there’s so much diversity here that there’s no way that mentioning one or two song artists could do the whole antho justice. So go with your gut instinct and listen to what feels right for each story. Just don’t let it be the Veggie Tales theme song.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Interview: Maurice Broaddus

I first heard of Maurice Broaddus back in 2005 and had read a couple of his stories. I had always planned on interviewing him for SpecMusicMuse back in the day when it was its own blog, even before it had its temporary stint as a column for the Double-Edged Publishing family of webzines. But I had always found myself busy: busy interviewing someone else, busy writing reviews, busy writing short stories, busy editing Fear & Trembling (in which a story of his appeared in), or just plain busy….

Screw that. The truth is I have a bad habit of putting things off until the last minute. That, and I’m shy.

Also, I wanted to make sure that when I did interview him, I did it right, that I didn’t end up asking stupid questions like “What’s it like being a black author” and other similarly pointless questions (seriously, that’d be like asking me “What’s it like being a writer who’s a quarter Cherokee?” How the hell do you really answer a question like that?).

So I lolligagged, and I lolligagged, until finally I approached him at Fandom Fest, while drunker than a hobo party crasher, and popped the question. And no, it wasn’t “Will you marry me?” 1) He’s already married (sorry girls), and 2) I’m not gay, but if I were, Johnny Depp would be the only man for me.

But then again, I was drunk, so who knows what the hell I said that night.

Nobody tell me. I’d rather not know.

So, without further ado, here’s the interview:

What intrigues you the most about dark fiction?

Dark fiction is the most honest of genres.  In a lot of ways it speaks to what people feel is most true about humanity and about our experience in life.  After all, pain is the most common human denominator.

How has faith affected your writing, personally, spiritually, and genre-wise? And vise versa?

That’s a big question requiring the space of an article.  I can give you one example so that I don’t end up taking up all the space of this column.  One way that faith has impacted my writing is that it affects some of the things I choose to write about.  A lot of my stories begin with issues of faith.  The Knights of Breton Court series sprang from my volunteer work I did with the ministry Outreach Inc which works with homeless teens.  All of my projects with my co-conspirator Wrath James White, including the novel project we’re currently working on, begin with some argument we have about the nature of faith or God.

The flip side to that is that it’s through my writing that I wrestle with some of the deeper issues of faith, the questions that don’t really have answers.  Sometimes story is the only way to meditate on those issues.  Also, I have found that the exercise of getting into other people’s heads, writing from perspectives that differ from mine, helps me to empathize with people all the more.

Considering how rapid technological advances have gotten, how much has the publishing industry changed since you first started? What parts have remained the same?

Oh man, don’t paint me into old man corner.  “You kids and your new-fangled reading devices.  In my day all I needed was a book … and a stick.  That was all the entertainment that we needed!”

Just about everything about the industry has changed in the little over a decade that I’ve been writing.  From how I submit stories (I haven’t had to go to the post office in a while to mail a story in a while, unless I’m submitting to the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy); to where I send them (there are a lot of great online magazines now).  Publishers are re-thinking their models as they try to figure out how to stay in business and readers decide how they want to read their stories.

With the advent of social media and all the focus on writer’s platforms and the like, not to mention the ease of self-publishing, it gets easy to lose sight of the process.  Because what hasn’t changed is that you still have to write a good story first.

You’ve edited as well as written. How has being an editor helped you as a writer?

Every writer should have to do duty behind a slush pile at least once.  Seriously.  You learn the process from the other side of the desk.  What an editor sees all the time, in terms of stories and (lack of) professionalism.  You develop a more critical editorial eye when you look at your own work, too.

Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next ten years?

If I could predict that, I’d be rich.

Is there any kind of music that you find helpful when it comes to writing?

It depends on what I’m writing.  A lot of the time I’m used to tuning out all sound.  I have two very rambunctious boys and I’ve had to train myself to ignore their constant arguing.
When I’m brainstorming, I typically listen to something wordless.  My go to album is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.  Different projects require different music, however.  When I was writing the Knights of Breton Court, I listened to a lot of gospel and hip hop to keep me in the mindset I wanted.  When I’m working on my steampunk projects, because of the nature of the world I’ve built, I listen to a lot of Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley.

Anything coming out soon? And what other demented morsels might be simmering inside the mind of Mr. Sinister, er uh, Mr. Minister, uh, Maurice Broaddus?

The second volume in our dark speculative fiction meets issues of faith series, Dark Faith: Invocations (Apex Books), is about to be released.  Also, Angry Robot books is about to release the omnibus edition of the Knights of Breton Court.  I have a science fiction novella, I Can Transform You (Apex Books) due around the beginning of the year.

I’m currently working on a middle grade detective novel, a post apocalyptic novel (with Wrath James White) plus that steampunk novel and novella.  And be looking for a lot of new stories coming out from me in the next few months.

***

Maurice Broaddus is an exotic dancer, trained in several forms of martial arts–often referred to as “the ghetto ninja”–and was voted the Indianapolis Dalai Lama. He’s an award winning haberdasher and coined the word “acerbic”. He graduated college at age 14 and high school at age 16. Not only is he credited with inventing the question mark, he unsuccessfully tried to launch a new number between seven and eight.

When not editing or writing, he is a champion curler and often impersonates Jack Bauer, but only in a French accent. He raises free range jackalopes with his wife and two sons … when they are not solving murder mysteries.

The way he sees is, as a fiction writer, he’s a professional liar. His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II&III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine. He has two novellas, Orgy of Souls (co-written with Wrath James White, Apex Books) and Devil’s Marionette (Shroud Books), and edited the anthology Dark Faith (with Jerry L. Gordon, Apex Books). His novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot/HarperCollins UK) debuts in 2010. Visit his site so he can bore you with details of all things him at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.

October 7, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse: Interview With Elizabeth Massie

I ran into Horror author Elizabeth Massie at Context back in August, and being the polite and genteel Virginian that she is, she agreed to an interview:

 

What made you decide to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a writer. I always loved stories…telling them, hearing them, watching them. Even as a kid I often wondered what it was like to be another person, to live in his/her skin, in his/her house, and have experiences different from my own. 

 

You also teach writing classes. Has teaching it helped your own
writing in any way?

I think to teach anything you have to not only know what you’re teaching but be willing to keep learning. When people in a class or workshop ask very specific questions, it makes me think through aspects of the craft that I might not have thought about very deeply. Something I might have been doing but hadn’t analyzed, or something that made me think – hmmm, how could that be accomplished in a more creative, effective way?

 

In what direction do you see Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Horror going in the near future?

It’s hard to speculate on the direction of speculative fiction (!) I’ll just have to wait and find out. Honestly, anything I’ve ever predicted in the business has gone off in another direction.

 

Do you find fiction easier to write or nonfiction? And with fiction,
is short fiction easier than longer works, or do they each have their own unique challenges?

I find fiction easier in that it is a story and my imagination can run. Not saying writing fiction is easy; it requires you to use both sides of your brain – the right/creative side, which helps you come up with something fresh and intriguing and interesting and the left/analytical side which helps you put all that creativity into some sort of organized fashion so others can understand it. With nonfiction, while I enjoy the researching, analyzing, and presenting information or opinions, you can’t make much up! 😉

 

Like me, you’re not afraid to let people know your political opinions. How important do you feel it is for artists, musicians, and writers to speak out on issues they’re passionate about, and what would you like to tell those who advise us to keep those opinions to ourselves?

 I think everyone – artists, writers, actors, musicians, waitresses, teachers, doctors, etc. – should speak out on issues on which they feel strongly. Too many people fuss and fume behind closed doors but either think their views aren’t important or think their voices can’t make a difference. Granted, sometimes actors and writers and artists have a larger platform for getting their views to the public, but really, everyone can find a way to share their opinions. Facebook is definitely one venue that has leveled the playing field when it comes to sharing opinions. You got a FB page? You can share your thoughts! However, I do want to go on the record here and say that just spouting angry criticism with little to back it up other than a “YOU SUCK!” or “YOU’RE HITLER!” is wasted time, wasted space, wasted breath. If you are passionate about politics or a particular social issue or injustice, care enough to learn enough about it to speak without the childish jibes or barbs. They get us nowhere. Discussions end when the insults begin.
 

 

And speaking of artists and musicians, has art and music ever provided inspiration to your writing?

I often listen to music while I write. Nothing with words or I end up singing along. However, instrumental music can set a mood, inspire a scene, or even give me an idea for a brand new novel or story altogether. I adore movie scores, in particular those by Goldsmith, Bernstein, Rosa, and Morricone. And I love music by Jim Brickman, Secret Garden, James Galway, and many others. Art has been an inspiration at times, too. There are some classical and more traditional paintings that have really moved me or disturbed me or poked at my brain, causing me to ask “What if…?” (That question is a very common writer’s tool!)
 

What do you have currently out and what’s coming down the proverbial pipeline?

 I have several new stories out now – “Something You Ought to Know” in Specters in Coal Dust and “Someone Came and Took Them Away” in Legends of the Mountain State 4, both published by Woodland Press. I have another new story, “Sink or Swim,” published by the on-line magazine, Horror Drive-In http://tinyurl.com/2b4hgrs My Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Sineater, is just now out in e-book and audio book from Crossroad Press. I also have a brand new, never-before-published mainstream novel, Homegrown, which will be released in the next month or so from Crossroad Press. Quite different from my historical and horror novels, but a story I love. I have two new Moon Man comics coming out from Moonstone within the next six months. My wacky and fun super hero short story “Silver Slut: And So It Begins” will be included in the Moonstone anthology Chicks in Capes this December.

And where can people learn more about you and your work?

 My website is www.elizabethmassie.com . I try to keep it updated regularly.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SMM Classic: Review of The Plot to Save Socrates + Interview w/Paul Levinson

(April 1, 2007)

The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson

An ancient manuscript is found that hints at a time traveler from the future going back in time to save the great philosopher, Socrates, from his death at the hands of the democratic Athenian government. When Thomas O’Leary shows his student, Sierra Waters, the manuscript, she finds herself in a time-traveling adventure in search of Socrates’s mysterious savior – who could be anyone from any time, even her. Of course, when historical figures like the warrior-philosopher, Alcibiades and the inventor, Heron of Alexandria, get involved, the threat of a time paradox becomes more and more dire.
Paul Levinson handles a complicated plot and a multitude of characters in a manner that can only be described as masterful. Certainly not something the average writer would even wish to attempt. And to top it off, he leaves you with a great tale both entertaining and meaningful. It also comes complete with discussion group questions for the philosopher in every reader.
I highly recommend this book, and I won’t be surprised if it wins several awards.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Classical to Gaelic to Electronica/Industrial.

Publisher: TOR
Price: $14.95
Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31197-9
ISBN-10: 0-765-31197-6
Genre: Science Fiction

(April 8, 2007)

Interview With Paul Levinson

I had the honor of interviewing Paul Levinson, author of The Plot to Save Socrates, President of theScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)from 1998-2001, and who was a guest on my favorite show, The O’Reilly Factor. So yeah. Stoked? Psyched? Words can’t even describe it.


How did you come up with a time-travelling tale about Socrates?

I’ve been bothered about why Socrates didn’t take Crito up on his escape offer since I first read the Crito in a freshman philosophy class at the City College of New York in 1963. As soon as I began writing and publishing science fiction in the early 1990s, I knew I wanted to write a time travel story in which someone went back in time to try and save Socrates. (Incidentally, I had this idea well before Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – in fact, I’ve yet to see the movie. I really should.) Since time travel provokes profound philosophic paradoxes (more on this below), it seemed natural to me write a time travel story about a philosopher.

What struck me most about the novel was the whole Free Will vs. Fate conflict that seemed to be going on in it. Was that idea intentional?

Yes. One of the prime paradoxes about travel to the future is that, if you see someone wearing a red shirt tomorrow, for example, does that mean the person has no choice but to wear that shirt? The truth is, if time travel existed, none of us would have any real control over our lives, because we’d be locked into everything the time traveler sees.

So in The Plot to Save Socrates, the problem the characters have to solve is: how can they know if what they are doing is the result of their free will, or of a pre-ordained fate. And, of course, it’s very hard to know this, certainly hard to prove what’s really going on … and that, to me, was a big part of the fun of writing this novel.

Sierra Waters is a very interesting character. She seems to be in conflict against her own interests at times.

Yes, because Sierra is torn in many ways (like the piece of paper she tears up in the very first paragraph of the novel). First, affection for and then guilt over Max. Love of some kind for Thomas. Passionate, romantic love for Alcibiades. Love of history, and getting things right. So she is in deep conflict, because she knows she can’t have all of these things. About the most clear-cut thrill for her, historically, is Plato’s life. And, of course, we find out at the end that her guilt about Thomas when she was with Alcibiades was … ironic, to say the least.

What type of music do you think is best to listen to while reading and/or writing time-travel stories?

I don’t listen to music while reading or writing – I love music too much, so it’s way too distracting for me. But to see what music I love, and listen to all the time, whenever I can (except when I’m reading or writing), just look at the Music part of my Profile page here on MySpace.

How much of an advantage can podcasts give writers?

Podcasts are wonderful if you have the voice and technical savvy to do them. I love them. They’ve really helped my book sales. You’re talking to your readers – what more can you ask for? So I really recommend doing them to any writer who can.

What other things is your billiant madness cooking up in the near future?

Well, thanks – I’m definitely mad, that’s for sure…I’m writing the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates right now. When that’s done, I’ll be writing another Phil D’Amato novel (he appeared in my previous novels, The Silk Code, The Consciousness Plague, and The Pixel Eye). And then maybe a sequel to Borrowed Tides.

I now have four podcasts – I may add one or two more. I’ve also greatly expanded my blogging from just MySpace to now paullevinson.blogspot.com and paullevinson.net – and I’ll be doing more of that.

I’ve been writing 2-3 television reviews per week – of 24, Rome, andLost – and I’ll be reviewing The Sopranos when it resumes (and concludes) next month.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fear and Trembling Update: “Mandible”

“Mandible”
by Michael Potts

Tease:

A man who buys a human jawbone gets more than he bargained for.


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December 16, 2008 Posted by | Fear and Trembling | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writerly Upate 12/9/08 – Two Stories Published (1 in Antho)

You can find “Demons Without, Demon Within” at Mindflights, a nice action-packed tale with a relevant theme. Also, don’t be shy in ordering The Best of Everyday Fiction 2008, where you’ll find 100 (count’em 100!) of the best flash fiction from the webzine, Everyday Fiction–including “The Philosopher in the Dark” by, well, me of course ;). You can also get a copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and request it at your local bookstore.

Well, I moved again (getting evicted sucks btw), which is why I’m behind on getting stuff done. I’m also limited on internet access until I can get a router. But, on the bright side, I now have a mic working, so I can finally get back to finishing the podiobook. That’s all for now. 🙂

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Writerly Updates | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment