Images From Around this Blog!

25 November 2009

Review: Harlan County Horrors


For me, the short story format is the ideal format for horror.  The necessary brevity of the format seems to concentrate the power of fear into a gut punch.  It may have something to do with the fact that a short story can be consumed in a single sitting, and the immediacy of the experience is not lost like the drawn out process of reading a novel.
Even my favorite authors in the genre (e.g. Stephen King, Clive Barker) consistently deliver better in their shorter works (although their longer work is still way beyond the average), and the masters of the format such as Robert Bloch, Lovecraft and Karl Edward Wagner can communicate more in the space of a few hundred words than many other authors can in an entire novel.
So, if the short story is the proper meal for horror, then a collection of short stories is a feast, and an anthology is a proper banquet.  Nothing serves up quite as well, in my opinion, as a selection of dishes from a variety of authors, and in that regard, "Harlan County Horrors" truly satisfies.



"Harlan County Horrors", edited by Apex submissions editor Mari Adkins, is a recent anthology from Apex Books, with all the stories centering on events in and around the mining region of Harlan County, Kentucky, an area apparently well known for its ghost stories.  Aside from that uniting factor, the stories in the collection are on a cornucopia of subjects and themes, from demon dogs and Chinese vampires to dark science fiction and true love gone awry.  A lot of horror tropes a put to good and novel use in these stories, while cliche is generally skiilfully avoided, making each story an exploration for the reader.
The authors for this anthology are the cream of Apex's alumni, who really shine in these works.  Alethea Kontis's "Witch of Black Mountain" is a dark romance that is equally poetic and macabre, while Geoffrey Girard's "Psychomachia" is a bleak humanistic tale built on coal mining, and Ronald Kelly's "The Thing at the Side of the Road" is a fast-paced and bloody monster story worthy of Bloch.  Apex publisher Jason Sizemore even comes through with a nasty little surprise in the story "Yellow Warblers".  With these and the other authors that make up the dozen in the book, it's practically guaranteed that any fan of horror tales will find something pleasing here, although I don't think that any discerning reader will be disappointed by any of these stories.
Honestly, when I first saw this book listed on their store page, I thought it would hold little to interest me.  I didn't know anything about Harlan County, and couldn't see myself caring what these authors had to say about it.  However, given the price it was selling for on Fictionwise, and the strength of previous works I had read by some of these authors, I thought it would be at least worth a try.  I'm glad I did.  "Harlan County Horrors" is one of those books that I cherish while reading, and will recall fondly long after I'm done.

"Harlan County Horrors" is available in print version from Apex's store where you can preview the story "Yellow Warblers", or in ebook version from Fictionwise or the Amazon Kindle store.  For cost and portability, I recommend the Fictionwise version, but to each their own.  In any version, it' well worth a look.

13 November 2009

Selling Out!

I warned you I'd be doing this....



Anyone interested in having a "No Small Minds" logo of their own to proudly display and keep the narrow-minded at bay can now purchase one at my CafePress store here.
I've started out with a coffee mug for this design for two reasons:
1) I'm an incurable coffee hound myself and will shortly be drinking my daily fix from one of these.
2) Who doesn't need something to drink out of now and again? Even better if you can make a philosophical statement while doing so!

You will note that I have not included a website link or any information other than the image itself on the mug. That's because "No Small Minds" is not advertising anything; it is not selling anything; it is not promoting anything other than free thought. If you display it, you're not pushing anything other than your own state of mind.
So if you like it, why not grab one and throw a couple of dollars my way? Any money raised, at first, will go towards making more products available through the same store.
Of course, as I said yesterday, the image is free to use, so if you don't want to send me your hard earned money, you can make one of your own. Put it on a T-shirt. Put it on a sticker. Put it on some underwear and moon a politican. It's up to you.

Edit:  Now available, plain white T-shirts.  Stylish, comfortable and ethical, what more do you want?

12 November 2009

No Small Minds!

I posted this image here some time ago and promised to add a color version later, which took me forever to actually accomplish.  Nevertheless, here it is, my own personal logo and avatar on many a web forum, "No Small Minds".



This was originally created about 10 years ago as my version of a "Mature Readers" label for my comic book, "The Journals of Simon Pariah".   My reasoning behind this can be found here.  While the points I make in that essay are still valid, I think the usefulness of this idea extends far beyond the comic book world.  Sometimes, I think that I need this warning label on every wall or door that stands between myself and the outside world.

So, to update this a little bit, who does "No Small Minds" refer to?
-anyone who demands acceptance of an idea without proof.
-anyone who tries to create and enforce rules for everyone based on their own subjective opinion.
-anyone who flatly denies the possibility that a dissenting opinion may be correct, despite overwhelming evidence in its favor.
-anyone who tries to stifle discussion rather than engaging in dialogue.
-anyone who tries to make the limits of their understanding into the boundaries of someone else's experience.

These are the people that I, personally, do not want to speak with because I cannot reason with them.  I don't want to deal with them (if it can be avoided) because it cannot be done on a fair and equitable basis.  When it comes to my work (in any field or forum), I want them to understand that they may not like what I have to say.
I've always known that any creative person encounters small minds of one stripe or another at some point.  No matter what you say, somebody's going to take offense at it.  As an adult, which I desperately hope to be one day, I've discovered that these same minds operate in almost every aspect of life, be it politics, religion, or interpersonal communications.  Their purpose in life seems to be chiefly to make everything as unpleasant for other people as possible.
So this emblem is meant as a visual "check your premises at the door" warning.  It's for anyone who wants to tag their work as being for "mature" readers without immediately labeling it as "porn".  It's for anyone who wants to give warning that free thought is being applied, and free speech is being engaged.  It's for anyone who wants to clearly state that the exchange of ideas is encouraged, and the stifling of dissent will not be tolerated.
It's also for anyone who wants something cool and quirky to display on their website.

When I first released this on the web in 2002, it was made freely available to anyone to use in any way they wish, with the stipulation that credit be given and that I be sent a link to the work in which it is used.  As I have come to understand it, this perspective has come to be codified as the Creative Commons licence, and its under that licence that I post this here now.  Feel free to use this on your website, in your comics, on your books, or in any other creative way you can imagine.  To misquote Woody Guthrie, anybody caught usin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern.  I created it, that's all I wanted to do.
All I ask is that you give credit (preferably in the form of a link to www.paladinfreelance.com) where credit is due, and let me know where you've used it, just because I'm curious about that sort of thing.
If you take it into your head to use this logo to sell products...well, I can't stop you, because I've just given you permission to do it.  But be warned:  you'll have competition, because I'll likely be doing that myself.

Oh, and in case anyone finds it useful, here's a black and white version of the same thing.



Creative Commons License
No Small Minds by Mike Dominic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at paladinfreelance.blogspot.com.

02 November 2009

L'Chaim!

This is a piece I did just for fun.

One of the things that gets me through a typical workday is listening to podcasts, and one of my favorite podcasts is Keith and the Girl.  It's funny, entertaining and occasionally even enlightening, and well worth a listen.

Recently, one of their listeners, Elvis, started getting KATG related tattoos and mentioned that he wanted to get a portrait of "the girl" aka Chemda.  KATG called for listeners to send in their submissions for a Chemda portrait tattoo, and this was my contribution.  I think I went a bit over the top with this, but once I started, I couldn't stop.



Click to view full-size.
Some notes on the piece:
-the portrait is based on an old photo of Chemda I found through the mighty Google.
-the border is based on a design from the border of a 19th Century Persian plate.
-the lettering below the portrait is "Chemda" in Hebrew (the girl describes herself as both Persian and Jewish), -the lettering above is "L'Chaim" in Hebrew (they open each show with a short prayer that they end with "L'Chaim").
-the biblical reference on the right side is the biblical origin of the name "Chemda" which means "desire" ("Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks, At the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Surely the LORD will dwell there forever.")

It's a bit  rough in spots because I sort of rushed it, but overall I like how it turned out.  I'll be the first to admit that portrait is not my best skill, but I think I did OK this time.