Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Josh's Zelazny Tribute: The Great and Groovy Game!

I said a while back that I don't really write fiction. I used to. I wrote my own stories as a teenager, but I think every teenaged geek did that. I had discovered Zelazny in my early teens and while I could eventually mimic the superficial characteristics of his prose, I lacked his imagination and his depth and breadth of knowledge, and now that I look back at the stories I had written back then from the vantage point of adulthood, I see them for the fan-fictiony knock-offs that they always were. Also, I'm trained as a technical writer (and I even find work as one once in a while), and the skill set involved with that tend to be incompatible with writing fiction.  So I drifted away from it, and satisfied my need to write with this blog, which is a strange combination of a weird Roger Zelazny shrine and family stories.

I didn't think anything could ever move me to write fiction again. However, I saw the call for stories for submissions for sequels to A Night in the Lonesome October in Lovecraftzine, which I've long felt is the story written by Zelazny that most deserved the anthology treatment.

If you'll excuse the digression for a moment, my grandfather died in 2000. I loved him more than almost anyone in the world. I was a painfully shy kid and that endured well into adulthood. I had a chance to speak at his funeral and I was petrified at the thought of speaking in front of so many people. But I knew if I didn't, that I would regret it for the rest of my life.

So, I put together a list of the things I loved and admired about him and when the time came, I got up and said them. And I never had a problem speaking in public again. I call myself an atheist, but I also call that his final gift to me.

And likewise, with the October sequel, I didn't know if I would have a good idea or if I could express it, but I knew that I had to try. I knew this would be my final chance to write this story (this was before Mike Davis announced that this would be an annual event), so I screwed my courage to the sticking place, did my best and sent it off.

And here we are.  And well, you're probably reading this because the story was published. (If not, here's the link!) You can read it on the web or buy an issue for a buck on your Kindle or Nook. Buy it today! Support your local starving artists!

I particularly like the art they used for my story. I had no idea that that there would be art and certainly nothing that good. I'm always a sucker for cover art that actually reflects the source material, and I would have loved this piece even if it had nothing to do with me. Likewise, I didn't know there would be an mp3 version of the story. I love audiobooks! (And they even pronounced my name correctly, which is something that very rarely happens in real life.)

If I ever do go on to write more fiction, this will be one of the two events that moved me. Lovecraftzine actually pays its writers. The fact that it's any amount at all tells me, hey, maybe my writing is good enough that people want to read it!

The other thing, and the one that is more important to me, is that I was reading a story I had written for my daughter to her and she was bouncing up and down on the couch and beaming throughout it, and when I got to the end she said "I could see it all happening in my mind!"

So, check out Lonesome October. Check out my story and all the others! I'm happy with it and I hope you will be too.


  1. Man, I've been waiting all DAY for this post. Mostly because yours was the first story I read (aside from my own, for proofreading purposes) in the issue. It's also the ONLY non-mine story I've read in the issue. And the reason I wanted you to post about it was so I could comment, and tell you that I hate you, because your story is WAY better than mine.

    Seriously, Josh--you REALLY captured Zelazny's voice and style. (And you captured Dr. Kovacs's annotation style, at the end!) One of my favorite lines (and, perhaps, one of the more Zelaznian ones) was:

    On my way back I hit the hotel and wrote “Free bacon” in jagged block letters with no concern for artistry. I’m not even sure I got the right apartment.

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

    Not only did your sentence structure sound very similar to Zelazny's, but you got all the great mentions of mythology and whatnot. If you (or Chris, or anyone else) ever put together a Lonesome October paperback anthology that includes fellow Zelazny-lovers like Neil Gaiman or Steven Brust, I expect you to include your own story in the mix. It's definitely worthy of the company.

    TL;DR: Well played, Josh!

    1. Thanks!

      I'm reasonably pleased with it. Reading it now, a good two months after I submitted it, I see a couple things I would change, but I'm a perpetual tweaker. I knew I had to send it off or I'd be fiddling with it right up to the deadlines.

      I think if I had to change one thing, I would have hosted the annotations here. When Mike asked for something after the story, I gave him that, but I think I made a mistake there, because I think their inclusion takes the reader out of the story. Ah, well. I'll get it right next time.

      I haven't read everything yet either. I've read your story and I quite liked it, which shouldn't come as a great surprise, as our tastes seem similar in most things, your heresy regarding IF AT FAUST YOU DON'T SUCCEED notwithstanding. (And I'm pleased that I have a picture of you so when I burn my paper mache Zach in effigy, it will really look like you.) Another one I really liked was The Blackbird Whistling.

      It was movie night here last night, but hopefully I'll get the chance to read the other stories tonight.

  2. You should write more fiction. Your story is great!

  3. Josh,

    Two people have reviewed issue #18 of the Lovecraft Ezine on Goodreads. They both specifically mentioned your story.


    1. Woot! I'm famous on the Internets!

      I don't know if you saw the comment I left about your story over at the eZine website, but I liked it quite a bit.

    2. I did see it, but I thought maybe you'd just felt obligated to say something nice, so I didn't comment.

      (And just so we're clear, that's not me calling into question your Reviewer's Integrity, so much as it is me being unhappy with my own work. I actually liked my story a lot more before I read everyone else's, because at that point I realized how good a Lonesome October tribute could actually be!)

  4. So, Josh--given any thought to this year's story, yet?

    1. Maybe...

      Since I'm such a slow writer, I started working on it about two months ago. Then I saw the post in early May saying that he was putting new submissions on hold, but I was already well underway and I thought I would just self publish it as an ebook, because it was over 15,000 words at that point.

      And just this weekend, I saw the email asking about a new Lonesome October story. I'm not sure quite what to do. It's going to be well into novella length when I finally do wrap it up, and I have no way of trimming it down significantly.

      I suppose I could always go the route Zelazny considered for the Last Defender of Camelot and cross out every other word, but that seems inelegant.

    2. I just typed the final words of my first draft of this year's story. I'm pretty sure it's awful.

      Last year, I wanted to write a story of about 3,000 words, but it got away from me and ended at 8500. This year, I decided to shoot for 3k again.

      Final wordcount of the first draft?



    3. Ha ha! You're far too modest, and I have it on good authority that you're being published all over the place.

    4. I have it on good authority that this story is 6,000 words too long!

      How's yours coming, by the way?

  5. At long last, it's coming along reasonably well. I mentioned above that I started a story and I was really happy with it, but it grew and grew, well beyond what the magazine would hold.

    So I put that one on ice and started something completely new. I had a couple false starts, but I'm finally in a groove with it. Unfortunately, I am a very slow writer, and I'm acutely aware that I'm much less further along than I was last time this year.

    1. You can definitely finish this new story in time; just aim for a goal of 3,000 words. Always works for me.

    2. Finished the writing, now it's revise, revise, revise, which is why I've been so quiet around here lately.

    3. I was kinda wondering about the quietness, but this is DEFINITELY a good reason for it.

      What was the wordcount at the end of the first draft? Please say it's 9300, so I won't feel so bad about my own story.

    4. I came in at about seven thousand words. Haven't sent it in yet, but I'm going to look it over once more and any changes from this point are going to be proofreading rather than revision.

      I was listening to last year's stories, and I was amazed by how good every aspect of every story was, from the writing to the art to the performance of the audio versions.

      I'm intimidated all over again.

    5. I don't think you have any reason to be intimidated. Your story was one of the best in last year's issue. (In fact, yours was the only one I re-read this year for inspiration before writing mine; although I did also skim "Twenty to Life in the Lonesome October," which is another fantastic story.)

      I submitted my story last week, at the aforementioned 9.3k words. We'll see how it goes.

    6. I listened to a couple again, and I think Twenty to Life is my favorite. I also really liked A Counting Game. It really is a very clever concept executed very well.

      It's funny. I went from listening to your story to listen to Nine Princes and it really struck me how Zelaznian certain turns of phrase were in your story.

    7. I can't re-read my story. Every time I try, I get stuck on the same spot and wish I would have realized it was slowing things down before I'd submitted it.

      Also, YOUR story was definitely the most Zelaznian. That's actually why I reread it before writing my story this year. (Not to say that made this year's story any better than the one I wrote last time, but I dunno, maybe it helped.)

      I think that "The Blackbird Whistling" rounds out my three favorites from last year's issue (with yours and "Twenty to Life"). I actually haven't read it since last year, but I seem to recall it being awesome.

    8. All right. I attached my file and made my submission. Just over 7200 words. Fingers crossed.