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My NecronomiCon Providence Schedule

This weekend marks the triumphant return of NecronomiCon Providence, a biennial convention that focuses on horror and weird fiction. I’m very happy to be attending, as it’s one of my favorite conventions. Here’s where you’ll be able to find me:

Saturday – 9:30 – 10:45am

The Jewish Tradition in Weird Fiction – Capital Ballroom, Graduate Hotel, 2nd floor
Historically, Jewish authors have had a much larger visible influence on science fiction than they have had on the weird or horror genres. Although Jewish characters and Jewish folklore elements, such as the golem and dybbuk, appear, these are often presented within a White Christian framework that may depend on stereotypes and is not framed by Jewish culture and traditions. Our panelists discuss classic and contemporary Jewish authors and how their cultural identity informs their understanding and presentation of the weird.
Panelists: Daniel Braum (M), Edward Erdelac, Richard Gerlach, Nicholas Kaufmann, Ann VanderMeer

Saturday – 3:30-4:45pm

From Ambergris to Yuggoth: The Fungus Among Us – Waterplace Ballroom, Omni Hotel, 2nd floor
Mind control. Bodily infiltration. Altered states of consciousness. Zombification. Encounters with truly alien species. Fungal horrors abound in weird fiction and film. Our panelists take us on a tour of the strange world of spores, fruiting bodies, and vast clonal colonies, the symbiotes and parasites, toxins and pathogens, that have always occupied an important place in the annals of the weird. A little Mycology and a lot of fiction are on your plate.
Panelists: Rick Claypool, Nicholas Kaufmann, Jess Lewis, Eric Schaller (M), Douglas Wynne

Saturday – 6:30-7:45pm

The Weird on a Small Color Screen – Waterplace Ballroom, Omni Hotel, 2nd floor
Fire up the color console and adjust your antenna! Our panelists from 2019’s The Weird on a Black and White Screen return to continue their discussion on the weird television shows from the 70s and 80s, taking the legacies of the classic anthology series of the black and white era and tracing the broadcast weird to when cable and cheap VHS tapes forever changed the content available in our living rooms.
Panelists: Inanna Arthen, Christa Carmen, F. Brett Cox, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Joseph Zannella

Whew! It looks like my Saturday is going to be very busy!

You can check out the rest of NecronomiCon Providence’s schedule here.

I hope to see you there!

The Scariest Part: Naseem Jamnia Talks About THE BRUISING OF QILWA

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Naseem Jamnia, whose debut novella is The Bruising of QilwaHere is the publisher’s description:

In this intricate debut fantasy introducing a queernormative Persian-inspired world, a nonbinary refugee practitioner of blood magic discovers a strange disease that causes political rifts in their new homeland. Persian-American author Naseem Jamnia has crafted a gripping narrative with a moving, nuanced exploration of immigration, gender, healing, and family. Powerful and fascinating, The Bruising of Qilwa is the newest arrival in the era of fantasy classics such as the Broken Earth Trilogy, The Four Profound Weaves, and Who Fears Death.

Firuz-e Jafari is fortunate enough to have immigrated to the Free Democratic City-State of Qilwa, fleeing the slaughter of other traditional Sassanian blood magic practitioners in their homeland. Despite the status of refugees in their new home, Firuz has a good job at a free healing clinic in Qilwa, working with Kofi, a kindly new employer, and mentoring Afsoneh, a troubled orphan refugee with powerful magic.

But Firuz and Kofi have discovered a terrible new disease which leaves mysterious bruises on its victims. The illness is spreading quickly through Qilwa, and there are dangerous accusations of ineptly performed blood magic. In order to survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice, untangle sociopolitical constraints, and find a fresh start for their both their blood and found family.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Naseem Jamnia:

I originally wanted to use this opportunity to talk about the body horror in The Bruising of Qilwa. For this fantasy novella, I leaned on body horror — on its relationship to transness, on the food metaphors, on using my scientific background to make some gross decisions — to darken the slice-of-life aspects of the story. But the reality is, no matter how much I enjoy writing body horror, the scariest part of Qilwa is how much of our real world it reflects.

Qilwa follows a nonbinary refugee healer fleeing a genocide, who arrives to the newly independent city-state of Qilwa during a plague. Faced with both migrant and public health crises — and blaming the latter on the former — Qilwa tries to shut its gates. Then, the government cracks down on the clinics around the city providing free healthcare, restricting access for not only to the migrants but poor Qilwans as well.

Sound familiar?

I don’t mean to be on-the-nose with my secondary world. Indeed, issues of migration and healthcare were not in my thoughts when I originally sat to write The Bruising of Qilwa; learning to write a short story was. The larger world is one I’ve been playing in for a while, so it made sense as a backdrop for stretching my creative parameters. But very quickly, Qilwa took on a life of its own — one that reflects our world far more than I meant it to.

I started writing Qilwa before COVID. The story begins during a plague but quickly gives way to a new and potentially more sinister disease. While this second disease, the main focus of the novella, is perhaps not as deadly as the first, it is as alarming, if not more, to the main character.

And now, monkeypox is spreading through the US.

In her introduction to the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018, N.K. Jemisin discusses speculative fiction’s revolutionary potential. She explains how speculative fiction can help us imagine worlds better than our own. This philosophy is central to my work, which is why I created Qilwa’s queernormative, SWANA-inspired world. Yet, in my desire to understand and deconstruct my own relationship with my Persian heritage (the subject of my author’s afterword), I did choose to reproduce the mistreatment of migrants.

I started writing Qilwa before Ukraine, but migrants have long been maligned (especially Black and brown migrants). The migrants in the book, fleeing a genocide, face many of the same conditions that they would in our world: squalid living situations, worse health outcomes, dangerous jobs, decreased access to healthcare and education. It is impossible to divorce this phenomenon in our world from its larger context of white supremacy and hegemonic whiteness, colonialism and neocolonialism. While in the world of Qilwa there isn’t whiteness or white people, there is a history of imperialism at the root of the conflict.

But even though I can trace the creation of the situation in Qilwa, it unsettles me that I internalized many of our world’s problems enough to reproduce them subconsciously. How can I work toward a better reality if I’m not able to imagine one? I can only hope that this scariest thing is not the end of the sentence, but only the beginning of a new one.

The Bruising of Qilwa: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / Bookshop / IndieBound

Naseem Jamnia: Website / Twitter / Instagram

Naseem Jamnia is a Persian-Chicagoan, former scientist, and the author of The Bruising of Qilwa. Their work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, The Writer’s Chronicle, Cosmopolitan, and other venues, and they’ve received fellowships from Lambda Literary, Otherwise, and Bitch Media. The inaugural Samuel R. Delany fellow, Naseem lives in Reno with their husband, dog, and two cats.

The Scariest Part: Gwendolyn N. Nix Talks About I HAVE ASKED TO BE WHERE NO STORMS COME

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Gwendolyn N. Nix, whose latest novel is I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms ComeHere is the publisher’s description:

The facts of Domino Bluepoint’s afterlife are simple: he’s a half-breed witch from a people without a name, and no one wants to be stuck in Hell with witch blood. When a demon bounty-hunter comes calling, Domino pairs up with his mother, who died too young and carries the witch lineage in her veins, to survive. Soon the two of them are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid running from whatever torture awaits them and whoever wants to harvest their magic. Yet, Domino doesn’t know that his brother, Wicasah, is behind this and is desperate to resurrect Domino out of long-lasting guilt and a sensation of belonging to no place and no one.

As Wicasah dives deeper into darker magic that ends in an ill-made deal, Domino must overcome addiction, depression, and hone his own brand of witch-magic to help save his brother — and the world — from an ancient god of lighting and thunder.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Gwendolyn N. Nix:

If you’re a magpie creator… don’t be.

“Come again?” you might ask.

What I mean to say is this: are you a creator who thrives on experience? Who has a cache of conversation snippets that are remembered like dialogue, song lyrics and oral stories that make you shiver, books that make your heart sing, and direct experiences emblazoned in your brain? Are you someone who lets these pieces of shiny rest in your creative nest, primed for when the perfect inspiration hits you like a train?

If you are, take note. Blowing the dust off these pieces of shiny can be the scariest part of the creative process.

When I started writing I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come, my expansive magpie nest had a mountain of shinies all labeled “Inspiration About Home” all ready to go. It was a collection of decades, with a foundation going all the way back to when I was a young girl. The top of this mountain had a group of new pretties, collected during my explorations of the West and while revisiting old stomping grounds. When I stood before this mountain, I knew I was on a quest to discover the magic and beauty of the American West, the sorcery housed in the mountains, the creatures slumbering in the lakes, and the ancient gods racing across the plains. I was not daunted by this mountain of creativity. I was eager to brush off the dust and create something marvelous.

However, as I sat with my collection curated over the years, and the words poured out onto the page like a rushing waterfall, a sense of deep uncertainty overwhelmed me. I had shinies describing Lakota, Hopi, and Blackfeet lore. I had shinies of historical events. I had names of beloved places that I didn’t know the direct origin of, but were linked with tales of which I was unsure if they were actual myths or something I’d made up. I had experiences of romping around Glacier National Park and hearing someone tell me that the line of the mountains made a spine of a deadly ancient being. I had a memory of going to the Badlands National Park and hearing a story about the fossils being magical and dinosaurs being more than giant creatures that roamed the earth. As these shinies continued being funneled through my creative muse – crushing them from the mist of memory into hard diamonds of words, images and god forbid, plot and character arc — I was struck by a terrible, awful fear.

Did I have the right to use these stories for my own?

It didn’t feel right. So, how should I go about tracking down the origins of these shinies? Could I even justify speaking about these shinies? Could I apply my personal experiences to these shinies? Would my approach negatively enhance a history of terrible power dynamics that are embedded in the American West? Would I just be perpetuating cliches? And, since I clearly knew the story was going to be a dark fantasy western horror, did that make things even worse?

I was suddenly swimming in deep, dark waters where my knowledge and education seemed too shallow to continue. I started to doubt the veracity of my own creative process — something terrifying for a writer! With deep regret and fear, I benched the story for years, pondering how I could ever navigate these issues effectively, and yet still put my own heart and soul into the story. And, after a long time learning and listening, I finally felt I could tread water. I pulled the story out and faced the scariest part.

I didn’t have to give up. But, I also didn’t have to directly use the myths and stories that weren’t mine to tell. I took the newest of my magpie shinies — this personal journey writing this novel — and put those feelings of frustration, fear, enlightenment, and understanding into the characters, setting…and one really bad villain. The shinies that had originally influenced and inspired me became part of the story, but in an intended honorable way, placed to be a shiny for readers to pick up and learn more. By facing this scariest part, it helped me create a far more nuanced approach to writing about my home while still acknowledging the history within it, a tactic I felt produced a tale deeper and more meaningful than anything I set out to create in the beginning.

I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / Bookshop / Crystal Lake Publishing

Gwendolyn N. Nix: Website / Twitter / Instagram

Gwendolyn N. Nix is a professional editor with Aconyte Books and author, penning the Celestial Scripts series (The Falling Dawn and Seams of Shadow), Sharks of the Wasteland (Cataclysm Cycle), and her new release, I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come from Crystal Lake Publishing. She is also the editor of the Marvel Xavier’s Institute: School of X anthology. A member of SFWA and Horror Writer’s Association, her short fiction has appeared in a variety of anthologies, such as Pileaus Symphony No. 1, Where the Veil Is Thin, and Apex: Worlds of Dinosaurs. She lives in Montana with her partner, young son, and wild gray Labrador.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw (The Lake Witch Trilogy, #1)My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A love letter to slasher movies in novel form, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW follows Jade, a small-town Idaho teenager as obsessed with slasher movies as author Stephen Graham Jones surely is. She’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher subgenre (she’s seen movies even I, a longtime horror movie aficionado, am not familiar with!), so when she starts to notice signs that a “slasher cycle” is about to begin in her hometown, she’d more excited than scared. She hates it here and would happily see everyone dead. That attitude changes when things become a little too real and blood starts to flow. With the help of her slasher obsession, she sets out to determine who the killer is, and to her credit she gets much of it right — but there’s a twist. (Of course there is. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist!)

Jones’s effortless ability to create lasting, indelible characters is the motor that makes MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW run. Jade is not someone you’ll soon forget, and to Jones’s credit, the same can be said about many of the side characters as well, from Letha Mondragon, the perfect new girl at school, to Sheriff Hardy, who keeps trying to do the right thing even when his own personal tragedies try to sink him. My only complaint about the novel is that we are so deep in Jade’s head throughout that there were times when I was itching for something to happen outside of her. There are long stretches where we’re only in her thoughts, and as fascinating a character as she is, the novel only felt unputdownable to me when Jade was doing, not just thinking.

One thing Jones gets right in all his fiction, and that so many other horror authors don’t, is that he knows how to nail an ending. The final image in MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is so breathtakingly beautiful I had to read it several times over because I didn’t want to let go of it. A beautifully written novel about ugly deeds, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is challenging, especially for readers hoping for something more action-driven than contemplative, but it’s well worthy of the praise it’s received.

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