Monday, May 17, 2021

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Dave Gregory

My story, "This Monarch Can Fly" has been published in FreeFall, Issue 31.1. I owe a huge note of thanks to Deepa and Abbe Hamilton for providing helpful feedback and suggestions.

The late Paul Pekin predicted I'd publish this story with no trouble but it hit 66 rejections before it was picked up by FreeFall, a fairly prestigious Canadian print journal. They pay $10 a page, which ties my largest payment so far.

The story isn't online but the link is to last night's launch of the issue. My seven minute excerpt closes out the reading portion of the night. It starts at the 49:27 mark.

Steven K. Smith

Many thanks to Fiction list members who critted my police procedural "Axman" a couple of years ago. The Ohio Writer's Association has accepted it for their upcoming anthology "Outcasts." No publication date yet, but probably later this year.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Notes For May 14th, 2021

This Day In Literary History

On May 14th, 1962, A Clockwork Orange, the classic novel by the famous English writer Anthony Burgess, was published in London. The title comes from the British slang expression, "queer as a clockwork orange."

An antifascist parable set in a dystopic England of the future, it examined a major problem facing Britain at the time of its publication - a huge rise in juvenile delinquency and the government's inability to deal with it constructively.

The novel is narrated by its main character, Alex, who refers to himself as "Alexander the Large." A highly intelligent but psychopathic teenager, he leads the Droogs, a violent street gang comprised of his friends Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Alex introduces everyone and sets the scene in this unforgettable opening paragraph:

There was me, that is Alex, and my three Droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much, neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthmesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog and All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.

The dazzling poetic prose is written in Nadsat, a language invented by Anthony Burgess for this novel. It's a dialect that combines English with modified Slavic and Russian slang expressions and made-up words. Alex speaks this language as he tells his horrific story.

The novel opens with Alex and his gang at a milk bar, where they drink drugged milk to get themselves high and ready for committing random acts of violence. First, they gleefully beat an old, homeless drunkard. One night, while joyriding in a stolen car, the gang breaks into an isolated cottage.

They terrorize the occupants, beating the husband and raping his wife. When he's not out with his gang, Alex passes the time in his dreary home, escaping his poor excuse for parents by blasting the works of his favorite composer, "Ludwig Van," (Beethoven) and masturbating to violent sexual fantasies.

When Georgie challenges Alex for leadership of the gang, he puts down the rebellion by beating Georgie in a fight and slashing open Dim's hand. Then he takes them out for drinks at the milk bar.

Georgie and Dim have had enough, but Alex demands that the gang follow through with Georgie's plan for a "man-sized job" and rob a rich old woman who lives alone. The robbery is botched when the old woman calls the police - but not before she is assaulted and knocked unconscious.

The gang then turns on Alex, attacking
him and leaving him to take the fall when the police arrive. The old woman later dies of her injuries and Alex is accused of murder.

After spending a couple of years in prison, Alex becomes an involuntary participant in an experimental rehabilitation procedure called the Ludovico Technique, which is supposed to remove all violent and criminal impulses from the human psyche.

The prison chaplain is opposed to the Ludovico Technique. He argues that conscious, willing moral choice is a necessary component of humanity. Nevertheless, Alex is forced to undergo the procedure.

For two weeks, his eyes are wired open and he is forced to watch violent images on a screen while being given a drug that induces extreme nausea. It's basically a horrific form of aversion therapy.

When Alex recognizes the soundtrack to the violent film presentation as Beethoven's fifth symphony, he begs the doctors to turn off the sound, telling them that's a sin to take away his love of music, and Beethoven never did anything wrong. They refuse.

After the procedure is completed, Alex is brought before an audience of prison and government officials and declared successfully rehabilitated. To demonstrate this, they show how Alex is unable to react with violence even in self defense, and becomes crippled by extreme nausea when sexually aroused.

The outraged prison chaplain again protests the Ludovico Technique, accusing the state of taking away Alex's God-given ability to choose good over evil. "Padre," a government official replies, "There are subtleties. The point is that it works."

Alex is released from prison, but his life plunges into a downward spiral. He finds that the Ludovico Technique has rendered him physically unable to listen to his Beethoven and unable to defend himself from attack. He is promptly beaten up by a former victim.

The police arrive, and they turn out to be Alex's former gang member Dim and former rival gang leader Billyboy. They beat him savagely and leave him for dead. Later, he's befriended by a political activist who turns out to be the man whose wife Alex had raped during the home invasion.

When the activist finally recognizes Alex as the gang leader, he tortures him with the classical music he once loved.
His life destroyed by the therapy that was supposed to make him a model citizen, a desperate Alex attempts suicide and survives.

A huge scandal erupts and the embarrassed government officials agree to reverse the Ludovico Technique in order to quell the bad publicity. Afterward, they offer Alex a cushy job at a high salary, but he looks forward to returning to his violent ways.

He forms a new gang, but after watching them beat a stranger, Alex finds that he has tired of violence. He contemplates giving up gang life, becoming a productive citizen, and doing what he secretly always wanted to do - start a family of his own. He wonders if his children would inherit the violent tendencies he once had.

In the U.S. first edition of the novel, the last chapter was cut. The publisher wanted the story to end on a dark note, with Alex looking forward to resuming his violent ways. He believed that the original UK edition ending, with Alex deciding on his own to reform, was unrealistic.

Anthony Burgess resisted the idea at first, but gave in because he needed the money. He would always regret allowing the final chapter of A Clockwork Orange to be cut from the U.S. edition. In America, the novel would not be published in its original version until 1986.

When legendary British filmmaker Stanley Kubrick adapted it as an acclaimed feature film in 1971, he based his screenplay on the U.S. first edition of the novel, ending the film on a dark note, with Alex smirking wickedly and saying, "They cured me all right!"

A huge success at the box office and widely praised by critics, A Clockwork Orange was one of the few X-rated films to be nominated for Academy Awards. The movie did have its detractors, due to its relentlessly dark tone and violence.

Passed uncut for release in the UK, the film sparked outrage when several violent juvenile offenders claimed that their crimes were inspired by it. After he and his family received death threats and their home was picketed, Stanley Kubrick withdrew the film from circulation in the UK, where it would remain out of print until after Kubrick's death in 1999.

I've read both versions of the novel, and I prefer the U.S. first edition because its grim ending really brings home the main theme of the novel - that fascism is an evil far worse than the societal ills it promises to cure.

The cut final chapter makes for interesting reading, but it does seem unlikely that all the damage done by the horrific Ludovico Technique could be reversed, which leaves the reader wondering if Alex's ultimate rejection of violence really was the product of his own free will.

Today, both editions of A Clockwork Orange are available in the U.S., and the novel remains a classic work of literature.

Quote Of The Day

"It seems priggish or pollyannaish to deny that my intention in writing the work was to titillate the nastier propensities of my readers. My own healthy inheritance of original sin comes out in the book and I enjoyed raping and ripping by proxy. It is the novelist’s innate cowardice that makes him depute to imaginary personalities the sins that he is too cautious to commit for himself." - Anthony Burgess on A Clockwork Orange

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a lecture on Anthony Burgess's classic novel, A Clockwork Orange. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Notes For May 13th, 2021

This Day In Literary History

On May 13th, 1907, the famous English writer Daphne du Maurier was born in London, England. Her father, Sir Gerald du Maurier, and her mother, Muriel Beaumont, were both prominent actors. Her grandfather was the famous writer and cartoonist, George du Maurier.

The Llewelyn-Davies boys, who would be befriended by writer J.M. Barrie and used as the inspiration for the Lost Boys in Barrie's classic play, Peter Pan (1904) were her cousins.

Daphne du Maurier's first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published in 1931, but it would be her fourth novel, Jamaica Inn (1936) that made her name as a writer. Set in Cornwall in 1820, the novel told the story of Mary Yellan, a young woman forced to live with her Aunt Patience after her mother dies.

Her aunt's husband Joss is the keeper of the Jamaica Inn. When Mary arrives, she finds her aunt under the thumb of her vicious, domineering husband. Mary senses that something is definitely wrong at the gloomy, ominous Jamaica Inn, which has no guests and is never open to the public.

Mary soon falls in love with Joss' younger brother Jem, who, although a thief, is not evil like Joss. As she tries to solve the mystery of the Jamaica Inn, Mary discovers that her uncle Joss is really the leader of a murderous criminal gang.

She turns to the town vicar for help. After her aunt and uncle both turn up murdered, Mary finds a shocking clue that reveals the killer's true identity, placing her life in danger. Jamaica Inn would be adapted as a feature film by the legendary English director Alfred Hitchcock in 1939.

The screenplay took great liberties with the novel, and du Maurier hated the film. Alfred Hitchcock would adapt more of her writings as feature films, including her next novel, which is considered her masterpiece.

Part suspense thriller, part Gothic romance, Rebecca (1938) is narrated by an unnamed woman who tells the story of her marriage to wealthy Englishman Maxim de Winter. She met him while working as a companion to a rich American woman on vacation in the French Riviera.

They fall in love, and after a courtship of two weeks, the narrator accepts de Winter's marriage proposal. After their wedding, they return to live at de Winter's beautiful West Country estate, Manderley.

The narrator soon realizes that her husband is haunted by the death of his first wife, Rebecca. Their sinister, controlling housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, was deeply devoted to Rebecca, and is determined to undermine her employer's new marriage by any means necessary.

She even manipulates the narrator into wearing a replica of one of Rebecca's dresses. After her attempt at manipulating the narrator into committing suicide fails, the narrator's husband makes a shocking confession.

Rebecca was an evil woman who tortured Maxim with her affairs and illegitimate pregnancy. Finally, Maxim could stand no more. He killed Rebecca and disposed of her body on her boat, then sunk the vessel.

After Rebecca's boat is raised, an inquest is held and Maxim is cleared of suspicion due to lack of evidence. Unfortunately, Rebecca's cousin (and lover) Jack tries to blackmail Maxim with evidence of his guilt...

Rebecca was adapted several times, first as a feature film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. The film, which starred Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The novel was also adapted as a play by its author. The play opened in London in 1940 and ran for over 350 performances.

In addition to her novels, Daphne du Maurier was famous for her short story collections. Her second short story collection, The Apple Tree (1952) contained six stories, including one of her most famous - The Birds.

Told from the viewpoint of Nat Hocken (a farm worker in coastal Cornwall) and his family, the story chronicles the inexplicable attacks on humans by birds in the area. The Birds would be adapted by Alfred Hitchcock as a classic horror film in 1963, starring Tippi Hedren.

In the title story, The Apple Tree, a widower believes that the old apple tree in his garden is possessed by the spirit of his neglected wife. du Maurier's 1971 short story collection Not After Midnight, features her second most famous story, Don't Look Now.

In it, married couple John and Laura Baxter are vacationing in Venice, trying to recover from the devastating, sudden death of their five-year-old daughter, Christine, which has strained their marriage.

In a restaurant, Laura meets two odd looking women - elderly identical twin sisters who have psychic knowledge of Christine. Meanwhile, John encounters a little girl who bears a striking resemblance to his dead daughter. Don't Look Now would be adapted as an acclaimed horror film in 1973 by the famous English director Nicolas Roeg.

du Maurier also wrote several works of nonfiction, including memoirs both of herself and her family members. She married Sir Frederick "Boy" Browning, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, and bore him a son and two daughters.

Biographers have noted that as a wife and mother, she was sometimes warm and loving, and sometimes cold and distant. Writer Margaret Forster, who worked with the approval and assistance of the du Maurier family, revealed in her biography that Daphne had a few affairs with women.

She vigorously denied being bisexual. Personal letters released after the author's death revealed, according to Forster, that Daphne was terrified that she might be a lesbian. She had been raised to hate homosexuals with a passion by her father, a virulent homophobic bigot.

Daphne du Maurier died in April 1989 at the age of 81.

Quote Of The Day

"When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person." - Daphne du Maurier

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Daphne du Maurier's classic short story, The Birds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Notes For May 12th, 2021

This Day In Literary History

On May 12th, 1883, Life on the Mississippi, the classic memoir by the legendary American writer Mark Twain, (the pseudonym of Samuel Clemens) was published simultaneously in Boston and London.

In this great book, Twain combines autobiography with history. He begins with the discovery of the Mississippi River by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1542. Twain's personal history with the Mississippi began in childhood.

As a young man, while traveling by steamboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans, he befriended the pilot, Horace E. Bixby, who inspired him to become a steamboat pilot himself.

At the time, steamboat piloting was a very prominent and respected position. It paid handsomely - around $3000 per year, which is equivalent to about $72,000 in today's money. That's because the job required lots of training.

As he chronicles his own personal history with that of the river, Twain tells of his training and career as a steamboat pilot before the Civil War, discussing the science of navigating the Mississippi.

To become a steamboat pilot in those days was a daunting task - you had to learn everything about the piloting and mechanics of a steamboat and also memorize the geography of the entire Mississippi River, from St. Louis to New Orleans, which changed course frequently.

Later in his life, Twain and some of his friends traveled the same path by steamboat, and the author discusses how the river boating industry had changed since he was a pilot, including the competition it faces from the railroad.

Interspersed through the straightforward documentary are numerous anecdotes and commentaries, as Twain offers his perspective on the people who live on the Mississippi and their culture - everything from the architecture of homes to local customs and folklore.

The narrative is classic Mark Twain, often tongue-in-cheek and filled with self-deprecating humor. A good example of the narrative can be found in the following passage:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

Life on the Mississippi is a fascinating read that paints a colorful, detailed portrait of life in the 19th century American South. To write the book, Twain used a then newfangled instrument called a typewriter. Life on the Mississippi is believed to be the first book submitted to a publisher in the form of a typewritten manuscript.

In 1980, Life on the Mississippi was adapted as a movie for American public television. Starring David Knell as Samuel Clemens, the film weaves folklore from the book into a fictional narrative of the author's life.

Quote Of The Day

"Words are only painted fire; a book is the fire itself." - Mark Twain

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Mark Twain's classic book, Life on the Mississippi. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Notes For May 11th, 2021

This Day In Literary History

On May 11th, 1916, the famous Spanish writer Camilo José Cela was born in Iria Flavia, Padrón, in Galicia, Spain. Half Spanish and half English, he was born Don Camilo José Cela Trulock.

Raised to be a devout Catholic and virulent anti communist, after briefly studying law at the University of Madrid, Cela fought on the side of the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. He was discharged after being wounded in action.

After recovering from his injuries, Cela took up journalism and dedicated himself to newspaper work. He would later become a civil servant, working in different civil service positions.

One of those positions was that of a government censor - an ironic position, as he would reject fascism and his religion and become an outlaw writer, battling the censors to get his novels published in his native Spain.

In 1942, at the age of 26,
Camilo José Cela published his first novel, La Familia de Pascual Duarte (The Family of Pascual Duarte), which was set in Spain during the years 1888-1937.

The novel opens with its main character and narrator, Pascual Duarte, on death row awaiting execution. He tells the story of his life and how he became a murderer, a homicidal path culminating in the murder of his mother - a sadistic, perverted alcoholic.

Strongly rooted in the Spanish realist school of writing, (and often grotesquely realistic) La Familia de Pascual Duarte is also a classic of existential fiction.

Unable to feel remorse, Pascual Duarte believes that Fate is controlling his life, (which has always been full of pain and bad luck) and no matter what he does, it will never change. The novel caused an uproar and was banned in Spain less than a year after its first edition was published. The ban would be lifted in four years.

In 1951, Cela published a novel that is considered by most to be his masterpiece. La Colmena (The Beehive) was set in Madrid in 1942, after the end of the Spanish Civil War. The 350-page novel contained six chapters and an epilogue.

Each chapter contained a number of fragments called sequences, where various characters described their unhappy lives in their newly fascist homeland. The novel's 300+ characters and the events in their lives work together to form the conclusion, much like bees work together in a hive.

Although La Colmena was the most important novel written in post civil war Spain, Cela was unable to get it published there. General Franco's Catholic Church-affiliated fascist government decried the novel as immoral.

Banned in Spain, it was published in Argentina instead. Six years later, in 1957, Cela was appointed to the Real Academia Española and made the Marquis of Iria Flavia by King Juan Carlos I.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Camilo José Cela's writings grew more experimental in nature and more subversive. In 1969, he scandalized Spanish society with his Diccionario Secreto, (Secret Dictionary) a dictionary of obscene words and phrases.

He followed that with his Enciclopedia del Eroticismo, (Encyclopedia of Eroticism) a four-volume survey of sexual practices in Spain.

His best known (and boldest) experimental novel was Cristo versus Arizona (Christ versus Arizona). Published in 1988, it was a retelling of the shootout at the OK Corral - in one single sentence that's more than a hundred pages long.

After General Franco died in 1975, Spain made the transition from fascist dictatorship to democratic republic. Camilo José Cela was made a Royal Senator in the Constituent Cortes, (Spanish Parliament) where he helped write and draft the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

In 1989, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. As he entered his golden years, old age failed to temper his outrageous personality. During one TV interview, he claimed that he could drink an entire liter of water in one sitting - through his anus!

Six years later, in 1995, he was awarded Spain's Cervantes Prize for Literature, despite the fact that he had described the award as being "covered with shit."

Camilo José Cela died of chronic heart disease in January 2002 at the age of 85. Cela, who remains one of Spain's most important and influential writers, once said that the epitaph on his tombstone should read "Here lies someone who tried to screw his fellow man as little as possible."

Quote Of The Day

"Literature is the denunciation of the times in which one lives." - Camilo José Cela

Vanguard Video

Today's video features rare interview footage of Camilo José Cela. Unfortunately, it's in Spanish with no English translation. I couldn't find any footage of this amazing writer with English subtitles.

Monday, May 10, 2021

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Jeannette de Beauvoir

Dead in the Water, the 8th (!) book in my Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, is out this month. I love, love, love the cover art (I had nothing to do with it), but also think it’s the best book in the series so far. Doing the happy dance here.

Pamelyn Casto

Better Than Starbucks published my "A Fall Through The Internet" and selected it as one of their Featured pieces. I also got a note from a reader who called it "wonderful and poignant."

It's so nice when a stranger takes the time to let us know our work's appreciated.

Dave Gregory

My strange and symbolic flash fiction story, "What Does This Have to do With That?" is now online at MORIA, the National Literary Magazine of Woodbury University. I want to thank Bill LaFond, Kristen Howe, Ankita Marwaha, Frank Zielony, and Aaron Troye-White from the Fiction group for providing greatly appreciated feedback.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Notes For May 7th, 2021

This Day In Literary History

On May 7th, 1812, the legendary English poet Robert Browning was born in Camberwell, London, England. His liberal, intellectual family had a passion for literature; his father, a clerk for the Bank of England, had amassed a collection of around 6,000 books, most of them rare.

Browning wrote his first poetry collection at the age of twelve. Unable find a publisher, he destroyed the manuscript. He attended private schools and quickly developed a fierce hatred of institutionalized education. He was then educated at home by tutors.

An outstanding student, he became fluent in French, Greek, Italian, and Latin by the age of fourteen. At sixteen, he enrolled at University College, London, but left after his first year. In 1845, Browning met the famous English poet Elizabeth Barrett.

Also a literary critic, Elizabeth was one of the very few critics who had given Browning's first poetry collection, Dramatic Lyrics (1842), a good review. A glowing review, in fact. So he wrote to thank her, and they began corresponding frequently.

Six years his senior, Elizabeth's health problems (chronic lung disease) had left her a semi-invalid. She lived in her father's house on Wimpole Street. She finally agreed to let Browning visit her in person, and it was love at first sight for both of them.

The following year, the couple secretly eloped. They fled to Italy, living first in Pisa, then in Florence. They had to elope because Elizabeth's father had forbidden all of his children from marrying under penalty of disinheritance.

Unlike his liberal, intellectual daughter, Edward Barrett, an ignorant, racist conservative, believed that he was most likely the illegitimate son of his plantation owner father and a black slave, and feared that his children, who were white, could produce black offspring.

Three years later, Elizabeth gave birth to her only child, Robert Barrett Browning Jr., known by his childhood nickname, Pen. Robert Browning Sr. loved Italy and was fascinated by its art and literature.

While living in Florence, he worked on the poems that would appear in his first major poetry collection, the two-volume Men and Women (1855). The collection would include classic poems such as Love Among the Ruins and Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came would inspire American horror master Stephen King to write his classic Dark Tower series of dark fantasy novels featuring the iconic knight errant Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.

Around this time, while Robert Browning's name was known by the cognoscenti, (he had written plays in verse and dramatic monologues) he remained an obscure poet until 1861, when he returned to England following the death of his wife.

He became part of the London literati and his reputation took off. By 1868, after five years of work, he completed and published The Ring and the Book, an epic blank verse poem comprised of twelve "books." It was based on a real crime that took place in Rome in 1698.

The story, which is narrated by various characters, tells of an impoverished nobleman, Count Guido Franceschini, who is convicted of murdering his wife and her parents. The Count supposedly committed the murders as an act of revenge for his wife's infidelity.

His wife Pompilia was having an affair with a young priest, Father Giuseppe Caponsacchi. Despite the Count's protests of innocence, he is found guilty and sentenced to death. He appeals to Pope Innocent XII to overturn the conviction, but the pontiff denies his request.

Steeped deep in philosophy, psychology, and spiritual insight, The Ring and the Book was rightfully considered a work of genius - a masterpiece of dramatic verse. Browning's best selling work during his lifetime, a huge critical and commercial success, it brought him the renown he'd sought for 40 years.

Browning spent his last years traveling extensively. He continued to write, publishing a series of long poems, then returning to collections of shorter verse. His last major work, Parleyings with Certain People of Importance In Their Day, was published in 1887.

In it, the poet speaks in his own voice as he engages in a series of dialogues with long forgotten figures from the worlds of art, literature, and philosophy. Regarded as a masterpiece today, Parleyings baffled Browning's Victorian readers.

For his last published work, Asolando, Robert Browning returned to traditional form and wrote another collection of short poems. The book was published on the day he died, December 12th, 1889. He was 77 years old.

Quote of the Day

"Ignorance is not innocence, but sin." - Robert Browning

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of Robert Browning's classic poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Enjoy!

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