Monday, March 25, 2013
WRITERS AND PUNKS In Memory of Rick Hautala I have written about Rick Hautala many times over the years—his bio when he was Guest of Honor at our beloved Necon, the introduction to the reissue of his wonderful first novel, Moondeath, and the announcement of his HWA Lifetime Achievement Award, among others—but I never thought that I would be writing this. I hope I might be forgiven, then, for plagiarizing myself in these dark days, when words don’t come easily. The things I’ve written about him before are all still true—it’s just that they mean more to me, now. I’ve talked elsewhere about Rick as a friend and as a man—about his humor and his struggles and his love for his wife and sons. But in truth, if you’d asked him what he was, he wouldn’t have said a friend or a man or a father or a husband…he’d have said he was a writer. He believed more firmly than anyone I’d ever met that writers were born, not made, that he had no choice in the matter. His career had some breathtaking highs, but even at the lowest points, when others might have urged him to cut his losses and find some other vocation, Rick felt helpless in the face of his nature. He didn’t even truly understand the suggestion that there might be some alternative. He was a writer. How could he conceive of being anything else? I loved him for that. Rick liked unique and funny t-shirts and would always have a new one to show off at Necon every July. The best—the one that author Jack Ketchum and I recently agreed best represented the true Rick—was emblazoned with the following: What are you, a writer or a punk? That was Rick. ~ No one wrote horror with as heavy a heart, or with as deep a sense of foreboding and sorrow, as Rick Hautala. His characters are ordinary people, so full of worry about mundane, human things that when the extraordinary begins first to invade and then to tear apart their simple lives, we feel the tragedy on a visceral level that so many who came after Hautala never achieved. Right from the beginning of his career, Rick achieved something that marked him out as a force to be reckoned with—he didn’t write like anyone else. When you crack the pages of a Hautala novel (whether under his own name, or his AJ Matthews pseudonym), there’s no mistaking that voice for anyone else. There’s an anguish in his characters and a terrible claustrophobia to even the most open of settings that marks his novels indelibly. With Rick Hautala and the modern ghost story, author and subject formed a perfect bond. The horror in Rick’s work is the sorrow of isolation and the fear of the unknown future that lies ahead, often laced with echoes of past mistakes. He didn’t go for the cheap scare, ever. Instead, he created a supernatural catalyst with which he deconstructed human frailties and the fragile ties that bind us. These themes are found everywhere in Rick’s work. Some of the best examples include the million-copy, international bestseller Night Stone, the milestone short story collection Bed Bugs, and the extraordinary novella Miss Henry’s Bottles, which may be Rick’s finest work. Fan favorites include the novels Little Brothers and The Mountain King. Hautala’s in top form in Winter Wake and Cold Whisper, as well as the novels he wrote as AJ Matthews, in particular Looking Glass and Follow. With The Demon’s Wife—the last novel he completed—he had begun a new phase in his writing career, written something truly unique. We can only wonder where his ruminations would have taken him next. The tragedy of Rick’s life was that he never knew how many people loved him, how many held him in high regard—or if he knew, he never quite believed it. He never knew how good a writer he was. Oh, he wanted you to read his novels, and he wanted you to like them, but even the books of which he was most proud he dismissed with comments like, “I think that one worked out pretty well.” That was the highest compliment he could give himself. Rick Hautala was the horror writer's horror writer. He never looked down his nose at the genre, but embraced it instead. Legendary for his kindness and his generous spirit, he influenced a great many young writers and exuded a sense of camaraderie that became infectious. In Rick’s view, we were all in the trenches together. Self-effacing and approachable, he combined a blue collar work ethic with literary sensibilities shaped by his love of Shakespeare and Hawthorne. His passion for the horror genre was second only to his love for writing, and all of those elements conspired over decades to transform him into a determined mentor, offering critical feedback and quiet encouragement to many new authors as they began their own careers. Despite the mark he has made on the genre and his quiet mentorship of other writers, Rick was rarely recognized for his work until 2012, when he received the HWA's Lifetime Achievement Award. That honor meant the world to him. I worry that Rick Hautala and other masters are in danger of having their legacy forgotten. That can’t be allowed to happen. Go and pick up a copy of Winter Wake or Little Brothers or one of Rick’s fantastic short story collections. Connecting with readers, making them feel…that was the only reward that ever really mattered to him. So go and read some Hautala, and spread the word. Don’t forget. --Christopher Golden Bradford, Massachusetts March 25th, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
If You Want to Help Holly Newstein Hautala
Dear friends, I don’t have the words to put Rick Hautala’s death in any form of context. His wife, Holly, told me this morning that it’s blown a crater in her life, and that’s as good an image as any I could imagine. So many people have written so sincerely and so eloquently about their love for him personally or their admiration for him as a man and as a writer. Holly and those of us who were closest to Rick always tried to tell him how much he was loved, but he never believed it. I only wish he could have seen the outpouring of love and support that has come in the wake of his passing. Holly would like me to pass along her love and gratitude. She has been deeply touched and hopes, in time, to personally thank everyone who has reached out to her. Unfortunately, Rick’s sudden death could not have been more untimely. The life of a freelance writer is often one lived on the fringes of financial ruin, and Rick struggled mightily to stay afloat in recent years. Just within the last couple of months, that struggle became difficult enough that he could not afford to continue paying his life insurance bill, and allowed it to lapse. Though he could never have foreseen it, the timing, of course, could not have been worse. Then, just this morning, Holly discovered that the social security benefits she might hope to receive as Rick’s widow are not available to her until she turns sixty, three years from now. Efforts are under way on projects that we hope will earn some money for Rick’s estate, but meanwhile there are costs involved with his death to consider, and then, for Holly, the struggle will continue. If you’d like to help, any donation would be appreciated. You can PayPal directly to Holly at email@example.com. Thank you so much for your time. Christopher Golden
Friday, March 22, 2013
I couldn't even begin to type this yesterday. This morning it's not much easier, but I want to write it...need to write it. So here goes. I knew Rick Hautala long before I met him--knew him in the way readers always think they know their favorite authors. I grew up, you see, in the heyday of horror as a genre, when fine, incredibly talented writers like Robert R. McCammon, Charles L. Grant, Matthew Costello, Whitley Strieber and others were putting out regular doses of wonderful horror fiction. I read and absorbed it all. Sometimes, back in the early 1980s, my brother Jamie and I would latch on to a book we both wanted to read. Graham Masterton's Wells of Hell was one of them. I also recall a werewolf novel called Quarrel With the Moon. But of all of them, the one we shared the most enthusiasm for was MOONDEATH, the first novel by Rick Hautala. Witches and werewolves and spooky New England, combined with that intimate sense of growing dread that Rick did so well, right from the beginning of his writing career...how could we go wrong? I read all of his novels. Before and after I first met him, I read them all, even the Lois & Clark tie-in novel that nobody was supposed to know he wrote. But I'm getting ahead of myself. In the spring of my senior year of college, 1989, I ran into Craig Shaw Gardner at the Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square, Cambridge. I had interviewed Craig for Starlog Magazine (my first paid writing assignment) and he told me about a little convention in Rhode Island called NECON. It was fairly exclusive, he said. Never more than 200 people, and mostly horror folks. I should go. Well, I couldn't afford it then, preparing to graduate college, but my then-girlfriend (and now my wife, Connie, without whom I wouldn't have gotten through the day yesterday, never mind the past 25 years) paid for me to go. She thought it was important. My God, we had no idea how important it would be. My history with Necon is a subject for another time. What's important is this. That weekend was filled with so many of my heroes in the genre, writers I looked up to like Craig, Charlie Grant, Doug Winter, John Skipp and Craig Spector, and, of course, Rick Hautala. I was so nervous to talk to Rick. I picked up a copy of his latest novel, WINTER WAKE, at the Friday night signing event, went up to him and babbled something about what MOONDEATH had meant to my brother and me. Now, you have to understand that Rick didn't think much of MOONDEATH. He liked it all right, I suppose, but like most of us when we consider our first novels he looked at it as something he'd done with his training wheels on. Still, he appreciated the enthusiasm. I still have that copy of WINTER WAKE. In the inscription, he wrote, "It ain't no MOONDEATH, but it's a good 'un, too." That was my first meeting with Rick, but I kept going back to Necon, kept writing, and soon we became friends. "Mis-ter Golden" I can hear him saying, even now. We hung out together at Necon and other conventions and we gave each other a ton of shit, teasing pretty mercilessly sometimes. In time, somehow we went from being friends to being the closest of friends. A fraternal bond formed, and over the years we became each other's sounding boards and confidantes. Rick had a few of us--Matt Costello, Glenn Chadbourne, me, and a couple of others--who he called his Texans...the guys he wanted with him if he ever had to stand on the wall at his own personal Alamo. The guys he knew would never let him down. You had to be careful with Rick, though. His self-deprecating humor was only half honest, and the other half was the armor that covered a lifetime of self doubt. He had seen huge successes in his career, and had experienced more than one fall from grace. There were people he had loved who'd turned their backs on him, friends who had turned out not to be worthy of the name. But through all of that, he gave freely of himself. His heart was open to anyone who was willing to meet him just as openly. He joked constantly that he was the "Eeyore of Horror" (Connie and I were at breakfast with him at WHC in Atlanta in 1995 when he gave himself that nickname). "Just another book," he drawled in his Eeyore voice. "Not that it matters." But as constantly as he ruminated about his professional life, worrying about whether his books *did* matter, that never impacted the way he greeted us all. Rick was a guy who didn't just have your back, he wanted to have your back. He was built for loyalty. Nobody ever enjoyed a good time with friends more than he did, drinking a beer and smoking a stogie, singing along to the songs of his youth at Necon, or raving about politics at the various Vicious Circle dinners that he and I often shared with friends in our area. I could write thousands of words about all of the times we shared and the evolution that we went through as I went from fan to brother, our nearly twenty year age difference notwithstanding. When my daughter Lily was little, Rick would always try to say hello to her, but for some reason she would hide her face and cry. God, how we teased him about that. It would always bring out that sheepish, Eeyore grin. Much has been made of Rick's smile, and it's impossible to say how much I'll miss it, but more than that I'll miss his laughter and that particular way he'd roll his eyes at me, just out of sight, when he thought someone was being an idiot. I'll miss talking politics--God, he cared so much about the world and about people. Even after all of the times he'd been let down, he cared so much. I'll miss his hugs ("hug it out bitch"--"cracka please") and his cheerful greetings. I'll miss the phone calls, just to shoot the breeze, and the way he'd enter my house and say hi to Connie and our kids. I'll miss teasing each other. [The first time I ever saw Rick in New York City, he looked like Dorothy in the haunted forest, tiptoeing in his flip-flops, afraid of "lions and tigers and bears." A city boy, he was not.] I'll miss talking to him about writing and Rod Serling and, more than anything, about fatherhood. Rick's three grown sons--Aaron, Jesse, and Mattie--and they were his world, just as much a part of him as his arms and legs. No, more. He could have lived without his limbs. Those boys were his heart, cut into three pieces and living outside his body. He ached when they ached and wept when they wept and worried over them every day, even if there was nothing to worry about. We should all be so lucky as to have a parent who loves us as much as Rick loved his boys. And Holly...when they found each other Rick had reached one of the lowest points in his life. His friend Bill Relling had committed suicide and Rick never quite recovered from that. His self doubt had reached an all-time high. Holly's love helped to restore his faith in himself. It was the greatest gift to him, and a great gift to all of us who loved him to see that reflected in him. I'll stop now. Stop writing this, anyway. I have many people still to call and respond to about this, and deadlines to keep. Rick would understand deadlines. Now, some of the hardest words I've ever had to type. I love you, brother. Goodbye. The rest of my days just won't be the same.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
A WINTER OF GHOSTS
Thursday, January 03, 2013
Bob Booth - Papa Necon
For more than three decades, Bob Booth has been one of the stalwart, silent heroes of horror, fantasy, and dark fantasy. A writer, editor, past chairman of the World Fantasy Convention, and founder of Necon (the best little convention in the world), he is also the patriarch of a wonderful family AND the patriarch for hundreds of us who make the pilgrimage to Necon every July. Father figure, devoted reader, and loyal friend, Bob is one of my favorite people in the world. It breaks my heart to have to share this. I can't begin to tell you what Bob has meant to me. My career essentially started at and because of Necon. Enough said, for now. If you know Bob, I hope you'll share some words of support with him and with his family, either at the Necon ebooks site or in a card, letter, or email, as indicated in this post, which provides an update on his condition.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
The Next Big Thing: FATHER GAETANO’S PUPPET CATECHISM
The Next Big Thing: FATHER GAETANO’S PUPPET CATECHISM So…most of you probably know this already…maybe…possibly. There’s a wonderful blog-contagion going on, something called THE NEXT BIG THING. A blog-hop, they call it, and in it authors are mean to answer a handful of questions about their latest work and then tag five or so other authors to do the same the following week. As you might imagine, it’s growing exponentially. I mean, do the math, right? A month or so ago, my good friend Stephen Volk ( http://www.stephenvolk.net/ ) asked me if I wanted to do it, but I was on a craaazy deadline for my upcoming thriller for St. Martin’s, SNOWBLIND, which is now complete. Then, a week or so ago, the great and funny and charming and brilliant Dana Cameron tagged me. I was on a different deadline, no less desperate, but I realized that if I didn’t jump in, I was going to miss the Next Big Thing entirely. The circus would have passed me by. Also, I didn’t want Dana mad at me. Bitch’ll cut a guy. Of course, I was supposed to have this blog up yesterday, so I may yet face her wrath. My answers to the questions—and the poor suckers I’ve tagged for next week—are below, but you should also go and check out Dana’s Next Big Thing blog from last week, and pick up her first urban fantasy, SEVEN KINDS OF HELL. Where did the idea come from for the book? CG: FATHER GAETANO’S PUPPET CATECHISM is the third book I’ve done with Mike Mignola. The prior novels (BALTIMORE and JOE GOLEM AND THE DROWNING CITY) were conceived by Mike. This one—though it has so many elements that are near and dear to Mike’s heart—was my idea. We were on the phone one day, talking about our love of puppets and how unnerving they can be, and the idea hit me pretty much fully-formed, which is rare but nice. It’s short and a St. Martin’s has made a beautiful little book that would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves fantasy, horror, or just plain weird. What genre does your book fall under? CG: It’s a supernatural story, so you could call it horror, but I think anyone who enjoys dark fantasy would enjoy it as well. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? CG: Funnily enough, it isn’t the actors I think of when I think of a film version of this story—it’s the style. I’d love to see it directed by someone like Henry Selick, done like Coraline or Corpse Bride. ): I've been a fan of Toni's award-winning writing since her Laura Fleming books, and wait until you see her new series, starting with The Skeleton in the Armoire (as Leigh Perry)! I'll let her tell you about that next week! Kat Richardson's () latest novel Seawitch, was #3 on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller list for November! Kat and I got acquainted via anthologies Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (which Toni edited with Charlaine Harris) and most recently, Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. Elaine Viets () has TWO series: the Helen Hawthorne "Dead End Job" mysteries, and the Josie Marcus "Mystery Shopper mysteries." Elaine and I are both members of the Femmes Fatales (as is Toni), and she'll be posting her Next Big thing blog there. ******************* And now we get to the folks I’m tagging, the amazingly talented writers to whom I have spread the Next Big Thing contagion. Look for their posts next Tuesday, December 12th! S.G. Browne’s latest novels are Lucky Bastard (which has a neat little blurb from yours truly, every word of which I meant) and I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus…and you know you need that freakin’ book right now. Cherie Priest is the author of the hugely successful Clockwork Century novels, including Boneshaker and the latest, The Inexplicables. She’s also written creepy-as-all-get-out Southern Gothic supernatural tales and urban fantasy, has dynamite fashion sense, and different hair every time I see her. Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the ass-kicking urban fantasy Black London novels and the YA series The Iron Codex, which has the best titles. I mean, book two is The Nightmare Garden, that’s pretty damn cool. She once told me that she’s not ready for the zombie apocalypse but she is prepared for the kitten apocalypse. Make of that what you will. Yes, Amber Benson is the author of the Death's Daughter series of urban fantasy novels, among other things, and yes, she’s an actress-writer-director who has been elevated to the status of cult icon in recent years. She’s also my little sister, gave me the best nickname ever, and commandeers my daughter’s “princess bed” at every opportunity. As far as I know, the only thing that all four of these writers have in common is that they have all written short stories for anthologies I have edited, which means they bear the same psychological scars. Happy Holidays!!!
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Master of Ceremonies - Tim Lebbon
For those who might be interested but who were, like me, sadly unable to attend Fantasycon in the UK last week, here's the appreciation I wrote about the weekend's master of ceremonies, Tim Lebbon. (Though "appreciation" might be the wrong word.) YOUR MASTER OF CEREMONIES… TIM LEBBON This is going to be difficult for you, my friends, but the truth must be told—Tim Lebbon only pretends to like you. Oh, he’s everyone’s chum when BFS events roll around, particularly Fantasycon. First with a joke or a knowing smile, first to give you a hearty “well done” after a reading or to console you when you’ve lost that award he’d been the loudest to insist you deserved. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but it’s all bullshit. Really, Tim Lebbon hates you. Hard to imagine, you say? Perhaps even now, as you read this, you’re going back over all of your Lebbon-interactions and examining them for some evidence of my claim. Perhaps you’re finding only instances that refute this assertion. Tim Lebbon, you may say, is not only a supremely talented writer but the kindest, humblest among us. The most supportive and enthusiastic. The most generous. The most handsome. Well, no, all right…you’re probably not saying that last one. Still, despite your insistent denials, you must be forced to see the truth, to accept that the Tim you know is but a mask to cover the rictus sneer of soul-crushing envy. Yes, he envies you, my friends…every last one of you. He envies the soft skin, coquettish eyes, and lovely figure of Mark Morris. He envies the sophisticated vocabulary, poise, and mannered self-control of Sarah Pinborough. The wardrobe of Kim Newman. The diction of Ramsey Campbell. The special gleam of Stephen Volk’s dome. The quiet reserve of Rio Youers. Adam Nevill’s eyelashes. Pete Crowther’s mustache. Graham Joyce’s buttocks. Tim Lebbon is a seething ball of envy. It isn’t just the writers he envies, either. Stephen Jones, Jo Fletcher, Simon Taylor and so many others will be able, if they but think for a moment, to recognize in Lebbon the editor’s greatest fear—the writer who knows better. Who wants your job, my friends, both because he believes he can do it better than you can but also because he wants to wield the gauntlet of editorial might, to strike down other writers with the dagger-sharp clarity of his narrative instincts. Writers. Editors. Artists. Even you people with far more reliable occupations for which you are regularly and more significantly paid…he envies you all. Cunning as the devil, he cozies up to you in order to glean whatever pearls of wisdom he might gather by simply being in your company. He offers a shoulder upon which you might cry, a joke or a wink or a pat on the back…but only if he believes it might lead to you buying a round at the bar later. In recent times he has crafted a new image for himself, that of an athlete—a marathon runner, of all things—an Iron Man. But I’m here to tell you that this is simply cover for the weight loss he has suffered due to the fact that he is so consumed with envy that he is often unable to eat. Do not be fooled, my friends. By now you must be wondering, who is Christopher Golden to make such outrageous accusations against one of the darlings of the BFS? Who, indeed, but he who has suffered so much at Tim Lebbon’s hands. He cannot write, you see. Not a word. Can barely read, except to recognize the work of his betters. And thanks to a youthful indiscretion on my part, I have been his manservant, his minion, and his ghost writer, lo, these past fifteen years and more, as far back as Mesmer. White, that novella so universally embraced as a modern classic, reprinted over and over again with Lebbon’s byline, optioned for film by the screenwriter Stephen Susco…mine. The Naming of Parts? Hush? Until She Sleeps? All mine. Desolation? Berserk? Dusk and Dawn and all of the other Noreela stories? Me. The Reach of Children? The Thief of Broken Toys? Yep. Even Tim’s most recent works, like Echo City, The Heretic Land, and Coldbrook…all were produced under duress and the threat of blackmail. Not The Nature of Balance, though. That crap was Tim’s. Yes, he’s won awards. Many, many awards, particularly from the BFS, the members of which apparently have a staggering inability to realize when someone is sucking up to them. Awards which should be mine. Over the years of my servitude, however, I have come to the realization that there may be just the tiniest sliver of humanity remaining in Tim Lebbon’s heart. Otherwise he would never have allowed me to share credit for Mind the Gap and the other Hidden Cities books, not to mention The Secret Journeys of Jack London. He took all of the money, though. Every last penny, like the Grinch plucking a crumb from the floor on Christmas Eve. Tim Lebbon… Oh, shit, I think he’s coming. I can hear his footsteps on the stairs. If he should discover my attempt to reveal the tralshgaouglda.&($$ald## Ahem. I first met Tim Lebbon on a moonlit hotel balcony at a New York City horror convention. It was very romantic. Music played nearby. Jack Ketchum attempted to woo a sequence of beautiful damsels. Tim and I, sadly, were immune to that atmosphere of romance and instead spoke about, of all things, art and commerce. We found, I think, an immediate kinship having to do with our attitudes about family, writing, and business. Instantly, a friendship was formed…and the dread began. BFS members will be intimately familiar with this dread. You see, though I was vaguely aware of Tim’s growing reputation as a “writer to watch,” I’d never read a word he’d written. We swapped books the next day and I prayed to the elder gods that he wouldn’t SUCK. You know how the story ends, I suspect. Tim Lebbon is one of the finest writers of horror and dark fantasy working today. As the author of White and Other Tales of Ruin, Face, The Nature of Balance, The Everlasting, and Berserk (among others), he’s proven himself a master of modern horror. Though he began in horror, over the years he’s also proven himself a radically original and refreshing voice in fantasy. He’s won all sorts of awards that I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you all about if you bring him a beer. A slut for beer is Lebbon. After that first meeting, I asked Tim to write a Hellboy short story for an anthology I was editing, which led to me commissioning two Hellboy novels from him, as well as to our writing seven novels and a screenplay together, with more hopefully on the way. Truthfully, though, if you’ve ever read Tim’s work, you don’t need me to tell you how talented he is, how alive his characters seem, or how vivid the worlds he creates become with the turn of every page. Instead, let me tell you about my friend, Tim Lebbon. I grew up surrounded by women. My father wasn’t in the picture much and that left my mother and my sister, and all of my sister’s girlfriends, to raise my brother and me. All of my life I have gotten along better with women than with men. Of course there are exceptions, but the swaggering, chest-beating, dick-waving nonsense so common to my gender is incredibly off-putting to me. Few things distress me more than attending a gathering where the men are expected to bunch up in one room and talk about sports and beer and home improvement projects while the women sit around a table, gossiping and discussing their latest book club meeting or the achievements of their children. I love talking football, but there’s a limit, you know? At these gatherings, you’re much more likely to find me at the table with the women—at least they change the subject every few minutes. Really, though, I want the group to come together, the conversations to merge. Among writers, the clusters are less clearly defined, but often one group will be dedicated to the art of literature and the other to the commerce of publishing. Just as with those insufferable dinner parties, I fall right in the middle of those two groups, making a living in that place where art and commerce meet. What does any of this have to do with Tim Lebbon? Surely you must have guessed by now. He’s secretly a woman. No, no. Poor taste. The truth is, Tim is my brother. From the moment we first met I felt that we understood each other, that he had about him none of the artifice or ego that so often interfere with the process of establishing real connections between people. Our ambitions mirrored each other, not only professionally but personally as well. Tim is a writer—it’s what he was born to do, just as much a part of him as his name or the color of his eyes. But he is a father first. A husband first. His love for his family supersedes all other concerns. Yes, he is boisterous and quick with a joke. Yes, he is an athlete and he loves his beer. Those are things that contribute to making Tim excellent company. Some of my favorite memories of the past few years include vacationing with the Lebbons on Cape Cod, and a day spent book-shopping with Tim in Hay-on-Wye. But there is a deeper current running beneath that boisterousness and camaraderie, a seriousness of thought and feeling that make Tim also an excellent friend. To many of you who are reading this, it will come as no surprise. That, I truly believe, is our shared good fortune. Right, then. That part dispensed with, let me regale you with a list of his awards and read a selection of laudatory remarks that…ah, never mind. All right, Golden. You can come back to the keyboard, now. Forget that first bit. Just print up the part I wrote and sign your name. Twat. --Christopher Golden Bradford, Massachusetts 11th May, 2012