Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll... but mostly Sex.

Yes, Sex! Now that I’ve got your attention, what makes for good sex scenes in fiction?

Obviously it has to be an essential part of the tale. Sex for sex sake, well, that might be fun, but I'm always thinking of the story and why it's there.  If I was simply writing erotica (I have dabbled, yes) or even pure pornography, it might be different as sex is THE point, but since I write speculative fiction, it's more a happy participant and not just the focus.

Except when it is the focus, then, I'm there with the characters completely.  Yeah, it gets crowded...

I love David Cronenberg’s commentary on his 2005 movie, A History of Violence, where he notes the original script didn’t have the two sex scenes he added to it. Sex scenes as a form of balance, the first one loving and playful, the second, rough, brutal. The thinking was that it would deepen our understanding of the couple at those junctures--as much there for psychological reasons as reasons of the flesh--but also, he noted, and I’ll paraphrase, sex is an essential part of life, which has always been my take on it.

I used a similar approach when writing my first novel, The Corner of His Mind, tracing the balance of two characters via the development of their sexual life, from two early sequences of free-for-all coupling, while later, there’s one brief and concentrated lovemaking encounter and, more so, a scene in which the female character, Molly--an artist with an idealistic, outsider mindset--uses her physicality to convince Trent--a writer and her perfect match, though he may not know it, totally--not to head off to, well…let’s just say, he’s gotta face his demons. It’s potent stuff.

Anyway, the point here, as I get to it in a roundabout way, is: what makes a good sex scene? Lots of "ooohs" and "aaaahs" and ovelry flowery descriptions are boring and cliche, and I avoid cliche like the plague (yes, that's a joke; did you get it?). For me, it’s fully immersing myself--and the reader--in the scene and keeping the characters real, true to themselves. Conversation, ambience, humor, frenzy, and it's gotta flow, everything goes into the scene, including the reason it's in there: character development, and to move the story along. It’s not just sex, it’s life…but it’s hot!

Here’s a brief, intense example from that first novel that has music as a lead in (of course, haha). We’re thrown into the scene immediately as Molly is peaking, yet it’s got kick and isn’t wrapped up in vanilla description, it’s got color, and tastes good, too. Well, at least I think so.



Squealing reams of feedback roughly accosted a pulsating rhythm: Brighter Death Now in all its perverse joy--sordid death industrial of the highest order. What Trent and Molly found appealing about the primal, distorted noise as it barged out of the stereo’s speakers was beyond easy explanation besides the fact that it touched them somewhere deep inside, where reptilian recollections roamed freely. The raw, teeth-bared and tearing at one’s eardrums sounds had nothing to do with Top Forty and everything to do with not only coloring out of bounds, but smearing the boundaries in filth and tearing up the map as well. But it, as well as other like-minded distributors of disharmonic disgust, was noise, catastrophic and uninhibited and it worked magic as background participant during many of their sexual trysts: a musique concrète ménage a trios.

Molly’s legs squeezed Trent’s head, opened wing-like and wide to accept the pleasure and clamped again around his head as her orgasm rippled not like the plunked, watery echo of the dropped stone, but more like a boulder being tossed in to disrupt in indescribable ways. The sounds she made—coughs, gasps, harsh laughter—escaped from her throat in clipped, erratic peals. Trent looked up at Molly, her head tilted so far back he could only see the bobbing spasm of the Adam’s apple in the taut cables of her neck; he admired her breasts and the metal rimmed nipples that pointed skyward, the arch of her back, the complete abandon that was their sex. Her breathing hiccupped, hard and quick. Her hands grabbed her thighs and pulled her legs further apart. She finally looked down at Trent as he watched from his deliciously subservient perspective, her eyes wide in terror and ecstasy, hips grinding her vagina into his face. Trent lapped and nibbled and flicked his tongue and sucked and--

“God. God damn!”

Trent pulled his head back enough to speak. “I’m not your God, but you can bow down and pray to me whenever you want.”

She laughed, something dark and squiggly, drenched in bliss.

Trent raised himself up and scaled her body, kissing the naked, sweaty flesh as he did. He entered her as he kissed her lips.

Molly protested: “I don’t think I can take much more.”

“I’ll be gentle,” he said, knowing of the tantalizing after orgasm itch that the mere touching made insufferable. He could relax, move slowly (slower, slower) and urge her on at a more lenient pace, not pushing her, but with her; connected, entwined.

“I was thinking…” she said, catching her breath, or at least pulling it into focus.

“Yes,” Trent said, lips to her neck. She moaned.

“Stop that! You need to stop that.” She was all teeth, playing to bite him; snapping as a sprung mouse trap. He stopped and stilled his pace. They held each other like this, to start again in a while.

Sometimes it was just too much.


Scintillating fun stuff, eh? Well, I think so, as do Trent and Molly. And it continues after the conversation, flowing as it should and would in real life, before shifting into high gear again. I’ve got a much longer one in the novel that's quite a bit more explicit yet appropriate--as noted above, these characters are physical and it's necessary to feature them in this way in order to make what comes later work--but the point is, all sex scenes should be natural, not manufactured, it’s got to have a sense of reality, the characters are themselves, immersed as well, and loving it.  

Well, unless you're writing erotica or porn, then, well...get naked and get to it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Riffing on Music, Reality, All That Jazz...

Yeah, no gameplan, let's just roll with it and see what happens.  Off the cuff works well for me, time to write a blog, let's see what comes up... 

I love mixing reality with fantasy, smudging the line between, keeping the reader on their mental toes. (Mental Toes? Oh, John, please!) Since I often deal with music in my work, one of the most amusing ways to incorporate this is with band names, histories, and spontaneous lyrics. Go with the flow, maaaaaan.  All stories have flow, just catch the rhythm and ride it.  Okay, that almost sounds pornographic: next!

Fictional bands such as Pus Siphon (my fave) and Incest Rodeo (suggested by a friend, actually) play alongside real bands like Tool and Swans. I often think, I wonder if listing the real bands with the fictional might lead a reader to Google a band such as Pus Siphon, only to find out they don’t exist. It’s a tricky and fun balance for me.

My latest completed novel, the namesake for this blog, includes a couple of musicians amongst the five…or six (it depends on how you perceive one of the characters…) primary characters. The female character, Alethea, relates in a sideways manner to former Swans’ chanteuse, Jarboe; let’s say she was a starting point, one of a few females and imaginative nuances, and left the deepest impression. The male half of the band Alethea was formerly in, Black Angel Asylum, is Aleister Blut, a force of nature personality so strong he couldn’t take the world on its own terms and ended up in an insane asylum (ironic cruelty: from one asylum to another). He was more a totally fictional creation.  The novel even includes some choice lyrics.

Looking over my short stories, I’ve got a lot of heavy metal or industrial/noise bands as major parts of them, as well as one story (“Have Guitar, Will Travel”) in which a guitarist uses particularly agile guitar playing to time travel back in time and ends up jamming with a T-Rex, while in another (“Dark Ambient Metamorphosis”), a CD by a mysterious band triggers a transformation in the listener.

Some of the influences, besides the music, must include some great ‘80s Rock ‘N’ Roll novels like David J. Schow’s psychological, revenge driven, “The Kill Riff,” and John Skipp and Craig Spector’s more supernaturally aligned, “The Scream.” I’ll read anything with music as a foundation, it appeals to my Rock ‘N’ Roll Soul.

Here’s a cool example of a story about a fictional band by Brian Hodge, a writer of depth and talent and knowledge of music that is evident in spades here. The story’s called, “Requiem,” featured in the re-vamped version of Chizine online magazine, one of the real quality mags out there.

Enjoy…and crank it up to 11!

Schow Rocks! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slow Flies: Not Quite Zombies...and They Taste Better.

“Slow Flies” was my first published short story those many eons ago. I mentioned it a few blogs back, decided to dredge it up here for amusement sake--sick amusement, perhaps; masochistic amusement, more likely; sadistic amusement, inflicting you with gruesome glee, gentle reader--you bet. 

Yeah, yeah, get to the point, John.

It’s one big, slobbering mess of almost-zombie horror fiction; almost because I never follow the norm when dealing with the familiar horror tropes, I like to come at them from a different angle. The best zombie tales do this, while the rest…bore me. It’s a rather lively piece of off the cuff madness, takes place in a famous guitarist’s abode (you‘ll see), goofball references abound, our narrator’s sense of humor is twisted by being amongst the last survivors of “a mysterious plague,” he’s just wanting his girlfriend back, but she, well…she’s fallen to pieces; that said, the pieces never die, so…

Well, here’s a taste, and I mean taste. This is where the story gets its title.  It's dated, written in the early '90s, and you can tell, so know that when you read the grisly sample below.  Oh, and not recommended reading while eating…



The dead are everywhere. In pieces. It seems the plague reanimated the dead, and those alive…fell apart. Chunk by grisly chunk. Arms, legs, torsos, heads (like gruesome, fleshy bowling balls, two fingers in the nostrils, thumb in the mouth and, as Joe Bob Briggs would say: Heads will roll), unrecognizable chunks, all crawling, seemingly alive. The bleak manifestations are resurrected before my very eyes, hindered only by the narrow scope of my vision. Infected beyond repair, their senseless meandering is no more human than the slow flies. Plump, meaty, lethargic flies which is a plus. They’re easy to catch.

You may ask: What are you implying? Let me explain:

I’m staying in southern California at guitar God Eddie Van Halen’s place, lots of pictures of Eddie and the wife, Valerie (now there’s some excellent stroke material, if I were so inclined), and the kid, Wolfgang. Not that this really matters. It does lock up good and tight though, real secure. Ah, but periodically—I know you’re going to like this—I have to open the doors to let in some of the slow flies. You see, there’s not much left that hasn’t been soured by the plague. Initially I tried the meat of those crawling things outside (it’s hard to think of them as ever being human. Nonetheless, it tasted like rancid Spam), trust me, the flies are better. As the Colonel, Mr. Sanders (that’s right, Alice [Cooper, referenced earlier; yes, I told you this one is nuts] and me and the old chicken plucker), would say: Mmm, Mmm, finger lickin’, lip smackin’, crunchy on the outside, squishy tender on the inside, good. Well, I suppose he wouldn’t put it quite like that, but you get my drift--whoa, let’s hope you don’t--shower’s a rare luxury these days, and anyway, who are you to complain? Are you in any position to complain? You, the invisible all-attentive fabrication of my fornicating brain cells, a ghostly groupie groping the perpetual mindfuck, my perpetual mindfuck, the relentless squeezing of life like a drenched dishrag wrung dry and then flaking like the dead skin from sunburn, so dried up…

You may ask: Who died and made you boss?

Everybody--ha ha, I am such a comedian. Forgive me my tainted sense of humor. I call myself a “grimwit” (a variation of dimwit as altered by these corrupt circumstances, standing at this window, soaking in the sordid scenery) because that is the crux of my existence: the telling of the tale. ...


Allll righty, you get the point. It only gets worse, too. I’m a much better writer now, much different, for sure, but the free-for-all energy of this one was fun to catch up with again...and, actually (be honest, John), there's a couple pieces in progress that have that same FFA energy, though much better refined, haha...

Now, where’s my flyswatter? I got some dinner to kill.

This guitar ends up in the living room bonfire towards the end of the story.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Much More Than Dark Ambient: Inade

Germany’s Inade is one of the premier purveyors of Dark Ambient music, but that’s probably because there's much more going on than the usual wallowing and droning in the empty space out there or deep within. A full and carefully collected spectrum of obscure and tantalizying nuances reaches into the receptive and imaginative listener’s brain (shouldn’t we all be receptive and imaginative?) and, for me, it’s as much a space safari or an earthbound mystery revealed--an adventure--as it is a somber trek into the dark realm. Here’s the write up I did that was used to promote their 2009 release, The Incarnation of the Solar Architects, their best release since the landmark, Aldebaran.

There is a world that shadows our world, a world of mysterious design and unspoken secrets, of space that breathes and infinite echoes that never cease to cry. Mirrors that refract images into dark pools of cosmic nothingness. Inade explore these worlds on their latest masterpiece, The Incarnation of the Solar Architects, in which sound is utilized in a transformative manner, not only to focus on that which lies beyond and that which has never been seen, but to embrace the Darkness and let it wash over one’s soul. The mythology that Inade has created touches that place beyond forever, yet now, through the insistence of that which lurks in the margins, a metamorphosis has transpired, in which the cosmos of self has awakened. If one believes that God is everywhere, so is the Darkness that came before Him. A Darkness thriving with anonymous ideals (the possibilities are endless…) and devious intentions, resplendent with mystical creatures that shamble through antediluvian kingdoms constructed from polished metal, luxurious crystals, and unlimited dreams…though one would need new eyes to see them, and new ears to hear them. Inade provide the soundtrack--the frisson of unease is abundant, a churning, seething dread that veers into awe. It’s up to the individual listener to listen intently, behind shuttered eyelids…to see and experience the true labyrinthine hierarchy of black splendor that awaits.

Yeah, I really do hear all this and more.

Here’s a track from the disc, “The Engine of the Mind,” which takes you to the dark realm, sure, but it’s a dark realm that is alive!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Weird Flash Fiction: Tumbleweeds

Weird fiction is a fave with me. Definitions abound, the weird fiction I enjoy is more the late 19th century, early 20th century version, where eeriness prevails and there's a sense of unease and dread, often of a supernatural or brow furrowing, outright strange foundation. Atmosphere is key; mood and shadows dominate. Writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood specialized in there own variations of it; the appropriately titled magazine, Weird Tales, subsisted on it.  

But it goes beyond that. It’s when the line has been crossed and something so bizarre comes into play, that’s when it really makes my brain twitch like a happy spider scooting on a web towards a fresh kill. It's the place were the expected and the bizarre meet, as opposed to simply the bizarre, or bizarro fiction, which I also enjoy, though the foundation there often simply throws a lot of disparate elements into the mix and sets it on “huh?” The weird fiction I like sets it on a confused “Oh, my...” as it slowly backs away from whatever is revealed.

This flash fiction piece initially appeared in the Small Bites anthology from 2004 (I had three pieces included), a benefit for the late Charles Grant. The final sequence is a good example of this element. Guidelines limited contributors to 500 words; give it a spin when you have a couple minutes.  I actually tightened it a hair and would more if I was so inclined, but it's what it is and I've got other weird tales to write, so... Enjoy! 


The red mottled diaper rash had spread down Thomas’s thighs, inspiring cacophonous vocal complaints from the baby.

“Darrin, he needs his ointment and a change. What are we going to do?”

They both froze as the feverish wind continued to howl and lash, tumbleweeds bounding like stray beach balls across the strange, full-moon bathed luminescence of the desert. But the howling that most perturbed them had nothing to do with the wind. It seemed there was a pack of coyotes prowling the perimeter of the tiny ramshackle shack.

A pack of coyotes whose presence remained a mystery…

The car had broken down twenty yards from the shack. Lacking a cell phone connection, Darrin and Carrie, with Thomas in tow, had made a dash to the shack for the slim possibility it would have a phone or, at the very least, that it would provide a more comfortable shelter. They were wrong on both counts. There was no electricity in the abandoned shack, and the one glassless window permitted the wind’s turbulent trespass as it rustled dust and debris within the cramped confines. They even had to prop a wooden chair against the door to keep it shut.

Now, with the desperate, forlorn howl of the coyotes resonating all around them, any trek back to the car to retrieve the diaper bag, idiotically forgotten in their haste, seemed unlikely. And yet, as Darrin peered out the lone window, all he saw were loping tumbleweeds.

Thomas increased his volume, drowning out the coyotes’ chorus. Or had they retreated? Minutes passed in which only Thomas’s harried screech and the whining shriek of the wind battled unsuccessfully for dominance. Darrin’s squint-eyed perusal out the window still revealed no sign of coyotes. He had yet to see any, having only heard their agitated wails.

“I’m going to chance a run to the car.”

Carrie hugged the bawling baby. “Are you sure?”

“I think the coast is clear.”

Without hesitation, Darrin moved the chair and darted out. Carrie yelled, “Be safe,” and re-propped the chair against the doorknob, all the while feebly attempting to pacify Thomas.

Instantly, the coyotes commenced with a caterwauling racket, accentuated by Darrin’s anguished, stunned cries. Carrie gasped, clutching Thomas tighter. She heard meaty ripping sounds, distraught yelps from Darrin, and finally, silence. Even from Thomas.

It seemed the wind even paused, before brusquely shaking the shack some more…

There was a dull knocking at the door.


She glanced out the window—no coyotes—and swiftly, anxiously pushed aside the chair, prepared to drag Darrin inside with her free arm if necessary. The wind shoved the door open. She did not see him.


A tumbleweed struggled against her ankles. “Help me,” it pleaded, in Darrin’s voice.

“Oh…my…” she whispered, dumbfounded.

Looking out at the tumbleweed cluttered landscape, she noticed with shock and bewilderment that none of the tumbleweeds was tumbling to the wind’s relentless caress anymore.

They were slowly, steadily pacing towards the open door.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Influences: The Outer Limits: "There is nothing wrong with your television set."

Influences come from everywhere. One of the earliest influences in my life was when my parents used to watch science fiction and horror shows and movies and I was allowed to hang out and watch as well...and run screaming from the room on occasion. I’m not kidding: I remember walking in on a movie called, The Hideous Sun Demon, just as the title monster made its appearance, and hightailing it outta there like common sense at a GOP gathering. I sometimes wonder if my parents laughed as I did this, but have never inquired.

Which brings me to the original The Outer Limits series. The stark black and white look and monster-of-the-week theme, all with intelligent if often quite wild scripts, kept me riveted, fed my brain, fueled my burgeoning imagination. I know a few of my stories are modern takes on that old series via setting, mood, or simply as they played out in black and white in the cranial cinema as I wrote them. I love the nefarious institutes or military complexes on the outskirts of town, the subtle invaders whose motivations often get expressed in manic manner by those under their spell ("The Invisibles" rant is a classic example), the skewed ideals that get even more skewed as they fall apart, the human element that is the glue that holds the stories together, and the monsters, of course, to name a few prime topics.  (Don't all kids have a love/hate thing with monsters?)

Tonight I ate my dinner to an episode called, “It Crawled Out Of The Woodwork,” in which a cleaning lady at N.O.R.C.O., a physics research center, sucks up a dust bunny (okay, it really didn’t look like a bunny, more like a blob of dust road kill) into her vacuum cleaner, it feeds off the energy and becomes something of sentient force. People die but are brought back to life via funky pacemakers controlled by this sentient energy beast.  All hell almost breaks loose, but is finally contained...for now.  

Here's the episode, there's many more on YouTube and Hulu.

It was an entertaining and thought-provoking series, especially to an always curious young boy intrigued by weird stuff.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Touching the Senses: Listen, I Have a Story to Tell You...

Perhaps the reason sound plays such a vital roll in my life and my fiction is because I was born deaf. Yes, this is true. For eight months I was unable to hear. It had gotten to the point where my parents were about to start me in whatever classes they can do for the deaf to be able to learn how to communicate and simply be able to survive on a better level as they grow. I remember my mother telling me about how part of the teaching would have including my hand on somebody’s throat when they talked, etc. Not even sure, way old school, long time ago; I’d have to ask Fred Flintstone about this, since he was a neighbor…ahem. Nonetheless, story goes that one day my mother dropped a spatula and my head jerked in the direction of the sound. Somehow, miraculously or just a late bloomer, I could hear.


Music and simply the aesthetics of Sound Itself often play a paramount role in my fiction. I like to touch all the senses, but know sound holds an extra special place in my heart, or at least my ears. Here’s a sample of one of my takes on ambient sound, the sounds of nature--out there--where a mysterious patch of trees with insidious motivations resides, though nothing has yet been revealed.

Let’s join photographer, Terrance Blank, as he takes it all in:

I continued to take pictures, really fascinated by the luminescent quality of the bone white trees as the late afternoon sun glimmered off of them. An ambience of otherworldliness permeated my perceptions. It even registered in my ears, a buzzing, hypnotic drone, the hum of nature, of thousands of small sounds gathered as mass, as something of substance, yet still tiny and indistinct: the undercurrent of life; of dirt, foliage and sky; of insects and animals unseen; of slowly evolving shadows and that something more that defines silence that is not silent, its tongue is simply of a language that no human can understand.

“Shadows and Tall Trees” excerpt © John Claude Smith

 The world is always speaking to us, it's simply a matter of being tuned in to the proper channels; even if we cannot make out the language, it's good to listen fully, even to the silence...
Now, let me get back to the WIP while you give the flowers in the vase, yes, that one, over there, you give them a listen and report back to me.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Do you know who I am? Moshing With Adolf

Well, yes, read the story and it’s obvious, it’s that Adolf I've put in this gnarly netherworld to the left of Hell, just for the fun of it. Adding Death Metal as a soundtrack, that’s just where my head was at that time. But the real question beyond the obvious--that Adolf Hitler is sitting in a corner, constantly wringing his hands, while the music blares and the nameless swirl counterclockwise in that pit--is: who is the narrator?

The narrator is a mystery. The narrator is infamous. Yet, though it’s never out and out stated who the narrator is, it should be easy to figure out. I’ll blame Harlan Ellison for that one; yeah, him again.

I remember an Ellison story, though the title escapes me and my research has failed to provided any clarity (and the books are buried in boxes in the back; soon to be dismantled and downsized boxes), in which the twist at the ending led to the revelation that the main character within the story and receiving some trinket or what-not from a curious curio shop owner was an infamous figure in the annals of murder and mayhem, circa late 1960s,
and utilized that element in leaving the narrator’s identity to those who pay attention.

Really, it’s rather obvious...

It’s odd for me to feature some of the short fiction from years ago, they are more snapshots of where I was at that time as a writer and person; where I am now, especially with the longer work and novels, is light years beyond these lil’ dollops of dread. Nonetheless, they can amuse, this one does (I can actually read it and not cringe) and, if you choose to dip in and read it, let me know if you are paying attention.

Tell me: who is the narrator?  It's a short story, about 1400 words, give it a spin.
Here’s the link to the defunct ezine that featured it, still drifting in the margins of cyberspace .


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Words Matter: Like Atlas

Even though I consider myself a fiction writer first, I’ve been messing with poetry a lot lately. I love the process, how absolutely nothing but a first line can trigger a stream of sentences, snippets and more that can be manipulated--or quite simply BE, as is--a form of almost spontaneous creative expression, sometimes fantastical, sometimes cataloging the world at hand, sometimes dealing with emotions, inner turmoil or inner bliss, etc. Sure, I usually edit and shape the initial words more to make it all work, but the initial 'oomph' is a welcome addition to the writing process. I even wrote the foundation for a fantastical poem a couple days ago, “Saurian Psychotherapy,” which is based on a story I’ve yet to finish, though it’s been with me for years; I kind of think getting it down in another form might help me complete the short story. So, perhaps it will help the fiction; music review writing has, so why not poetry?

But a lot of the poetry I’ve been writing recently has had to do with the chaos of the world in general, and some ridiculous stuff that my girlfriend, Alessandra, has had to deal with (which, of course affects me as well). Some days you just have to take a deep breath and forge onward. Chaos nips at your heels, the weight seems to wear you down, but if you have somebody to share it with, to help carry the weight, it makes a huge difference. Alessandra and I have goals on getting together permanently--I live over here, she lives way over there. As noted, we’ve had a lot to deal with on our individual fronts recently, yet being able to talk to each other and write stuff down helps us get through it all.

Letting somebody know you love and support them whenever and however you can is an essential part of any successful relationship. Speaking of support (how‘s that for a segue?) , Atlas knew about this. Here’s a short poem I wrote for Alessandra, just a little something because words are a major part of how we express our love.

Because Words Matter!

Like Atlas

Like Atlas
We’ve learned how to balance
The weight of the world
On our shoulders
Not as broad
But just as strong
When we stand as one
 © John Claude Smith

Boris Vallejo, of course!
Now, let me get back to the weird stuff, saurian psychotherapy, mad sculptors…life! ;-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wrestling With Cthulhu While Stoned: The Shadow Over Las Vegas

Story ideas come from everywhere. The world is a wealth of the curious and the chaotic. As long as we live with our eyes wide open, as well as our minds and hearts, we who create--and this means all forms of art beyond writing as well--are subject to a wide array of influences, oddments…possibilities.

I'm always game for the possibilities...

Hence, The Shadow Over Las Vegas, my H.P. Lovecraft, Hunter S. Thompson mash-up.

Christmas a few years ago, I received the DVD of Terry Gilliam’s cinematic take on Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Being at a strange place in my life, a kind of purposeful limbo, perhaps, I watched that movie every day for a month straight. A pure sense of drug-induced madcap glee permeates throughout, which my mindset really needed. I remember seeing the movie in a theater when it was released, sitting there with my friend, Fred, who knows drugs intimately (more on him in another blog). There’s a point in the movie where the carpet is crawling up a gentleman’s leg while he’s on the phone; Fred turned to me and nodded knowingly. Anyway, for reasons beyond my knowledge--which, of course, is often the way, one of the possibilities opening to me--I thought, Wouldn’t it be great to give Thompson’s tale a Lovecraftian slant?

I undertook the task, having repurchased the book as well, needing to get the vibe right, and sent Thompson’s Raoul Duke, now called John Wayne (the Duke, get it? yeah, yeah...), to report on a more modern Las Vegas anomaly, er, event, a Marilyn Monroe Weekend of Memories commemorating the 50th anniversary of her death, threw in everything Cthulhu including the big guy himself, lots of drugs, Las Vegas Rat Packers (the True Great Old Ones!), and a general sense of madcap glee like the novel and movie. It was great fun to write, the wild references crossing dimensions, and was snapped up soon thereafter for an excellent anthology called, Cthulhu Unbound, Volume 1, which focused on cross-genre takes on Cthulhu. It’s an excellent presentation, lovely cover and great company as well--I was there along with 14 other writers including Kim Paffenroth and CJ Henderson.

The Shadow Over Las Vegas is an example that anything, no matter how twisted, is possible…if you let your mind run with it; and if you have enough drugs, maaaan.
*totally kidding, c’mon, you don’t think I do drugs, do you? Shhhh… ;-)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Flipside: Art Influenced by Fiction

Last year I had a story published in The Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. My story, “Not Breathing,” is a dark trek down a hallucinatory, drug-laden path, where one’s soul is a question of…well, you can read it here:

It’s an excellent ezine, featuring the likes of the inimitable John Shirley (his collection, Heatseeker--well, all of his collections work for me--and ultra-visceral novel, Wetbones, are highly recommended) as well as Vince Daemon’s brooding, thought-provoking futurescapes, amongst others. The man who runs the show, Shaun Lawton, likes to supply artwork for the stories, raw scenes of suggestion and strangeness, often done by him and his wife, Shasta, or other contributors, but all with the same general tone.

I really enjoyed the grim artistic interpretation of my story.

In August my girlfriend, Alessandra, and I hooked up San Francisco; toward the end of her stay, we met up with supreme horror artist, Erin Wells, and her husband, Michael. A wonderful eve was had by all, good conversation and more, highlighted by a delightful and very unexpected surprise: at the end of the eve, with my birthday a few weeks away, I was presented with an original piece of art for the same story. Alessandra had commissioned Erin to interpret the story as only a lover of horror can do. Erin did a magnificent job, taking the key elements within the story and bringing them into bizarre and unflinching focus. I hope the photo below does the art justice, as there’s much going on, the subtleties are intriguing.

Do yourself a favor, give the story a read and check out the art there and the art here for examples of how fiction can influence art, kind of the flipside to an earlier post I did dealing with fiction influenced by art.

Asfor me, with both of these interpretations, hey--I love 'em!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stealing from myself, part II, kind of...

My previous blog touched on the fiction-like quality in some of my music reviews. This one, we’ll do as I teased--almost a cliffhanger but not quite--and show you what happens when you steal from yourself and utilize the words in a different manner.

While reading through some reviews recently--I was sending off a few to my GF, Alessandra, to read; she‘s read my two novels, some short fiction and poetry, but never the reviews--my fiction writer’s brain saw something more in those words, the possibility of shaping them in new and fascinating ways. I’ve been exploring poetry in a serious way for over a year now, so much as to have 3 poems accepted for publication soon in the ezine, Zouch, when I saw…poetry; an abstract form of poetry, at least. Now, I don’t profess to being a poet, still learning (always learning; always learning with writing and everything in this life, actually), but I took the descriptive ambience within yesterday’s review and, well, you can see. I think it's an intriguing manipulation of words into something that stands alone, without the musical backdrop, but as poetry (check the review side-by-side with the poem, it may amuse).

Here’s the poem:

By John Claude Smith

The future city at night:

Blue ice moon.
Cold shimmer of steel architecture.
Barren streets.
Humanity disconnected.

Underneath the polished façade:
circuitry pulse-beat byways simmer with life.
Connections honed
on the information highway.

Transparent and transient:
pleas for contact from virginal fingers.
Communication dictated by
a vampire called technology

feeding on our inability to feel.

So we patch into slumber via electric dreams,
of a time when a kiss stirred emotions,
embellished contact,
and wasn’t just an impassive x

at the end of an electronic correspondence.


© John Claude Smith, 2011

I expect to explore more of these, refining whatever they are, and even have set aside a review to incorporate the wild descriptive world therein for expansion in a short fiction piece in progress.

All a part of the fun, of stealing from the best, or at least myself. All a part of the fun of being a writer!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sound and Vision...and Words.

I’ve written over 1,100 pieces of Music Journalism, everything from reviews (the core of what I have written) to profiles, interviews, odds ’n’ ends stuff, ad copy--you name it, I’ve probably touched on it. But, in some ways, a large percentage of it’s been fiction.

Let me explain.

I enjoy a wide variety of music, but when I started doing reviews, I leaned toward the more esoteric realms of dark ambient, death industrial, noise, experimental--a lot of stuff that was less about verse, verse, chorus, verse, and more about mood, atmosphere, painting pictures via sound. So, of course, being a fiction writer, I listened to these strange sounds and created scenarios, worlds, creatures, and so much more. I trekked across mysterious sonicscapes and explored the cosmos beyond, and the dark cosmic dread within. In essence, I liked to lean toward descriptive narrations that bordered on ’stories.’ Here’s an example of one that posits a future world, because the sounds inspired these images in my head and, hence, my hands, typing away to capture the stark world in those songs.

Forma Tadre --Automate

The future city at night: blue ice moon, cold shimmer of steel architecture, barren streets, humanity disconnected...but underneath, the circuitry pulse-beat byways simmer with life; locked in sterilized cubicles, connections honed on the information highway--less information-based, more transparent and transient, pleas for contact from virginal fingers; communication as dictated by technology; technology a vampire, feeding on our inability to feel, draining the life, draining...Forma Tadre’s first release, Navigator, remains one of the finest examples of intelligent industrial, mixing pristine, watery synth instrumentals with crystalline electro industrial. Where Navigator was fluid, Automate is geometric--perfect corners, polished metal, cold precision, sanitized...”La Cite” opens the gates, echoed space, eyes squint at the blue/white flash of moonbeams off the dark gray metallic skyscrapers; the convoluted circuitryways of “Sinus Park” signify communication in revolt, subtle rhythms rising from the subdued electronic disarray; the title track contains looped vocalizations of a tweaked, Japanese inflection amidst moments of stark, dramatic synths; the hollow tones of “Dagon” emanate from the tinny interior of a place in which covert activities (or the possibility of looking directly into another’s eyes) transpire; “Le Musee Des Appareils” is described above (“The future city at night...”), a description that rings true (reverberates chillingly) throughout the whole disc. With Automate, Forma Tadre did not go where I had expected them to go (the instrumental nature does not surprise, the restructured tonal textures do); nonetheless, the sonicscapes here captivate in unexpected ways--rather disembodied, radiantly desolate. The future city at night: patching into slumber and electric dreams (of a time when a kiss stirred emotions-- embellished contact--and was not just an impassive x at the end of an electronic correspondence...). ~ JC Smith

Interestingly enough, I’ve recently undertaken an amusing task of transforming some of these descriptive elements into abstract poetry.  I'll show you an example soon, it's quite fun.