photograph by Alexandra Furstenberg
Conventions:World Horror Con, May 7-10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
Shemika Berry cosplays Magra Snowberry from my novel Haxan at the World Fantasty Convention in Arlington, VA, in November, 2015. Here is her portrayal in a handmade dress, the same dress Magra wore in the novel when she met John Marwood for dinner to impress him.
My friend, Shemika Berry, got her friends and worked to recreate the cover from my SF novel Fevreblau. The result is fantastic. Here are the credits for the photograph:
Look for links to posts about Mark's writing life:
When I was thirteen I used to listen to a black and white transistor radio tucked under my pillow. One night I found a Chicago station and heard The CBS Radio Mystery Theater hosted by E.G. Marshall.
Just like that I was hooked. I fell in love with radio dramas and wanted to hear more.
Popular for its time, CBSRMT was a modern program aired by CBS during the late 70s and early 80s and produced by Himan Brown. It was an attempt to recapture the magic of Old Time Radio. When we moved from Illinois I always made it a point to find a station that aired this program so I could continue listening, and I would often ask my grandparents what they remembered of OTR.
As an adult I discovered real OTR, old time radio, and its fans. I began to collect and research these old programs and listen to them whenever I could. As a professional writer I saw the intrinsic value of these radio shows beyond their nostalgic worth. I knew I could learn a lot from these programs on how to write a tight cohesive story, and I did.
I had fun running the station for two years, but it got difficult to maintain. We don't have the best Internet around so I always had to worry whether we were streaming or not. Sometimes the electricity went off at night, a regular occurrance here in Dallas. So I had to restart the computer and more often than not go into the server and restart that.
It got too difficult to maintain. I was always worried I wasn't providing the promised service I wanted to provide. Sure, the Internet station was free for listeners, but even so that shouldn't mean they had to put up with spotty service.
I think we did well given the fact a lot of people said they liked it and enjoyed it, but the service didn't live up to my standards.These were because of things outside my control (Internet, electricity, servers down) but that didn't mean I wasn't concerned and bothered by it.
So, the Internet station is off the air. I am going to miss it. I am not going to miss worrying whether we would stay on the air when a thunderstorm came through or why the computer shut down during the night or why everything appeared to be working correctly but we couldn't connect to the server.
Kennetth Mark Hoover reads his Haxan story "Grand Guignol" at Blood of the Bean, a reading hosted by Kickbutt Coffee and the Horror Writers of America in 2009. (Photo by Kenneth Matthew Hoover)
While I was attending SoonerCon a week or so ago a writer friend relayed a conversation she had with a family member.
She said the uncle stated he liked to watch westerns because “they were real.”
She proceeded to tell him, No, they were not real, but only Hollywood’s version of the Old West. What he saw on television and movies was not in any sense “history” or “reality” of what the Old West was truly like. He was being sold a bill of goods. Period.
I work in the western genre. Not exclusively, but I toil there quite a bit as readers of this blog know. I’ve seen this before. I know mythology and cliche has been elevated to historical status in some areas. Frankly, I find this depressing, because if this is all we have, if things don’t change, then this genre will never change.
And it needs to change.
The idea of the iconic western is an extremely powerful story telling tool. I use it all the time. It’s also the whole frontier mentality that makes much of science fiction accessible to readers and fans alike. But westerns are earth-bound. We can readily identify with that. Hell, even Star Wars was a western, and Star Trek often used western elements.
They are used because they are powerful.
Here’s what I would like to see. I’d like to see a western novel where there were no guns. Historically, most people never owned, carried, or used one. That’s historical fact. I’d like to see stories about that.
I’d also like to see more stories from, and about, women and POC. Because, you know, they actually existed back then.
It’s easy to slipstream behind Hollywood tropes. Cliches are the easy way out. Example: the iconic gun fight a la High Noon.
I agree this all makes for great television. But that’s not how they fought. Gunfighters did not meet each other on the street. They shot each other in the back and through windows. It was gang warfare. No one in their right mind would stand with a gun 15-feet away from another man with a gun in an open street. These weren’t dueling Knights of Old, which is where this myth was appropriated.
I remember visiting the Flats near Fort Griffin while doing research for Quaternity. I came across a first person account of a town sheriff or marshal who jailed a man and then shot him through the bars and killed him because “he was too mean.”
Now I want you to stop and think about that a bit and then get back to me.
To be sure, not every man and woman behaved like this, and it would be ridiculous to assume otherwise. But they weren’t Knights from the Round Table, either. They just were not.
There are three gunfights in my novel Haxan. None of them go according to Hoyle because it NEVER happened the way Hollywood sold it.
I’m also getting a little worn out with the romantic notions that permeate too much of what I see. Men and women of all races, all religions, all creeds, struggled every day to survive in the Old West. Just like they do today.
There’s nothing romantic about that.
Mythology is not history. Cliches are not a foundation to build on. Well, I mean, you can, if you want. If we write the same stories over and over, and don’t push the envelope, this genre will not evolve. It won’t die. As I said up at the top the idea of the western is too atavistic for that to happen.
The western will never die. That’s a good thing, in my opinion because it’s an interesting setting in which to tell stories about people.
But maybe it’s time to step away from the romantic ideals of an age that never existed, either, and write something different. There are many western writers right now doing exactly that. Their voices are few.
I’d like to see more.