2015 UPDATES & NEWS
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My mind on the subject started to change once I reached High School. You see, I was dazzled by the moving, strobic lights dancing all around; and all that flesh, sleek as metal, gleaming in glycerine; plus the booming voices and even louder thunderings crunching up backgrounds. Everyone looked so beautiful, or massively ugly. The aesthetic middle-ground was a pervasive blandness that blended people and things into a mash praised for its indiscernibility to anything outstanding. I was mesmerized, trapped, in Tinseltown's projected "sharks with laser beams," to quote Dr. Evil. But over the years, barrier-busting technical transformations, accelerated spewings from mass media gorgings, and swinish, voracious attitudes have weaseled into its mainframe, making the hunt for purity a losing percentage against the egos that perpetrate mush.

So now, I'm going backwards. Back to simplicity hiding vast complexity. Back to my budding attitudes of the single artist holding a single pencil to a single piece of paper. It's the only Art left where Truth is considered with some consistency. Sure, one has to weed out its charlatan committees, like anything else in this stratospheric marketplace. Frankly, I'm not sure which is worse: having the Old Big Brother capitalistically re-wired to watch over me so I don't stray from suffocating politics and voodoo economics, or the New Improved Big Brother singing and dancing in the fireworks and smoke while all the important stuff goes on uninterrupted backstage. It's a choice between substance and superfluousness.

Because Art, other than being enlightening, should be absorbing, contemplative, and even sometimes enjoyable. For me, those tween shocks of consciousness first reared between reading Classics Illustrated comicbooks and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

See all the covers! Click HERE See all the Covers! Click HERE

(click on covers to reveal their visual history)

I should've forsaken Forrie for Hermie, but thankfully, I've always kept Ishamel in my back pocket.

 

And now, to business. Due to zero feedback and a single-digit page view statistic, I am quite encouraged to continue this for another year. If you are unfortunate enough to stumble onto this page and want even further phrasal confabulations, the page of last year's 2014 Updates can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

01/04/2015
Evie Wyld
Done
01/21/2015 The Dog Stars Peter Heller Done
01/27/2015
Kate Wilhelm
Rant Instead
01/30/2015
Karen Thompson Walker

Done

 

 

Still on my End of Days run, I grabbed last year's California, a debut novel by Edan Lepucki. It is sooooo LA. Apparently, it got singled out as a rallying cry against Amazon for hostile tactics during contractual negotiations which boosted this book onto the NYT bestseller list. As an EOTW, there's not much here to recommend during my short stay. Seems like more literary concerns slumming in genre. But author Lepucki is pretty much the direct, opposite link to McCarthy, vis-à-vis The Road. Her mid-collapse world is more Cali-fortified, calling keepsakes artifacts, politics philosophies, and consumerism a community. Dead at page 35 out of 393 of them.

Another leaving was 2009's Ouroboros by Michael Kelly & Carol Weekes. I got more than half-way through when I just got tired and walked away. This is a Monkey's Paw variant involving two older couples where the wife of one dies but comes back to her grieving husband quite changed and with an agenda other than love and comfort. POV is neighbors' until it's more expedient to tell the story in third-person from the hubby-victim's stance. No problem with structure, I just got bored with so much unnecessary filler, lost the suspense, felt the characters were too dull to enjoy, and wished it was a sparkly novella instead of a drudging novel. Down at page 157 out of 243 of them.

More drop-outs. This time from a Crawford List author, Sean Stewart (Perfect Circle, Mockingbird). Started The Night Watch from 1997, but couldn't get a foothold. After The Age of Miracles—which gets more discerning as the Earth keeps rotating out its regular old days—most reads stand down, and fantasy with Earth-bound angels just seems like feckless spin right now. As a member of the same universe, I dropped 1995's Resurrection Man as well.

 

 
02/12/2015
Adam Nevill
Done
 
02/20/2015
Adam Nevill
Done
 
03/15/2015
Alan Ryan

Done

03/28/2015
Michael McDowell
Done
04/02/2015
Michael McDowell
Done
 
04/08/2015
Michael McDowell
Unfinished
 

 

Well, besides losing a substantial amount of money to the IRS on this day—April 15th, 2015—I have also purged some titles from my extensive "to read" list. The work of David Searcy—Ordinary Horror and Last Things both from 2002—and Michael Cisco's The San Veneficio Canon from 2004, which contains the novellas "The Divinity Student" and "The Golem". Searcy's prose feels like logorrhea to me. Maybe it's just because I don't think a literary treasure chest of contempory verbiage carries much weight in genre offerings. The manipulation of words into sentences seem more important than what's represented. As for Cisco, well, his locution seems more suited to his surreal, fantastical world. Again, I get lost in the elegence of the word's usage and not its driving point. I need more cold, hard facts, I guess, and a worldbuild I can at least curl my toes into and feel comfortable and curious enough to enter author Cisco's universe. And, while I'm doing Devil's Work, I might as well burn Nicholas Royle's Regicide (great cover art) from 2011. I found it on my nightstand with a dogear 1/2 way through it and no memory of its existence.

 

 
04/17/2015
Lucius Shepard
Unfinished
 

 

Summer comes early in Tucson, so this year I have decided to get a jump on my Northtrek and hit the trail in May. But, more importantly, this engenders the

SUMMER READS

These are pesky little books you hide the covers of once you are in a public place. Sometimes they are read for pure audacity, sometimes for unadulterated sleaziness, always for a thrilling page turn. Avoided genre corridors have the Do Not Enter signs removed. Summer is for new adventures, discoveries, challenges, and NOT for making notes while you peruse texts. Over the years, some of the best books I've read are Summer Reads. Let's see what we've got this time, eh?

 

04/27/2015
Christopher Rice
Aborted
05/17/2015
Benjamin Percy
Edited
 
05/23/2015
Gillian Flynn
Unfinished
 
05/25/2015

 

First flub of Summer Reads axed: The Martian by Andy Weir from 2011. A debut novel, this one is all gears 'n' spume, no expulsion. It was the opening page that got me: "I'm pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked. Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare." I'm sure it bulks up on characterization as it unravels, I just couldn't wait. Besides, this is just another celebration on how ingenious and great man is at creating technology. Instead, try A.E. van Vogt's short story from 1950 called The Enchanted Village, where a lone astronaut on Mars survives because technology re-creates him with its programmed imaginings, embracing the deadly environment instead of fighting against its congenital nature. Dead at page 58/369 and waiting for the movie.

Well, I waited all summer and into the fall for the movie. It didn't disappoint; it just didn't appoint. A fun watch; fun to forget. The plot is a no brainer. It's not will he make it, just how he makes it. Now, if you want a one-man-on-spacerock story that's 180-degrees, has some real intriguing surprises, and actual, contemplated depth, pick up 2009's Moon.

Now's as good time as any to fill in my 2600-mile trip from Tucson to Missoula. After scooting over to Santa Fe to visit friends, I slid into Chaco Canyon with mudded tires and a new raincoat. Drizzle cleared the tourists out of the ruins, but cut back a stay that should've gone for at least two days to explore this fascinating area. (Note: very limited camping, so get reservations for next year, then follow up for Chimney Rock after May 15th). After Great Sand Dunes Park where I glanced a deer off my front bumper and he came up running, I stopped to see sister Julie and Dave in Broncoville. Barely escaped the snowstorm by aborting the destination of the Black Hills and chugging Loveland Pass heading west for the Salt Lake City corridor north. Got off I-15 for the Tetons and Yellowstone, then plunged into the bark beetle pondo forests of central Montana, peaking at I've-never-seen-so-many-cars-in-my-life-for-sale Great Falls (the back way to Glacier was closed). And then, to put the brakes on my 2700-mile trip in 10 days, I slid down MT200 to Missoula. Pics to follow.

 

 
05/25/2015
Jon Bassoff
Done
 
06/01/2015
Donald Ray Pollock
In Progress
 
06/06/2015
Christopher Golden
In Progress
 
06/16/2015
Chris Beckett
In Progress
 
06/18/2015
Erskine Caldwell
Rant Instead
 
06/20/2015
Mick Garris
Unfinished
 

 

I picked the week before Labor Day to mosey on back to Tucson. A slew of lightening fires in Montana plus the monster Okanogan fire, Washington State's worst ever, drove me east toward the Badlands of South Dakota. Three states over and the sun still looked like this:

I diagonaled across Wyoming through the Medicine Bow forest and into Colorado, where I worked down the Rockies via HiWay 285 into New Mexico and Bandolier Nat'l Monument for some more cliff dwellings. The worst driving was on I-10, that stretch between Willcox and Bensen where I collided with a monsoon rain storm that instantenously turned visibility into about hood length. For about 20 minutes at 65 mph. I locked into a truck's tail lights and stayed there.

 

 
06/25/2015
Nicola Griffith
Shorted
 
06/29/2015
Nicola Griffith
see above
 
07/06/2015
Nicola Griffith
see above
 
07/15/2015
Brian Hodge
Done
 

 

As you might have guessed by now, I'm not writing reviews much this summer. The above 9 novels will probably never get filled in, and, here's two more to add to that list, although I didn't finish either one: Alice Walks by Michael Aronovitz from 2014, a coming-of-age yarn 'bout disturbing a girl's grave and gettin' haunted 1st-personed by a teener was just a little too YA for me (dead at 76/180), and 2015's Archivist Wasp from Nicole Hornher-Stace, a SF ditty about power and control in an alien culture setting, that's a fine rendering, but just demanding too much from me for a summer read (dead at 69/268).

 

 
07/24/2015
Jonathan Aycliffe
In Progress
 
08/02/2015
Andrew VanWey
In Progress
 
08/15/2015
Chris Beckett
In Progress
 
09/09/2015
Michael Marshall
Done
 
09/13/2015
Robert McCammon
Done
 

 

Don't even ask me how I got fixated on this diatribe. I was researching the author Jonathan Franzen in anticipation of reading his latest, Purity. On www.goodreads.com, I stumbled across a witty criticism of The Corrections as "an open letter to my former copy." It is not a denouncement of the book, but of its author's viewpoint of his craft and the unwashed masses that read. This ingenious sprite of a critic goes onto reference Ben Marcus' piece, where Franzen is laid-out swaggering a belief that "difficult" writing is artist ego, not a meaningful intelligence to and with its audience.

If you think of a novel as a contract between the reader and the writer, an agreement to entertain and be entertained, difficulty doesn't make much sense. But, as soon as you have "important literature", books with some sort of cultural status, the notion of difficulty sets in.

Franzen, in conversation with Ben Greenman

Franzen considers William Gaddis a "difficult" author. "The work of reading Gaddis makes me wonder if our brains might even be hard-wired for conventional storytelling, structurally eager to form pictures from sentences." An author should never, ever cookie-cut any potential reader this way. Duh. It's as if Franzen's in a school yard, taking the bully stance of first punch wins the encounter. "Hey, let me call you dull and boring before you call me dull and boring." But deeper into the ugliness is the notion that Art should subscribe to Entertainment, which cuddles up with corporate memos that prefer joining to standing out and mistake conciliation for initiative.

It is ironic that he calls out Gaddis (1922-1998), an author who wrote only 4 novels in his scrutinization of American culture. The Recognitions (1955) is about pretension overwhelming authenticity, anotherwords searching and descrying essence and true creativity (Art is the recognition of original form); JR (1975) is comprehensive in exploring Lootusing both definitions to its extremeas its burlesque of assumed importance; A Frolic Of His Own (1994) well, it opens naked: "Justice? You get justice in the next world, in this world, you have the law." And Carpenter's Gothic (1985), Gaddis' most accessible novel, is a "patchwork of conceits, borrowings, conceptions"(p.227) formulating a brooding vision of love in absentia, religion as paralogism, politics as sophistry, and disorder as apocalyptic.

It seems Franzen has comic book fenceposts around the attention and awareness of a phantom fandom. After all, if you want to communicate by "entertaining" your audience, you must start at a certain level fostered by a pre-conceived notion of their intelligence and abilities. The author has to be "above" his audiences' level to concieve and execute the work designed for them.It seems to me that talking out of that mouthby its very definitionmeans talking down.

Gaddis wants exploration; he demands readers dig in and reach for supplemental sources, whether it be the encyclopedia or the writings of Constantine. You have to aspire to his level. It is about what you put in as much as what you take out, because this is not lazybones' reading; it leads to immersive communication and maybe, just maybe, epiphanous inspiration. Referencing Hollywood cinema, this is like comparing Broadcast News (1987) with Network (1976). Both have their placeI read a ton of pulpy, genre fiction myselfbut one does not dispel the other.

BTW, if you don't know by now, I consider William Gaddis to be the greatest author interpreting the latter 20th Century. From the same time frame, I would prefer reading I Am Legend (1954) author Richard Matheson over my favorite novel of all timeThe Recognitionsbecause Gaddis is, admittedly, a lot of work. But as Brando's character Lee Clayton says in Arthur Penn's Missouri Breaks (1976), "the work is mine and I'll have the say about that."

 

 
09/18/2015
Jason Mott
Done
 
09/22/2015
John Vaillant
Done
 
11/08/2015
Aaron Gwyn
Done
 
11/12/2015

 

I started Dreams and Shadows, a 2013 novel by C. Robert Cargill, but, by page 73 out of 433, I realized it's not the book for me. I don't read Neil Gaiman either. This novel lives beyond the "veil", where there's a supernatural world existing simultaneously with ours, that is so different, it needs to be explained with collated chapters from Dr. Thaddeus Ray. Things stalk us there, but most of the beings are indifferent. The Djinn, Genies, Ghosts, Monsters. "Remember that there is not a monster dreamt that hasn't walked once within the soul of a man"(p.51). Some humans can cross over, but "once you've accepted the existence of that which is clearly not there, nothing is impossible"(p.56). An 8-year old boy trips on a sleeping djinn in the woods. He gets some wishes granted, like "show me everything supernatural"(p.52), but the portentousness lies in that "man fears what he does not understand, and everything else he first subverts, then controls or, ultimately, destroys"(p.57).

And here's another one, damn. I've been trying to read Steve Rasnic Tem for awhile now, along with his wife, Melanie. Since he won the Stoker this year for Blood Kin, I thought, yeah, this'll do. Somehow the structuredude returns to GritLit-like home situation, taking care of Grandma, except Grandma Sadie has to tell her story on top of this so the rest of the world will be safe in present timedoesn't sit well with me. I think I've read too much Southern Gothic that cushions this work with the genuineness of its pain and sorrow to tumble a supernatural and somewhat superficial plot like a dogpile on top of it.

There's also this: Marc Laidlaw's White Spawn of 2015. It's a curious little novella65 pagesabout star-crossed lovers who find each other during a yearly salmon spawn in the Northwest. The parallel is presented between falling in love and the final, deadly struggle up streams, ending in an orgy of human to fish metamorphosis and a blown dam on the struggling spawning river, so "tonight the river runs wild, and we all swim free!(p.61)". I didn't quite get what it all meant; however, there's not many phenomena in pure Nature as curiously mesmerizing as salmon spawning.

 

 
11/20/2015
Daryl Gregory
In Progress
 
12/01/2015
Greg F. Gifune
In Progress
 
12/05/2015
Jonathan Lethem
In Progress
 
12/07/2015
Paula Hawkins
Done
 
12/15/2015
Richard Laymon
Done
 
12/18/2015
James Herbert
Done
 
12/22/2015
Jonathan Aycliffe
Done
 
         

 

 

 

 

GOODBYE 2015

 

Before any summary of this year I'd like to say a few words about my best friend and business partner for half my life at the time:

 

Let No Man Write My Epitaph

(lifted from 19th century Irish Patriot Robert Emmet's famous execution speech)

This 1960 movie title has always stuck in my head and now it is time to use it.

TOM ABBOTT

(1947-2015)

We hung in high school & collegeTom going to USC while I slummed it at UCLAbut it was after when we became brothers. I moved in with Tom in the late 1960s in Topanga Canyon. With roommates who were aspiring musicians and actors, our adventures became known as "Grapefruits Are My Favorite". We started a business in Encino called Tom Abbott Photography which lasted about a year before we met an older New Yorker named Jack Hunt and, along with a motley crew that included girlfriends and Tom's younger brother Ted, moved to Carmel Valley and formed the business known as The Third Egg. Yes, this was that infamous 1 1/2 years where we put photos on eggshells and sold them in galleries like the Neikrug in Manhattan. When that fell apart, Tom followed girlfriend Joey to Davis and got a job working the sports desk for The Davis Enterprise newspaper. I stayed in CV trying to make a go of it as an artist for another year or so before giving it up and moving back to LA. That didn't work, so, on a trip up North, I stopped in to see Tom and we started another photo studio called Spectrographics out of a house on 7th and D streets. That business broke up in the early '80s for various reasonsmy Scientology stint of 6 months, cocaine, girlfriends, living and working together, etc.and Tom opened his own studio then moved into Sacramento for business reasons. Me, I moved in with my mother down in Orange County and went back to school in honor of my mid-life crisis.

I never really saw Tom again.

The most formative years of my life were spent with him. Imagine, two photographers creating off each other, roaming around shooting visual theories like The Anthropomorphic Landscape or the out-and-out sarcasm of humanity trying to live naturally in prisons of steel and glass. We gobbled up Big Sur and cities like Vancouver, B.C. We had grand exploits, like the 5 days in Winnemucca, Nevada stuck with a blown motor and 35 pounds of weed, or New Year's Eve in Guaymas, Mexico, where I lost Tom only to find him down the street in the mayor's private party! How about The Stones at Fillmore West where our girlfriends found and egged our car 'cause we didn't invite them? Or, when he ditched me and the girls in San Francisco for Berkeley to hang with Abbie Hoffman. We were always sneaking into Point Lobos just south of Carmel at dawn for the light and photos, then hiding from the rangers until the park opened. Tom was always the spirit of those adventures; I filled in with photo tech and expanded artistically on his reconnaissance and called it my own. Tom walked right up to life and said, "hello". I hung back to see the response.

Unfortunately, just like in the movies, a woman came between us.

It is no surprise that both Tom and I would fall in love with Terry Hamlin. He dated her first, keeping it a secret from me. Their relationship ran its heated course, but was doomed for all the primary reasons, meaning it couldn't continue into a marriage that neither of them could support, either financially or emotionally. For my part, I was doing a year and a half at UC Fullerton 500 miles away. I called Terry to sell my house in Davis and we ended up in a long-distance relationship, culminating in moving to Seattle together and getting married in 1984.

Tom and I never talked much about it, but Terry and I talk about him all the time. He stayed in Sacramento for the rest of his life, shooting and writing sports, plus doing promotional work for politicians around town.

Tom was always endearing, easy going, but challenging the boundaries in an inventive way. He was most definitely his own man and cut his own, distinctive path through life. Terry and I miss him terribly; just knowing he's not in this world anymore is a heartache.

I love you, Curly. Terry loves you, Dirtbag. And Ted, the brother that followed you in death two weeks later, perhaps loved you the most.

But this is not an epitaph, just a signpost along the road.

Farewell.

 

 

 

 

 

And while we're into the Reaper's work, I'd like to pay homage to three of my favorite artists who also died this year:

E. L. Doctorow (1931-2015)

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015)

Robert Stone (1937-2015)

Tom Piccirilli (1965-2015)

 

No more from you great storytellers is a grievous loss, but what you left in the dirt for all of us is your immortality unquestioned. Thanks, guys & gals, for your heart. You will be missed.

 

Again, I paged through about 45 books this year. For the first time, I found myself in serious recurring, short-term memory trouble. Reading is becoming more difficult because I cannot remember what I read in the book previously. And reviews, well, it's obvious they have fallen off in insight and quality as well. Ensemble-style reads are out because, starting a chapter, I don't know if I've met the characters before. I can't stand that kind of narrative structure anyway, so good riddance.

My summer trips yielded an overabundance of images, even though I got some water drops on the new Canon G7X and it quit on me. Refurbished, It later redeemed itself by grabbing some fabu pics in Sabino Canyon this fall. For the first time ever, I've gotten ahead of myself in the Silver Links Repository and am filling out 2016!

 

 

But before we get to the major awards, a new recognition has been set forth:

 

THE CRAWFORD CONFERRALS

(a simple salute for simple-minded readers like myself)

 

Best read novel of the Year: The Elementals

Best read surprise of the Year: We Are All Completely Fine

This year's Honored Mentionables:

The Golden Spruce

(A guy chops down a tree to save the forest)

The Matrix

(classic British ghost story, seamlessly done)

Forsaken

(Art as prophesy, spooky-style)

The House of Small Shadows

(Brim-full of shock and wonderment)

Cast A Cold Eye

(A heartfelt haunting, perfectly touchstoned)

The Age of Miracles

(Coming of Age as the clock wears down)

All The Birds, Singing

(A gem in elusive narration)

 

 

A discovered dead Author of the Year: Michael McDowell (1950-1999)

A discovered live Author of the Year: Nicola Griffith (1960-)

 

Summarizing 2015 with regards to fantasist literature is probably best illustrated by the major award winners for best novel.

The Nebula was won by Jeff VanderMeer for Annihilation.

The Hugo was won by Cixin Liu for The Three-Body Problem.

The World Fantasy Award was won by David Mitchell for The Bone Clocks

The International Horror Guild Award was discontinued in 2008, but we still have the Stoker, which was staked out by Steve Rasnic Tem for  Blood Kin, and Maria Alexander's for Mr. Wicker for 1st Novel Award.

Across the pond, The British Fantasy award now splits in two for the novel category, with No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill winning the August Derleth (horror) award and Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge taking the Robert Holdstock (fantasy) award. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie broke the summit stick over her knee for the British Science Fiction award while Ruth E. J. Booth booted into Short Fiction with The Honey Trap. The Arthur C. Clarke award went to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

The John W. Campbell crown fell on Claire North this year for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. PBOs were distinguished with a win for The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison for the Philip K. Dick Award, with special citation to Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett. The James Tiptree Jr. award sat between Monica Byrne for The Girl in the Road and Jo Walton with My Real Children. Okay, there's also the Shirley Jackson Award which went to Jeff VanderMeer for Annihilation, this year's novel choice, with the half-novel (Novella) to We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory, which also won World Fantasy this year.

And lastly, The Locus Awards passed out plaques for Best SciFi Novel to Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword, Best Fantasy Novel to The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, and Best 1st Novel toThe Memory Garden by Mary Rickert. The Novella was tossed to Nancy Kress for Yesterday's Kin.

 

 

HELLO TO 2016 !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© copyright 2010 by Larry Crawford

updated 01/02/2014