Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MARC SORONDO, JAMES NEWMAN, STEPHEN KING, RAY BRADBURY AND THE TRIPLE WEIRD


JAMES NEWMAN catches up with MARC SORONDO to chat about fear, books, Big Foot and the new SPP book:TRIPLE WEIRD for sale RIGHT HERE

JN: Marc Sorondo, what scares you?
 
The NEW triple.
MS: In the sense that there are two kinds of fear, I'll give two answers to that one. On the one hand, my mundane fear is failure. I think that's one that drives a lot of people, especially creative people. You want to be understood and to have your work appreciated, and you worry that it'll never happen. Deep down you worry that you’re sort of a fraud and a hack. Then there are those fears that are irrational but unshakeable. As a kid, I was both obsessed and terrified by the idea of alien abduction. Everything about it - the powerlessness of the people involved, the strangeness of their claims, how truly 'alien' those beings seemed - it was all really scary, but that just made me want to read every book about it and watch every episode of Sightings and the X-files and whatnot that I could find on TV. 

JN: Waking up homeless next to a corpse scares me – hence the story in Triple Weird Collection. Stuff seen out of the bus window at 5am scares me. I once saw a body being thrown into a garbage truck while passing an outdoor food market on a bus. What's the weirdest thing you've seen, Marc?

 MS: Well, I can't compete with seeing a body being dumped. I'll preface my answer by saying that I don't buy in to supernatural stuff. I wish it were all true, as I think that world would be way more interesting, but there's just not enough evidence for the vast majority of it to believe it. That being said, I have sort of a knack for stumbling onto weird tracks in the snow that a more gullible person would take as evidence of something uncanny. I'll give you two of the better examples: When I was a kid (middle school) a friend and I found two huge footprints in the snow in front of his house. They looked just like the old tracks people used to photograph in the Himalayas as evidence of the yeti. While I love the idea of Bigfoot stalking around suburban New Jersey, I don't actually think that was the case. 

Big Foot. Yesterday
 Years later, a friend and I were walking home from a party. It was about 3 in the morning, town was deserted, and it had started flurrying a bit earlier. There was a very thin layer of snow on the ground. We were passing through a park when we came across a single, perfectly-formed hoof-print on a path that was otherwise pristine before us. Again, I don't believe this, but at the time a small, drunken part of me really hoped I'd meet the devil at the crossroads and that he'd have a deal for me. 

 JN: I have a copy of "A Field Guide to the Larger Land Mammals of Nepal" and the Yeti is in there complete with illustration. Perhaps the writer had seen something similar....

 MS: Sounds like it...an American cousin perhaps?

JN: What were you reading as a kid, Marc?

MS: Initially I read a lot of nonfiction. My parents were great about bringing me to the library a lot as a kid, and I was always drawn to the 000 section, the books on the paranormal and cryptozoology and whatnot. Those early interests have clearly had an effect on my writing as an adult. 

 
King. Recently.

I did read a lot of fiction also. I discovered Stephen King really early and have been a huge fan ever since. One of my favorite stories about school as a kid involved King's The Stand. Everyone in my fifth grade class was supposed to read a book on their own, mostly at home (although occasionally we'd have time to read in class). You should have seen the look on my teachers face when I pulled The Stand out of my backpack. She actually made my mother come in about it. My mom approved, however, so there wasn't much the teacher could do about it aside from ask me not to bring the book in to school anymore. 
JN: What were you reading as a kinda young adult early twenties guy?

MS: I do still love King, but my reading habits expanded as I got older. I read a fair amount of stuff in translation. I went through a bit of a Russian phase (some Dostoevsky, Bulgakov), and then read some Umberto Eco. At the same time, it was only when I got into college that I started to go back and read the classics in the genres that I liked. I went back and read Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde (the big three of horror, in my opinion), as well some more modern but still "classic" writers, like Lovecraft. I also went back and read some early sci-fi (Wells, especially). 

Lovecraft. Recently.
 
My nonfiction interests expanded at about the same time. I started reading "more respectable" stuff - though I still enjoy the occasional paranormal study. I read a lot of history and science books. My interests there vary wildly - I'll read a lot about prehistoric man, oceanography, paleontology, cartography, etc.  

JN: We at SPP are compiling two volumes of your short stories for publication – Bad Dreams and False Memories – and The Curious Case of Robert Dayton is our lead story in the Triple Weird Spanking Collection out today. I must say I love your craftsmanship at the shorts. They’re all terrific. What is it about the short story form you like so much, and who do you think are the greatest writers in that discipline? 

 

MS: Thanks. I'm really pleased to have those collections with SPP. I couldn't think of a better home for them. 

It sounds sort of ridiculous, but I love short stores because they're short. I'm one of those writers that believes that every story exists as something other than just a person's ideas. There's a right way to tell it and whatnot. That means that some stories are meant to be told in a few thousand words. Anything more is to add filler and garbage. When a short is done right, it's the perfect length for an idea that is worth telling but doesn't warrant being blown up into a novel. There's also the added benefit that a short story is a smaller commitment for a reader. At this point, with so many people being so short on time, I'm actually surprised that we're not in a more of a short story Renaissance. You'd think people would embrace shorts as a great solution to their limited time. 

As mentioned, I'm a fan of King's, and I've read most of his short stories. I loved Barker's Books of Blood when I read them. He's less of a household name, but Peter Crowther has written some really interesting stories. I'm a sucker for locked room mysteries (I can't write them. I've tried, and my mind is just not suited for coming up with those sorts of puzzles), and Edward Hoch wrote so many great ones. If, however, you put a gun to my head and told me I had to choose just one author to name as the master of the short story form, I'd have to give it to Bradbury. Everything the man wrote was poetry, from his shortest shorts to his novels. His shorts are all so loaded with imagery and, in spite of the fact that he works within the horror and science fiction genres most of the time, his stories are virtually always about stuff that people can really relate to. It's been overused to the point of being cliché as an example, but his very famous "Rocket Man" story is an obvious case of a science fiction tale that's easily relatable to anyone with an absent father, while also being relatable to anyone who never feels settled where they are. All of the characters in that story are so simple and yet so rich and fully formed and real. That's a famous case, but so many of Bradbury's shorts are that way. 

 
JN: Great to have you with us, and with a bit of luck this Bradbury interview should play on the blog...

 

 

JN: What's next on the cards for Marc Sorondo?

 
MS: That is a great interview. You've got to love anyone that can declare himself a madman with such pride. 

I seem never to have a really good sense of what's next in life. My "five year plans" never play out as intended. That being said, I am working on a Ph.D. I've just finished the last of my coursework, and I'm moving into a pure research phase of things. A lot of the stuff I study winds up in my stories, so my research interests, while academic, tend to be a bit dark. I look a lot at how science has been used for terrible purposes: as propaganda and as a way to label people and dehumanize them, as a justification for all sorts of atrocities.

Sorondo. Today.
As far as the writing goes, there are a few projects that I'm working on and a few that I know I'd like to start working on. Grad school has slowed my writing down a lot, but I've got two series that I work on whenever I get the time. One is firmly in the fantasy genre. I've got a draft of the first book and a good bit of the second finished. I envision two more books in the series (along with occasional short pieces set in that world). I am also always working on my Aedan Halloway character. That's a project that won't end for a very long time. He's a character based on my son (my fictional vision of him as an adult). I'm always working on one of those stories as well. I also have the notes for a bunch of shorts that have been bouncing around in my head just waiting to be written and a few longer projects that I just need the time to sit down and crank out. 

 JN: Wish you luck with everything new and thanks so much for dropping by.




MARC SORONDO is the author of AURORA which can be bought  HERE

A review on Amazon...

As a small press owner and publisher, it's been my pleasure and privilege to work with some fantastic new writers, and Marc Sorondo is one of them. I approached 'Aurora' knowing I wouldn't be disappointed, and I was right. Sorondo has an amazing ability to write comfortably in seemingly any genre, and while I've worked with him primarily in the horror genre, this little piece of sci-fi brilliance had me from the beginning and didn't let go until the end. There are some pleasant hints of the speculative fiction of the late Michael Crichton in this, but beneath the science is Sorondo's deep connection with his characters, his love for his characters--good and bad--that makes his writing so good.

'Aurora' is sci-fi, spec-fic, and a little romance all in one package, from a writer who has done his homework and whose name I truly believe deserves to become a household one in popular fiction.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Nepal Earthquake



You can leave Nepal but Nepal never lease you. I first visited Kathmandu as a twenty-four-year-old backpacker traveling up from India. I used a notebook rather than a camera in those days. Here is my notebook entry for my first morning in Nepal.
  
Katmandu. December 9th 2001.  

This is where the streets wind and entwine in a crazy pattern lit by amber lanterns and lined by spit roasting wild boars faces alight with a final farewell grimace. The Nepali vendor smiles, knife poised in black ski gloves cuts a slice of the rotating meat, wraps it between newspaper and serves it to a stumbling passerby, the ear flaps on the customers hat acting as blinkers as he bites. The array of shops catering for adventure, mountain boots, sleeping bags, ski polls, heavy jackets, hats with flaps and cannabis resin. The hotel had a roof top garden where I eat a breakfast of toast and tea with a hint of lemon, scanning the hazy skyline, the eagles circle in the valley surmounted by the mighty Himalayan mountain range. Bicycle taxis in the streets below race through traffic, children scream and cheer, playing ballgames in the courts and gardens surrounding the temples. The Mountain air blows southerly from Tibet as pray bells ring out above a wireless radio humming and coughing static from the kitchen.



I visited again in 2008 and walked into the office of Thili Sherpa who rolled out the maps and named a price that was much lower than any other guides had quoted. He answered all my questions patiently and politely. In hindsight I was being over cautious and acted like a bit of a dick, but like all good strong Buddhists he was noble and honest and great fun as he guided My friend Stuart and myself through the mountains and jungle.

We stayed in touch ever since. Last year Thile asked if my family were ready to trek in Nepal. I explained that the youngest seven-year-old would probably tire quickly. "Don't worry, I will carry him," Thili said. The funny thing is, he meant it.

In April this year the first quake hit Nepal claiming the lives of almost nine thousand and injuring many more. The natural disaster has displaced over half a million people. When the second quake hit in the Dolakha region Thili asked for help. His family home had been destroyed.

 
 
I decided to start a fund to try and help. Thili would have done the same for me. We need to try and hit a modest target before wiring over some funds direct to the cause. I'm not a big fan of NGOs and the culture that has become so I'll be sending money raised straight to the guy I trust on the ground, Thile Sherpa.



First consideration is getting food and proper shelter for the children in the region and then trying to rebuild things to a semblance of how they once were.

I intend to host a series of events to give readings, performances, singings and book giveaways in Thailand to help this cause. Anyone that can come along, please do so, even if you don't wish to contribute, enjoy the music, literature and art. If you have a similar idea in another country, why not make it happen?

If you can't be present but wish to contribute in some other way please let me know by email, facebook or phone, or drop a message to this post.

Author David Philips has contributed his royalties from his book Battleship Run. I've put my ebook and audio book royalties into the pot so we have made a good start!

First event is called Night of Nepal and will be held at the checkinn99 on Sukhumvit Bangkok, between sois seven and five on the 14th June, 2015. It's a Sunday evening from 5pm, after the free jazz session.

The beat goes on.

James Newman.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to make a Cynic Laugh.


What do I know about comedy?

Not much. I simply don't get it when people claim Chaplin was a genius. Perhaps he was, and he certainly made a lot of money, wrote, directed and starred in a lot of movies but the thing is  I see a short man in baggy trousers, that is all I see. Laurel and Hardy, ditto. Fat guy, skinny guy, plank of wood, ducking. Slap.

......Bish, bash, bosh...

Yawn
 

I think it is all in the writing. Not to be snobbish. So much more can be done with the written word than with a bunch of props and a grainy black and white picture.

A friend asked me to go along to the Comedy Club Bangkok.

Naturally, I agreed.

I admire the comics that stand up and deliver a routine knowing that their performances will take years of practice to perfect, the only way to move forward is to just keep doing it. So they do it again and again. Find out what works, what doesn't. This is what entertainment is all about. Right?

I know what makes me laugh and that is a list that probably starts with Monty Python, flirts with Peter Cook, winds up with the sit-coms of the nineteen eighties.... The days before Rowan Atkinson sold his soul for a garage full of neatly packed sports cars with a character that makes people laugh from Kathmandu to Cairo.

Wit
 

"Allo Allo' was even funny before one understood the atrocities that 'append during the war.

When I asked a good German friend what made him laugh, "I don't know, us Germans go into the cellar to laugh,' he replied. And do other things, I thought...

My thirst for comedy was quenched during my teens with American spoof cinema, Space Balls, Naked Gun, The Man with Two Brains, Airplane. I much enjoyed the belated comedic sequel Snakes on a Plane....But that's another story.

Hot humid Bangkok night.



What better to do than watch the comedy above the Royal Oak Pub. Friday night? A place where Western women go to get laid and Western men go to express their art and....

 ....Talking about high art I had met a writer friend earlier that evening and was four or five bottles of Tiger Sweat worse for wear owing to the generosity of an expense account and a non-existent client called Malcolm. Not at the heckling point of being pissed, but perhaps having the potential to arrive at Heckleville before the night was done, hopefully, I made it to the venue.

I arrived late with a plan to sneak up the stairs without paying. Not to be! A character grabbed my cuff and I paid the tenner entrance fee accordingly....Don't these guys realize I'm writing this up, I thought before common sense dictated, Why should they?

=
Wegoda. Pensive.

Inside comic and promoter Chris Wegoda warmed up the crowd with an anti-Christian routine. Chris is an entertainer, a talent who has grown immeasurably over the past few years, and tomorrow flies to London to try out his act on the comedy circuit. But that Friday night things were looking up, or down, depending on your faith. I'm sure Jesus would have forgiven him by now. It was after all, Easter Friday. The largely Christian crowd chuckled uneasily, The thing I like about Wegoda is that he always tries out new material rather than being reliant on the same patter. Where are the jokes about ladyboys? I heard them thinking. Coming, I thought.

But they weren't. Indonesian ex-international-school-boy-comic Delfin Solomon joked about Chinese tourist's penchant for stealing life jackets from commercial airliners. He pictured the scene as the soon to be victims of an emergency sea landing reached for their non-existent life-saving devices. Oblivious or perhaps spurred by the sensitivity to the recent air disasters the act continued. Hell, what are the chances of a successful sea landing anyway?

On firmer ground stood Graham Wooding whose routine on the uselessness of the Thai broom met a warm reception. An observational sketch that begins with the comic getting through four or five brushes a day sweeping the floor (it's one of those you have to be there things, Thai brushes are made of this wicker fabric that simply falls off as you brush) ends up with the hapless comedian haunting the darkside of Bangkok streets hooking up with Nigerian brush dealers to find some relief for his fifty-brush-a-day-habit. Funnier than it sounds Graham also had a routine about the Chinese (Chinese again, why of why, the Chinese?) and their mega production of vehicles hoping one day that a car be named  FUK YU. We can all imagine the scope for this observation on a hazy Bangkok night..

Brush Addiction

The headliner stormed onto the stage. Australian Ro Campbell lives in Scotland. How much harder can you get? The athleticism to kick arse and the alcoholic mindset to do so. He began on a high, shouting his routine into the mic, fueled by Red-Bull's bad brother from a different mother - M150 - which he kept in his pocket at all times. Or at least appeared to.

An interval, a bottle of Tiger Sweat, and it continued. Ro had recently toured the maximum security prison circuit, convicts laughed, a captive audience the comic explained. And went further: "I had a feeling these boys weren't inside for singing too loudly in church, you know what I'm saying?" The Johnny Cash of comedy commented. We did. And if we didn't we weren't bloody saying so.

Campbell went on to meditate on his times touring the mining towns of Australia. This dude was no stranger to a tough gig. Bangkok was a cake-walk. He was a funny fucker too.

Ro Campbell. Don't mess.

All ended well, and it could of turned out badly for myself when my mobile phone rang half the way through the second half. "You be wanting me to take that for you?" Campbell aggressively enquired.

Naturally, I didn't.

You can buy advance tickets for the Comedy Club Bangkok HERE.