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Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:45 pm:   

Okay, folks, I thought I'd do a little subscription drive for my monthly VanderWorld Report. I'm posting a sample from last year, July, as an example of the kind of stuff you'll get by signing up--and it's free. Just send me an email at with "subscribe" in the subject line and I'll send you the latest, February 2004, installment and make sure you automatically get all installments thereafter. VanderWorld Report subscribers often get news before it's general knowledge, special offers and deals on my books, etc. In addition to movie, book, and music reviews.



POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315 USA
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In this installment:
Upcoming Events
Disease Guide Update
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
Internet Links
Yet Another Excerpt from Shriek: An Afterword


Why is the July VanderWorld report coming out in June? Good question. The answer is that I will be focusing on my novel and the disease guide in July and August. The August VanderWorld report will probably be sent around August 28th. I don't want the monthly report to become perfunctory or sloppy. The best way around this is not to force it in months when I'm super busy. You will note that once a week or so I will post to my new blog (address above). The blog is for writing-related "mini-essays" only.


An update on upcoming events…

August--Nick Mamatas will be conducting a chat with me for the Horror Writers of America (HWA) organization. The chat is only open to HWA members. I will send a special VanderWorld email when I know the precise date.

Late October/Early November - World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. I'm definitely going to the WFC and hope to have a reading in addition to a full slate of disease guide events either at the convention or in the D.C. area. More details in a couple of months.

November 19 - Reading along with Gregory Maguire for the KGB reading series in New York City, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant. 7:00 p.m. As fun as the reading should be, I'm looking forward even more to shooting the breeze afterwards. I've never been to New York City before. For more information: With any luck, I'll be doing a signing somewhere, too, and a disease-guide-related event.

February 23, 2004 - Visiting Writer at Trinity Prep School in Orlando, Florida. I'll have a chance to talk to the students most of the day and do a reading/signing open to the public in the evening. More details as they become available.


The disease guide is entering the end of its pre-production cycle with the book scheduled to be finalized, at the latest, around mid-July. In other news about the guide, it appears that The Village Voice will run a short article about the Guide in late July. A lot of high-profile review venues have requested review copies, including BOMB, Time Out New York, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Austin Chronicle, The Believer (a McSweeney's affiliate), Choice Magazine, and literally dozens of others, all high-profile. Not to mention the requests from freelancers for a number of high-circulation publications that may well lead to reviews. In addition, Andrei Codrescu is interested in running an excerpt in his Exquisite Corpse magazine. I hope that next time I will have all sorts of exciting additional news to report about the disease guide. And, if you have any suggestions for people or places to contact--whether mainstream media, alternative media, medical journals, comics reviewers, etc.--please let me know (especially specific contact information). Thanks to China Mieville for a great fake quote:

"Mentioned in whispers for decades; burned in Manchuria; worshipped in Peru; the only book to be listed on the Vatican's Index Librorum Prohibitorum twice, for emphasis; available again at last, in this definitive edition. Welcome to The Lambshead Guide. Disease-mongers, shudder." - China Mieville


Paul Witcover did a nice review of Veniss Underground for SF Weekly:

And that's it, folks! Slow month. Relief. Breathing space. Considering the blitz that's about to occur for the disease guide, it's a blessing…


Book reviews will return next time. I've read bits and pieces of a lot of great books but need to actually finish some books before I comment on any of them.


In the rather awful movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, one character explains to another that to "buckwheat" someone is to, without getting into the really disgusting details, shoot them in the intestines so they die slowly, in terrible agony. Since then, Ann and I have rated movies as "buckwheat" or "not buckwheat", or containing "some buckwheat" or "a lot of buckwheat". If you feel like you were gut shot when you left the theater, that movie was buckwheat. So, without further ado…

28 DAYS LATER. Given the "zombie movie" hype, Ann and I were expecting something more derivative and less intelligent than what we actually saw. This new movie by the director of Trainspotting focuses more on the characters and how surviving humans cope with the transformation of the world than on the logic or reasoning behind the "zombies." The result was much more interesting and poignant. There's some debate as to whether the main character's transformation to Kurtz-killer toward the end is earned, but in general, we enjoyed the movie. Nice cinematography, too. (1/8 buckwheat)

COSI. Toni Colette also has a role in this movie about a director tasked with helping the patients at a mental institution put on a play. The patients want to do Mozart's famous opera, while he has less ambition plans for them. Colette plays one of the patients in another excellent performance. Rachel Griffiths again has a supporting role. The movie is too cutesy in certain places, but generally has its heart in the right place--and the majestic homemade splendor of the sets during the final performance is simply stunning. (1/8 buckwheat)

L'AUBERGE ESPANGOLE. What happens to romantic comedy when it's taken out of the Hollywood star system and the formulaic plot is surgically removed? You have the Spanish-French film L'Auberge Espangole, in which a French economics student moves to Barcelona to soak up the local culture and language in anticipation of a career spent dealing with Spanish financial institutions. Once in Barcelona, he joins a household composed of individuals from several different countries. He has an affair with a married woman. He has several different "adventures," etc., but there's nothing to the plot that makes you say "contrived". It's just a year in the life of this character. As a result, the ending doesn't fall apart as it does in most Hollywood romantic comedies. The movie is much more organic than that. In addition, the director uses some very playful touches when it comes to the cinematography. At one point, when Our Hero is trying to get his student paperwork in order, the screen literally fills up with all of the relevant forms. Watching this movie is like drinking a particularly good homemade sangria. (No buckwheat)

MURIEL'S WEDDING. Starring Toni Colette, this movie is one of our all-time favorites. We just watched it again last week, and it held up. Toni Colette is one of the great unheralded actresses of her generation, in our opinion. She has the ability to lose herself in a role to the point that you just simply don't recognize her. From The Sixth Sense to The Hours, she has continually produced phenomenal work without getting nearly enough recognition. In Muriel's Wedding, as a young woman both desperate for acceptance and wanting to be independent, trying to escape her family, Colette is brilliant. Rachel Griffiths is great in a supporting role as well. The Abba music--which I wouldn't normally touch with a ten foot pole--works well as the soundtrack. (No buckwheat)

MY SON THE FANATIC. A Moslem taxi driver in some industrialized city in England (we might have missed the name if it came up) has to deal with his feelings for a prostitute, the fanaticism of his suddenly fundamentalist Moslem son, and much else. The movie has some stunning scenes, including the sudden relief on the main character's face when he finally gives in to his desires for the prostitute, played by Rachel Griffiths of Six Feet Under and Muriel's Wedding fame. Ann and I really enjoyed this movie because none of the characters are black and white--they're all limned in shades of gray. It also seemed like a very different movie--several times, we were watching scenes that gave us no real "echo" from another movie. (No buckwheat)


A lot more great music--and not so great music--has come my way in recent weeks.

AMOS, TORI. From the Choirgirl Hotel. This is a really strange CD, and probably my favorite of Amos' releases. It's dense and lush and has kind of a hard sound underneath it all. I like the way it seems both ethereal and grounded in reality at the same time. I also like the way that every time I listen to it, the songs seem different in some way.

BADLY DRAWN BOY, Have You Fed the Fish? Badly Drawn Boy fades in and out for me. Sometimes it seems like perfect pop stylings. Other times, it all becomes white noise. More of this CD has stuck with me than prior CDs, so I'm holding onto it.

BRIGHT EYES, Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. I loved a lot of Bright Eyes material better after I saw them perform it live. This CD is uneven--certain songs just drag on and on for no apparent reason--but the core of the performance is bracing and liberating. Is it pop? Is it rock? Is it Emo? Is it…I don't really care what the label is--the guy behind Bright Eyes, Conor O., is going to one day produce a true work of genius.

ENIGMA, The Screen Behind the Mirror. I get a sense that Enigma is electronic/experimental music for people who don't like that kind of music. For me, I found this to be an enjoyable background for writing, especially the really nice choruses. Other than that, I can't say it made that much of an impression on me.

COLLINS, EDWYN. Doctor Syntax. Edwyn Collins irritates the heck out of me. When he's good, he's very, very good, as on the best highlights from his Curious George CD. When he's bad, he's just insanely uneven. Doctor Syntax is one of the latter. I don't know if Collins' is an eccentric pop-master I don't always get or just an uneven pop-meister.

LILYS. Precollection. Darkly sedate pop that grows on you like a really good fungus. I'm still listening to this one, and each time it seems suddenly more relevant and better than the time before.

CRANES. Live in Italy. More like dead in Italy. The Cranes live, much as I like some of their work, just sound like a bunch of stiffs.

MCCULLOCH, IAN. Slideling. I actually like Echo and the Bunnymen McCulloch's Mysterio solo CD from several years back. It was pompous, bombastic pop with lots of musical icing. But Slideling is too low-key. It sounds like B-sides from the Bunnymen's recent work.

OINGO BOINGO. Boingo Live. This live CD, which does manage to capture Oingo Boingo's energy and drive during their peak years, reminded me of just how much I loved Oingo Boingo way back when. I really think they should have been huge. The music is infectious and devilish. Great stuff.

TINDERSTICKS. Waiting for the Moon. More despair-tinged low-key music from The Tindersticks. Remarkably, it still works. They've got the sound of despair down pat. Now it's just a question of whether I should keep buying their CDs or just open a vein. Or, more importantly, just assemble a "best of."

ZEVON, WARREN. My Ride's Here. This CD of collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson and others works remarkably well. Excellent lyrics and Zevon's typical mix of styles and influences in the musical accompaniment. Some of it seems like Zevon repeating himself, but it's all much, much better than his last two CDs.


Internet links are back! Thanks to Luis Rodriguez, Allen Ruch, Cheryl Morgan, John Coulthart, Jay Lake, and others for these great links. They're all wonderful, so instead of giving you the context, I'm going to let you find out all by yourself what they lead to. Hint: One of them leads to Megasquid!!!,3604,986751,00.html


Yes, another out-of-context excerpt. Infuriating? Perhaps. But if I gave you the context, it would ruin the finished novel for you. As before, this is rough draft material, so enjoy, but don't tell me about misplaced commas, misspellings, or anything else of that nature. :-)

Once upon a time, a woman decided to tell a story about how she tried to kill herself but did not succeed. Her brother saved her from herself--and then sent her north to be dissected by various disciples of empirical religions. Until one day, when her brother's attention wandered, she escaped, and made her way south, to the fabled city of Ambergris and her mother's house.
The bitter cold of the north, as cold as her own heart, followed her south to Ambergris. She could see her breath. The drone of insects faltered to an intermittent click of surprise, a sleep-drenched distress signal.
She first saw her mother's house again through a flurry of snow, flakes sticking to the windshield of the hired motored vehicle. As they lurched down the failed road that led to the River Moth and her mother, the driver cursing in a thick Southern accent scattered with Northern cold, the dark blue muscles of the river came into view, and then three frail mansions hunched along the river bank amongst the fir trees. The river was silent with cold and snow. The mansions were silent too: Three weary debutantes at a centuries-long ball. Three refugees of a bygone era. Three memories. Although not her memories--she had never lived here--she could see the force and pull of the past in the glint from the wrought-iron balconies, from the hedge gardens sprinkled with snow. The faded appeal of the weathered white roofs that disappeared as the vehicle drove nearer, even the long, slender, hesitant windows reminded her of the tired places she had just left, with their incurable patients, their incurable boredom…The same lived-in appeal as the unstarched dress shirts her father used to wear, the white fabric coarse and yellow with age.
They drove through the remnants of faeryland--the frozen fountains of the frozen front lawns, the pale statuary popular a century before, the ornately carved doors with their tarnished bronze door knockers--until the vehicle came to rest half-mired in snow, and for a heartbeat they watched the quiet snow together, she and the driver, content to marvel at this intruder: a strange incarnation of the invasion the Menites had long promised the lascivious followers of Truff.
Then, the moment over, the woman who had been reluctantly resurrected, exhumed while still living, paid the driver, picked up her suitcase, opened the door to the sudden frost, and trudged up the front steps of her mother's house. The driver drove away but she did not look back; she had no inclination to make him wait. She had resolved to stay in that place and in her present state of mind she could not hold alternatives in her head without her skull breaking loose and rising, a boney balloon without a string, into the fissures of the cold-cracked sky. What if? had frozen along with the rose bushes.
Her mother's house. What made the middle mansion different from the other two except for the fact that her mother lived there? It was the only inhabited mansion. It was the only mansion with the front door ajar. Icicled leaves from the nearby beech trees had swept inside as if seeking warmth, writing an indecipherable message of cold across the front hallway.
An open door, the woman reflected as she stood there, suited her mother as surely as a mirror.
She stepped inside, only to be confronted by a welter of staircases. Had she caught the house in the midst of some great escape? Everywhere, like massive, half-submerged saurians, they curled and twisted their spines up and down, shadowed and lit by the satirical chandelier that, hanging from the domed ceiling, mimicked the ice crystals outside as it shed light that mingled with the leaves in delicate counterbalance.
Even there, in the foyer, the woman could tell the mansion's foundations were rotting--the waters of the Moth gurgled and crunched in the basement, the river ceaselessly plotting to steal up the basement steps, seeping under the basement door to surprise her mother with an icy cocktail of silt, gasping fish, and matted vegetation.
Having deciphered the hollow, grainy language of the staircases, the woman strode down the main hallway, suitcase in her hand. The hallway she knew well, had seen its doppelganger wherever her mother had lived. Her mother had lined both sides with photographs of the woman's father, father and mother together, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends of the family, followed by portraits in gaudy frames of ancestors who had not had the benefit (or curse) of the more modern innovations. She could feel herself progressing into a past in which every conceivable human emotion had been captured along those walls, frozen into a false moment. (Although, of course, the predominant expression, her brother--not to spoil the illusion of storytelling--would later point out, whatever the emotion, was a staged smile, with the only variation available "with teeth" or "without teeth", so perhaps, he would say to her later, parenthetically, outside the boundaries of fairytale-isms, she could understand the main reason he never liked to visit their mother: he had no wish to draw back the veil, to exhume their father's corpse for purposes of reanimation; wasn't it bad enough he died once?) Every step took her farther into the past until it was difficult not to think of herself as a photograph on a wall.
The woman found her mother on the glassed-in porch that overlooked the river, her back to the fireplace as she sat in one of the three plush velvet chairs she had rescued from the old house in Stockton. The view through the window: the startling image of a River Moth swollen blue with ice, flurried snowflakes attacking the muscular, rise-falling surface of the water, each speck breaking the tension between air and fluid long enough to drift a moment and then disintegrate against the pressure from the greater force. Disintegrate into the blue shadows of the overhanging trees, leaves so frozen the wind could not stir them.
Her mother watched the river, too, as it sped-lurched and tumbled past her window, and now, from the open doorway, her daughter watched her watching the river as the flames crackled and shadowed against the back of her chair.
The daughter remembered a far-ago courtyard of conversation, a question posed by a gravelly-voiced friend of her brother: "And how is your mother? I know all about your father. But what about your mother?" The glint of his eye--through the summer sun, the crushed-mint scent from the garden beyond and she, with eyes half-closed, listening to his voice but not hearing the question.
Her mother. A woman who had collapsed in on herself when her husband died and was never the same happy, self-assured person again. Except. Except: She had provided for them. She just hadn't cared for either of them.
The woman had not seen her mother for five years, and at first she thought she saw a ghost, a figure that blurred the more she focused on it. Wearing a white dress with a gray shawl, her mother sat in half-profile, her thin white hands like twin bundles of twigs in her lap. Smoke rose from her scalp: white wisps of hair surrounding her head. The bones of her face looked as delicate as blown glass. Of course, the daughter could see all of this because she was not actually in that room in the past but in another room altogether, and as she typed she could see her own reflection in the green glass of the window to her left, since she had always been the mirror of her mother and now looked as her mother had looked, sitting in a chair, watching the river tumble past her window.
The daughter stood there, staring at her mother, clearly visible, and her mother did not see her…Dread trickled down the woman's spine like sweat. Was she truly dead, then? Had she succeeded and all else had been a bright-dull afterlife dream? Perhaps she still lay on the floor of her bathroom, a silly grinning mask hiding her face and a bright red ribbon tied to her right wrist.
She shuddered, took a step forward, and the simple touch of the wooden door frame against her palm saved her. She was alive and her mother sat in front of her, with tiny crow's feet and wise pale blue eyes--the woman she had known her whole life, who had tended to her ills, made her meals, put up with youthful mistakes, given her advice about men, helped her with her homework.
The woman dropped to her knees facing her mother, saw that flat glaze flicker from the river to her and back again.
"Mother?" she said. "Mother?" She placed her hands on her mother's shoulders and stared at her. As if a thaw to Spring, as if an attention brought back from contemplation of time and distance, her eyes blinked back into focus, a slight smile visited her lips, her muscles stirred, and she wrapped her arms around her daughter. Her light breath misted my cold ear.
"Janice. My daughter. My only daughter."
What is it about distance--physical distance--that allows us to create such false portraits, such disguises, for those we love, that we can so easily discard them in memory, make for them a mask that allows us to keep them at a distance even when so close?
At my mother's words, a great weight dropped from me. A madness melted out of me. I was myself again as much as I ever could be. I hugged her and began to sob, my body shuddering as surely as the Moth shuddered and fought the ice outside the window.

It would be nice to report that my mother and I reconciled our differences, that we understood each other perfectly after that first moment of affection, but it wasn't like that at all. The first moment proved the best and most intimate. We did talk many times over the next two weeks--as she led me up and down staircases in search of this or that antique she had acquired since my last visit--but while some words brought us closer, other words betrayed us and drew us apart. Some sentences stretched and contracted our solitude simultaneously, so that at the end of a conversation, we would stand there, staring at each other, unsure whether either of us had actually spoken.
I fell into old routines, blamed her for not pursuing a career--she had rooms filled with her artwork and poetry manuscripts, but never attempted to find an agent or sell them. She chastised me for my lifestyle, for abusing my body--she had not missed the blue mottlings on my neck and palms that indicated mushroom addiction, although I had inadvertently kicked the habit in the aftermath of my attempt.
And so slowly I worked my way toward the suicide attempt, through a morass of words that could not be controlled, could not be stifled, that meant, for the most part, nothing, and stood for nothing.
One day as we watched the River Moth fight the blocks of ice that threatened to slow it to a sludgy grime, we talked about the weather. About the snow. She had seen snow in the far south before, but not for many years. She sang a lullaby for the snow in the form of a soliloquy. At that moment, it would not have mattered if I had been five hundred miles away, knocking on the doors of Zamilon. Her eyes had focused on some point out in the snow, where the river thrashed and fought the ice. The ice began to form around my neck again. I could not breathe. I had to break free.
"I tried to kill myself," I told her. "I took a knife and cut my wrist." I was shaking.
"I know," she said, as casually as she had commented about the weather. Her gaze did not waver from the winter landscape. "I saw the marks. It is unmistakable. You try to hide it, but it didn't matter. I knew immediately. Because I tried it once myself."
She turned to stare at me. "After your father died, about six months after. You and Duncan were in school. I was standing in the kitchen chopping onions and crying. Suddenly I realized I wasn't crying from the onions. I just stared at the knife for a few minutes, and then I did it. I slid down to the floor and just watched the blood. A neighbor found me. I was in the hospital for three days. You might remember you both stayed with a friend for a few weeks--to give me some rest, you were told--and when I came back, I wore long-sleeved shirts and blouses.
I had never heard even a rumor of this before. I was shocked. My mother had been mad--mad like me. (Neither of you were mad--you were both sad, sad, sad--like me.)
"Anyway," she said, "it isn't really that important. One day you feel like dying. The next day you want to live. It was someone else who wanted to die, someone you don't know very well and you don't ever want to see again."
She stood, patted me on the shoulder. "There's nothing wrong with you. You'll be fine." And left the room.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.


Next time, movie reviews, more book reviews, etc. Send comments, suggestions, and insults to:

And, as always, I recommend the following:

For book orders, Mark Ziesing Books –
For reviews, Rain Taxi –
For reviews, Bookmunch –
For fiction and nonfiction, Fantastic Metropolis –
For news, reviews, and commentary –

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Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 11:31 am:   

I've just emailed the August 2004 vanderworld report. If you're a subscriber and did not get it, you may need to resubscribe (for example, if your email has changed). To do so, go to and click on the link in the bottom left. Thanks.

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rape stories
Posted on Thursday, June 15, 2006 - 11:35 pm:   

Need to be readed.

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