Thursday, August 11, 2022

New fiction: "It Gazes Back"

Black Cat Weekly issue 32
Longtime followers of this blog may recall that many moons ago, before my content was donimated by tiki and Friday Night Videos, much of my writing here concerned itself with writing elsewhere. I am a writer, a recovering journalist, who has long harbored interests in short fiction, genre and related non-fiction. I love science fiction and fantasy, speculative fiction if you will, although I have not published very much in recent years.

That is a roundabout way of announcing that I have a new publication available for those who are interested in such things. This marks a milestone as well, for after more than 20 years of professional publication, this latest work is my first co-authored piece. "It Gazes Back" was written with the amazingly talented Don Webb, and is unlike anything I have ever done before. Cindy Ward, the acquiring editor, said the story “reveals the connections between Nietszche’s abyss, Lovecraft’s god-monsters and non-Euclidean spaces, and Cordwainer Smith’s monsters of subspace.” If that piques your interest, the story is now available in Black Cat Weekly No. 32. Let me know what you think! Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo!
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Marvin Zindler!

On this date in 1921, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler was born.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. Marvin clashed with his father (who owned the well-regarded Zindler's clothing store in Houston) growing up and went on to try his hand at a host of different career options. He was a drum major (briefly) at Tarleton State, served in the Marines (again, briefly) before being discharged as 4F, was a radio reporter for defunct Houston radio station KATL, was a reporter for the defunct Houston Press, ran for mayor of Bellaire, was fired by one TV station because he was "too ugly for television" and was a Harris County deputy sheriff for years, where he worked in civil fraud and fugitive extradition before setting up the consumer fraud division.

Had he not died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zindler would've been 101 today.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Les Baxter Ritual of the Savage
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, August 08, 2022

That was the Armadillocon that was (2022 edition)

Howard Waldrop at Armadillocon 2022
I attended the 44th edition of Armadillocon over the weekend. For those of you who are impatient and want me to cut to the chase: I had a good time. The end.

For those who want a more detailed recap, I'll do as best as my increasingly unreliable memory will allow. I was oddly tired all weekend. Mind you, conventions normally wear me out, so that I often take the following Monday off from work. This year, however, I was tired all day, every day, not just in the evenings. And there weren't any big room parties to keep me up late the night before. If this is indeed age sneaking up on me, I would very much like to speak to a manager.

Mask wearing in panels was mandatory. Yes, the masks were annoying, but not as annoying as the superspreader event I got to be a part of last month. The convention was wise to err on the side of caution. What's more, the guests and attendees were wise to not make a thing of it. Folks were pretty chill that way.

There were several moments over the course of the weekend where it turned out that folks I knew from science fiction circles also knew folks I know from tiki circles. It may be hard to fathom for some of you, but by and large SF crowds are broadly unaware of my interest in tiki (it being an interested that manifested only a few years pre-COVID) and tiki crowds are almost always surprised to discover I'm a published author. When those interests overlap, it can be a bit disconcerting. Nice, but disconcerting nonetheless.

Programming was interesting and varied, continuing Armadillocon's established efforts to avoid same-old, same-old programming topics. My one complaint, if it even rises to that of a complaint, was that I ended up scheduled opposite the one panel topic I had suggested (2001: How Near Future SF Has Changed). I didn't necessarily need to be on it, but would've liked to hear what others had to say on the matter. Other than that, I had no complaints. I ended up sharing two panels with Ehi Okosun, who has a duology coming next year from Harper Voyager. On several occasions, he had no qualms about telling me my half-baked ideas could probably stand another 10 minutes in the oven. I can't speak for her experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed our time spent together and look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

On other panels I obviously ran amok, and talked for entirely too much time on defunct Texas hockey leagues and the fact that more than one game was "fogged out" back in the day when hot, humid September air rolled into unairconditioned rodeo arena and engaged the retrofitted ice rinks in mortal combat. And I also worked references to the Chicken Ranch into pretty much every panel discussion, but I think by this point we all agree that's pretty much baked into the equation.

In other news, the great Sara Felix wowed everyone by presenting the GoH lineup with custom tiaras accompanied by poetic vignettes. The Willie Siros memorial panel was bittersweet (and the act of walking through the dealers' room was a surreal experience without Willie's larger-than-life presence behind the stacks of books). Malvern Books was there, selling copies of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch, which made me quite happy. They also sold out of their stock, which made me even happier. I also signed more stuff over the weekend than perhaps I ever have before. In addition to the Chicken Ranch book, I signed copies of the Writers of the Future volume I'm in (haven't seen one of those in ages), a copy of The Leading Edge with my story "Devil in a Tiny Little Ocean Bloc Container," which I can't recall ever signing copies of, and The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. Just about the only thing missing were old Interzone back issues!

I had great conversations with Patrice Sarath, Jess Nevins, Mikal Trimm, Mark Finn, C. Stuart Hardwick, Renee Babcock, Beth Bugbee, Jessica Reisman, Josh Rountree, Scott Cupp, Don Webb, D.R.R. Chang, Matthey Bey (who gifted me some fantastic homebrew prickly pear wine!), Stina Leicht, Troyce Wilson, A. Lee Martinez and a host of other people I'm forgetting. I also got to meet Writer Guest of Honor Dr. Darcie Little Badger, who lives in San Marcos (yet somehow doesn't work at the university). How cool is that?

Below are various photographs I took over the course of the weekend. I'm not including captions because I'd like for this to come out before Armadillocon in 2023. Those folks contained therein know who they are and if you don't know someone, consider it a challenge to attend the next Armadillocon and fill that particular blank on your social dance card.

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Now Playing: Arthur Lyman The Legend of Pele
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Armadillocon off the port bow!

Armadillocon 2022It's time once again for my favorite science fiction convention of the year, Armadillocon, taking place in Austin this weekend. Once again, it's at the Austin Southpark Hotel, which used to be the Omni Southpark and Wyndham Southpark before that. It's always a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new and interesting folks. The convention's lousy with writers and one of the best things about the weekend is that everyone is so accessible--opportunities to just hang out and chat with the guests of honor, fans, other writers, artists, vendors etc. abound. I know the huge mega-conventions have become all the rage and squeezed out these smaller, regional events, but I'd rather spend my pennies in the dealers' room on new books than a fleeting encounter with Sigourney Weaver for an impersonal autograph. But that's just me.

If you're going to be there, drop by and introduce yourself. Here is my schedule for the weekend:

Friday, August 5
8 p.m. Ballroom E

Crowdfunding or Crowded Out?
Panelists: D.L. Young (moderator), Dantzel Cherry, Rhonda Eudaly, Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Brandon Sanderson recently shattered Kickstarter's record for raised capital for book publishing. Is this the start of something big, or does it herald the beginning of the end?

Saturday, August 6
1 p.m. Ballroom E

Texas Weird: What Is It, and Why You Should Seek It Out
Panelists: Jayme Lynn Blaschke (moderator), Mark Finn, Tex Thompson, Rick Klaw, Derek Austin Johnson
Texas is its own place, and its SFF literature has its own unique flavor. We bring together a few experts and novices to talk about what it is and what you should be reading.

8 p.m. Southpark A
Religion and Nationalism in SFF
Panelists: Elizabeth Cobbe (moderator), Jon Black, Melanie Fletcher, Ehi Okosun, Jayme Lynn Blaschke
In a world where we're seeing the rise of extremist nationalism, and the continual blur of church vs state, how has SFF addressed this issue in the past, and how can it address it now?

Sunday, August 7
10 a.m. Ballroom D

Willie Siros: In Memoriam
Panelists: Scott A. Cupp (moderator), Patrice Sarath, Rick Klaw, Don Webb, Jayme Lynn Blaschke, John K Gibbons
The man, the books, the conventions, the legacy...

12 p.m. Ballroom D
Power Dynamics in Built Worlds
Panelists: S.G. Wilson (moderator), Eugene Fischer, Wayne Basta, Ehi Okosun, Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Who wields the power in our fictional worlds? Where does that power come from and how does it play out in plot and character arcs? What choices can creators make in their depiction of power to best show how their worlds work?

Now Playing: Eden Ahbez Eden's Island
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, August 01, 2022

Chicken Ranch anniversary: CLOSURE!

On this date in 1973, the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange, Texas, closed its doors for good. The closure followed a week (give or take--it's been tough to pin down exact dates) of broadcasts by Houston TV station KTRK's consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler, accusing the brothel of corruption and conspiracy. The Chicken Ranch had survived attempts to close it before, but the white-hot media spotlight proved too much for it. Today marks the 49th anniversary of its closure.

On this date in 2016, however, another milestone was reached, with the official release of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. Has it been six years already? Apparently so, but it's hard to believe. The six years I put into it seem to have paid off as far as critics are concerned, with the book's reception being as close to across-the-board positive as is reasonably possible. So much so that next year will see the release of the revised and updated 50th Anniversary Edition, which will mark the half century since the famed Best Little Whorehouse shuttered its doors and confounded skeptics by becoming a legend unto itself. I still think it's one of the weirdest stories to ever come out of Texas, as state that bases its entire identity on weird mythology.

Just a reminder--book reviews help tremendously. If you've read Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch and are willing to do so, even a short sentence or two on Amazon, Goodreads or other online book site would help get the book in front of new eyes and spread awareness. Thanks!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Ape Jungle Gems
Chicken Ranch Central

A Moment of Tiki Episode 45: Tapa Light

A Moment of Tiki episode 45: Tapa Light
It's August 1, and that means it's time for a new episode of A Moment of Tiki! Remember how I admitted a few months back how I'd neglected the lighting elements of my home tiki bar and needed to rectify that oversight? In episode 45 I do just that, making a drum-style hanging lamp out of some fantastic Samoan Siapo tapa cloth I obtained from an estate sale some years ago.

Of course, nothing is ever easy and I'm not nearly as clever as some people seem to think I am. The tapa light seemed like it would be an easy build, and I suppose it would've been had I actually known what I was doing. But I didn't know what I was doing, having never done this before. So I made mistakes. Lots of them. Some mistakes weren't just wasted time, but actually made the job more difficult going forward. Fortunately, I perservered and came out the other end with a pretty nifty tapa lamp. If I ever make one of these again (and you know I'll do something like this again eventually, even if I don't have authentic Samoan tapa cloth to work with) the process should go much more smoothly because those mistakes I made? They're not easily forgotten.

Remember to let me know what you think in the comments!

Now Playing: The Phantomatics She Left Her Brain at the Drive-In
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, July 29, 2022

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

On this date in 2007, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler died of pancreatic cancer.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. And for that reason, many people (mostly men) who are old enough to remember curse his name. Despite being a self-admitted egomaniac, he was a powerful champion of the downtrodden in his lifetime, and did a tremendous amount of good. Where the Chicken Ranch was concerned, he let his lust for fame and the spotlight get the better of him, and this allowed people with a vendetta against the Chicken Ranch to manipulate him from a distance. Zindler was a person who firmly believed in his own righteous infallibility, and once it became clear the vast organized crime conspiracy behind the Chicken Ranch's operation did not exist, well, Zindler doubled down on the conspiracy angle rather than admitting he'd been duped. He went to his grave insisting on criminal conspiracy and corruption, although he was never able to prove any of his claims.

Despite this, nobody could argue Zindler wasn't committed to his job. He accomplished a tremendous amount of good throughout his career, championing the downtrodden and exposing slum lords, unscrupulous car salesmen and all manner of predators exploiting people who had neither the money nor power to fight back. But they had Zindler on their side. Despite constant pain from the cancer destroying him, Zindler insisted on delivering his famed restaurant report from his hospital bed on July 20. It proved to be his final report. Just over a week later, he was dead. His passing in 2007 directly inspired me to seek out information on the "true" story of what happened with the Chicken Ranch, and when I learned that no such history book existed, I researched and wrote Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. So in truth, Marvin Zindler is responsible for my book.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Esquivel Cabaret Mañana
Chicken Ranch Central