Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Eight Tips for Better Conventions

Convention season is almost upon us. Later this week I'm flying to the Nebulas, and 4th Street and Readercon are right behind it. I'm excited to hang out, be on panels, and to see panels. Conventions are a source of joy, but also a source of anxiety. Over the years I've compiled a few tips on how to handle cons. They could help us all have a better time when we nerds congregate. Please consider, and thanks for reading!

Instead of: interrupting the panelists with what you think are insightful comments...
Try this: ...spend this time writing down your question so that, when the panel opens to audience interaction, you have something clear to say and don't ramble. People will remember a succinct question.

Instead of: walking ten feet outside the panel room and continuing your conversation in the middle of the hall, blocking everyone else trying to get to their next destination...
Try this:...invite your chat-buddy to an empty row of seats, or the bar or cafe, or to walk out of the hall and find a nook elsewhere that won't block traffic. Then talk to them for as long as you like as everyone else passes.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Convention Schedule for 2018

I've just booked my travel for this year's conventions. I can't believe all that travel is just a couple months away! I've got an exciting slate of destinations this year:

Nebula Weekend
May 17-20
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

4th Street Fantasy
June 22-24th
St. Louis Park, Minnesota

Readercon
July 12-15
Quincy, Massachusetts

World Fantasy Convention
November 1-4
Baltimore, Maryland

Please come join me if you're at any of these areas! I love meeting new people, and doubly like to meet long-time readers.

At present it looks like I'll be doing panels at half if not all of these conventions. There's a rumor I might be doing my first convention reading as well, which is exciting. Is there a story of mine you'd most like to hear me read, if you could be there?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bathroom Monologues Movie Awards 2017

It's almost March 2018, so of course we're all talking about the best movies of 2017. Naturally I disagree with some of the Oscar winners. More naturally, I don't understand what some of the categories mean. But nothing shall dissuade me from telling a democratic body of people who devote swaths of their lives to film that their mass conclusions were wrong. So here we go!

The Robbed Award
Going to the movie that got no play last year
and is just as good as whatever won Best Picture
FENCES

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bathroom Monologue: The Do's and Don't's of Being a Host

NO: "I'm sorry the house is a mess."

YES: "Thank you for coming so late!"

NO: "I'm sorry I'm turning again. It's a full moon."

YES: "Thank you for gathering the rags that were once my clothes."

NO: "I'm sorry that I'm devouring you."

YES: "Thank you for being delicious."

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Stories Our Games Tell Us at Uncanny Magazine Today!

I have an article in the new Uncanny Magazine. What a way to start out the year.

It's one of the most positive articles I've ever written. Explaining why awesome things are awesome is one of my favorite pastimes, and here I've selected seven videogames released in 2017 to illustrate how great the medium has become for storytelling. Thanks to the tireless efforts of so many geniuses, we're seeing mental illness portrayed with new depth, player choice expanding, and stories that could never have been told in any other medium. This doesn't diminish my love of literature or film. It excites me to see this medium grasping more of its potential.

I'm too excited to share a table of contents with so many writers I admire, and to have published with Uncanny, one of my favorite magazines in the world. Let me know what you think of the article.

The new Uncanny is for sale right here.

You can read the entire article for free right here.

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Best Reads of 2017

If there's one last thing I write this year, it should be about the books I loved reading. These are our inspirations to tell more and fresher stories, and sometimes these are the only things that make us want to see tomorrow. True to my brand, most of these didn't come out in 2017. Some of the authors are actually dead. But I read them this year, and damn it, Kindred is incredible.

Join me for the love of words.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

John's Publications in 2017


This was the best year of my publishing career, and I couldn't be more grateful to all the editors who've worked me with throughout it. I've already lined up a few exciting things for next year and promise to keep working as hard as I can. Despite my syndrome and depression trying their hardest, this was the best year of my publishing career. I sold more stories to pro markets, and was solicited for non-fiction more times than any other year. One of my old stories was even adapted as an Audible short! As a kid clinging to audiobooks for dear life at thirteen, I never imagined that would happen.

So I've rounded up all my publications this year in a handy guide below. Please let me know if anything particularly touched you, and as always, thank you for reading.


Fiction


"Under the Rubble" at Pseudopod, May 26

"A Silhouette Against Armageddon" at Fireside Magazine, August 1

"You Can Adapt to Anything" at Daily Science Fiction, September 15

"The First Stop is Always the Last" at Flash Fiction Online, December 1


Non-Fiction

Indie Videogames of 2017 in Glittership, Winter 2017 Issue

Evil is Not a Disability: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Donald Trump, and Don't Breathe at Fireside Magazine, June 15

BFFs in the Apocalypse at Uncanny Magazine's Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter, July 29


Reprints

"The Terrible" reprint at Flash Fiction Online in April

"Foreign Tongues" on Audible.com in February

Monday, December 4, 2017

"The First Stop Is Always the Last" is live at Flash Fiction Online!

Good news! I managed to sneak one more story into 2017. This is a short story about time loops plaguing a certain city bus, its driver, and its single passenger. It's one of my favorite things I've written all year, and hopefully will bring a little light to your December.

You can read The First Stop Is Always the Last for free  by clicking right here.

I want to thank Leigh Wallace and Cassandra Williams for beta reading this, and the staff at Flash Fiction Online for their warm reception. This is actually my fifth story at FFO. I never thought I'd show up there so often!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Superman Movie Outline - Written in 30 minutes


"He's boring."

"He's invincible."

"There are no good Superman stories."

I tire of people slagging this character. Superman is
a dated concept, and yet one that's quite appealing with how preposterously cynical our culture has gotten. I'm exhausted with all the claims that there's nothing left to do with him except kill him. If hope is boring, then you're telling the story wrong.

T
his led to me joke around on Twitter last night about a Superman movie that wasn't so gloomy. Something truer to the vision of Superman a lot of us hold. Things got out of hand.

Back in 2013 I played a little game: I was given thirty minutes to write as much of a Wonder Woman movie as I could. People liked it. Allan Heinberg and Patty Jenkins certainly nailed their vision this year, and if there is a good Wonder Woman movie in existence now, then why not move onto the world's most famous and least popular hero?


Here comes a Superman movie written in thirty minutes. Because these stories are *so impossible* to write.

Up, up, and away.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Halloween List: Stranger Things 2!



It's been fifteen months, but Netflix's most popular show is back. It sounds like we may not get another season until 2019, so savor this while you can. If you've watched the first season a dozen times, I recommend going into this one with moderate expectations. The second season cannot match the surprises of the first because we all love it now. Stranger Things 2 is more Stranger Things: more creepy crawlies preying on the small town, more lore of the Upside Down, and more character development for one of TV's most lovable ensembles. It's another order of that fun meal you had last time.

The season puts its weakest foot forward, taking about four episodes to really get in motion. It’s a hard contrast to the first season, which in one episode set up everyone’s motivations and half of the major plot threads. The difference is that now the Duffer Brothers know exactly how much pop culture loves their kids, and so they don’t mind having them hang out, slowly get into needless conflicts with each other, and lather up in 80s references. The slower early episodes are thickly decorated in Punky Brewster and “vintage” and KFC product placement.

In both seasons, Stranger Things is at its best when it uses its influences quietly. The first season was highly influenced by Spielberg’s E.T. and Stephen King’s Firestarter. It honored its influences by doing things like the bicycle escape scene where Eleven used her powers to save them – flipping a van rather than making the bicycles fly.

At its best, this season handles its influences in the same way. One particular episode dives deeply into visual queues from Alien and Aliens, but no one brings it up, and the outcomes are very different. In another plot thread, Dustin tries to adopt a little monster of his own, promptly feeds it after midnight, and the synth-heavy soundtrack echoes notes from the theme to Gremlins. These are homages embedded in the plot without derailing it. It’s much defter, say, than when the kids scream at a Dragon’s Lair arcade cabinet, or watch a vintage commercial for Oreos and The Terminator.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Halloween List: Stephen King's 1922 and Creep 2



Stephen King’s 1922 (2017)

After the shocking hit of Gerald’s Game, I had to watch Netflix’s other big King adaptation. I am a huge King fan. A decade ago I began limiting myself to reading one King book per year so I wouldn’t run out. Yet I honestly don’t remember this novella from Full Dark, No Stars. Even by the end of the movie, nothing shook loose.

It is certainly a King story. A loveless farm marriage threatens to break up when the wife wants to sell a large chunk of the land that’s legally hers. The husband (Thomas Jane) bides his time, then kills her and dumps the body in a nearby well, covering his tracks and manipulating their son into being an accomplice. The law wants to know where she was, and while the father keeps them away, rats have started climbing out of the well and following him.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Halloween List: Sadako Vs. Kayako (AKA: The Ring Vs. The Grudge)


Sadako Vs. Kayako (2016)
If you were expecting reviews of two modern classics, I've got a surprise for you! This isn't contrasting the two films. It's a review of the much-overlooked movie in which their monsters actually fight. This is a real movie that really happened.


This is a campy and totally amusing crossover that’s almost as perfect as Freddy Vs. Jason, and has very similar sensibilities. If you enjoy the two franchises, it’s a blast to see people thrust through the paces of both hauntings, trying to survive both having seen the haunted tape and trespassed in the forbidden house.

Some people said Sadako (Samara in the U.S.) and Kayako aren’t in much of the movie, but both show up early on, and neither franchise has ever been about the two being lingering on-screen presences. They are slow hauntings that lead towards huge catastrophes. What our heroes have to do is cross the streams – to get both ghosts to follow them, and clash, in the hopes to destroying each other and sparing the living.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Halloween List: Dog Soldiers and Area 51



Area 51 (2015)

This is the part of October where I defend Found Footage movies. This is a niche of Horror that I continue to enjoy. Sometimes one is truly awful (see: The Pyramid), but somewhere amid making the camera part of a character, letting us see the environment in ways we otherwise couldn’t, and the tease of where antagonism will come from, this approach to filmmaking gets past my defenses in ways even excellent traditional film can’t. Googling around, it seems Area 51 is universally reviled. But I had a surprisingly good time.

Yup. It’s another case of John liking an unpopular Found Footage flick!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Halloween List: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Bay of Blood, and Blood and Black Lace


The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

These movies have been my first exposure to Italian Giallo, a sub-genre that feels like an evolutionary link between Murder Mysteries and Slasher Films. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage follows Sam Dalmas, an American writer living abroad in Italy, who one night stumbles across an attempted murder inside a museum. Although he’s trapped in the antechamber, he manages to call the police, and then has to wait, just feet away from a woman he can’t help further.

Shockingly, the victim survives passing out from her injuries. More shockingly: she isn’t the only assault victim to live through the movie. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage doesn’t view death like a contemporary film. People survive reasonable injuries, and people like the writer are haunted by what they see. Death isn’t easy to achieve, and it’s also too weighty to shrug off. Sam can’t forget the horrible imagery, and spends the rest of his time in Italy trying to track down the attacker where the police have failed.

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