Perilous Press Blog

August 14, 2017

How The Sausage Is Made

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — doktrhonky @ 9:35 pm

Guerilla Marketing

It was Thursday afternoon in the cavernous dealer room at San Diego Comic Con, and Mike Dubisch and I were excited. We felt like we’d finally got the answer to a problem we’d been struggling with for years, and the guy who could make all our dreams come true was somewhere in the building.

We’d been working together for several years, Mike illustrating one or another of my projects, but this year, we’d finally completed breakdowns for MYSTERY MEAT, a gnarly underground horror comic that not only recalled the stony glory of Skull, Death Rattle and Slow Death Eco-Funnies, but brought back the danger and social consciousness sorely lacking from modern horror comics. And even though the editor we were hunting had shot us both down in the past, we were reasonably sure that THIS TIME, we had his number.

Several months before, after years of schmoozing and stalking, I had managed to sell a script to Dark Horse’s revival of Creepy, and another editor there bought “nuMeat,” a short piece that teased the larger Mystery Meat scenario, and he seemed to like it a lot. We’d talked about the possibility of Dark Horse picking up MYSTERY MEAT when it was approaching completion, and he seemed enthusiastic to see it.

So we went over there.

During a brief lull between signings at the Dark Horse pavilion, Mike and I approached the editor in question and told him what we had to show him. We didn’t expect him to turn backflips or plant a kiss on us, but we were both a bit nonplussed when he winced and told us to hold that thought, he’d be happy to check out our stuff, but he had to go to the restroom real quick.

Then he walked about ten feet away and braced another passing creative and started talking to him as if we’d never existed. The guy he was talking to looked awkwardly over his shoulder at us and stifled a giggle. The editor kept up the phony conversation until we both realized just how little we really were, in the grand scheme of big-time comix, took our dumb little sketches, and went back to our hideout in the small press slum to scheme up our petty revenge.

Small Press Area, San Diego Comic Con 2013

This year was my twenty-first consecutive SDCC (23rd in total), and this year, Mike and I had returned with a platter of sweet revenge: MYSTERY MEAT, self-published and printed thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, available digitally through Comixology. The editor who snubbed us so rudely a few years ago was MIA due to a scandal caused by drunkenly assaulting coworkers and contractors the same weekend he was a dick to us, and so had been promoted to a senior position that prudently kept him from attending conventions, so we wouldn’t be able to send him to the restroom with a copy of our swanky mag, but we still felt we had something to prove.

Our Swanky Mag.

The further I move away from San Diego, the more going into that gargantuan sweat lodge feels like coming home. I’m old enough that I remember how drastically everything began to change when Hollywood moved in about twelve years back, invested enough in it that I worry about its future more than I should as it begins and sicken and change.

At its height, Comic Con became not just a genre popular culture event, but a city of conventions. If you didn’t care about the new CBS fall lineup or celebrity perp walk panels in Hall H (and if you could wrest a badge from the legions who most fanatically did) or ultrarare Con-exclusive Funko toys, you could still meet comics legends and see panels and shop for comics without camping out in a lawnchair or waiting in any kind of serious line. When I helped run the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, we easily filled a 500-seat room for a panel on HPL every year at the decidedly crappy Saturday night timeslot. I don’t think we ever had that many people attend the festival itself on a Saturday.

We are now a few years past peak Comic Con, and the film, videogame and toy interests continue to crowd out actual comics vendors and creators, even as they try in inevitable corporate fashion to squeeze more promotion out of the event with less expense and effort. Watching them tighten their grip on the geek audience year by year has been like watching a boa constrictor digest its dinner.

I’ve seen industry parties go from lavish, everybody’s-invited extravaganzas with bulging swag bags and hosted bars to tight-fisted elite circle-jerks where lines of the unwashed circle round the block, while those inside seem to be having less fun than the parents in the Red Dawn re-education camp. The convention itself feels sleepier, Sunday-tired on Wednesday night, but still crowded with folks sleepwalking through a mall and buying plastic dreams with more plastic.

While the big pavilions stayed big, the only novelty on the floor this year was all that’s been lost––venerable vendors like Mile High Comics who’ve been priced out of Comic Con after 44 years, or independents like Bud Plant, once an aisle unto itself, now relegated to a scurfy single booth in the back of the hall. My friends who’ve always paid for next year’s booth with the petty cash from the current year were unable to meet the rent due to stale sales.

The fans were still buying, still cosplaying, still enduring preposterous lines, but not for comics. As the economy continues to leave working people behind and the political crises leave even the most secure of us seething with frustration and anxiety, fans were buying almost in a panic, and they were reaching for security blankets.

This is your only space program...

Recognizable brands dominate the merchandise more every year, the Disney-driven saturation of Marvel and Star Wars merch all but overwhelming Warner’s DC stuff. As one of the only open-source brands, Cthulhu still attracts buyers, but they want shirts, shot glasses, bumper stickers and resin busts, not troublesome, tedious books. People weren’t looking for new stories to read, or even familiar ones. They wanted icons, fetish objects to let them step inside their heroes and take on their strength, their sense of purpose. Conditioned by years of media bombardment, fans feel empowered to express their inner child, to wear Superman or Captain America T-shirts in public as serious expressions of personal philosophy, to take the collectible toys out of the packaging and play with them.

This is your military...

Without a trace of irony, fans embrace geekdom, the metaphor of a besotted drunk who eats anything given to him in a sideshow of bottomless degradation. They have become heroes of proactive consumerism, drunk on their seeming power to shape by social media focus-grouping summer tentpole movies to better pander to the adultification of their childhood fantasies. Superhero movies are our education policy, sci-fi fantasy is our only viable space program.

This is your government

We didn’t need to sit in a booth all weekend to know that nobody’s cherished childhood fantasies this year included horrible shit coming out of their food.

But we did it anyway.

In Supergods, Grant Morrison lays out an elaborate scheme that diagrams the pendulum swing of the zeitgeist, which he employs to pitch projects that best head off collective American appetites at the pass. If MYSTERY MEAT ever had a chance of breaking out according to this scenario, we were coming out at the exact worst end of the cycle for a confrontational, anti-authority horror comic. I gave an advance copy of MYSTERY MEAT to Grant last year. He probably didn’t read it, either.

IGNORE ME!

But we’d long since given up on trying to “break in” to comics, and were resigned to eking out a market for the kind of books we wish somebody else had made. For as long as I’ve been coming to SDCC, I’ve tried networking and ass-kissing and parading around in a bloody sandwich board to try to find a place in the comic industry, to no avail. It’s much harder for writers to get over than artists, for whom an elaborate program of portfolio reviews are scheduled. You can’t just pitch ideas to editors wary of getting sued, and nobody’s actively looking for the next Alan Moore in the rope-line at Comic Con. Comics have learned a lot of the worst lessons from Hollywood, which has relied on them as a market-testing, brand-breaking farm team for nearly twenty years. Namely, to get noticed at all, you have to have already broken out on your own, so their buying your title benefits them in the short term more than it will benefit you, who’ve already done the unimaginably difficult job of making yourself a viable brand.

There is no God...

but Godzilla.

I have no illusions about my ambitions or my methods. I’ve never wanted to write superhero comics for Marvel or DC, and I’ve always known the kind of stuff I’d excel at writing would only appeal to a wafer-thin slice of the comic reading audience, which only comprises a shrinking plurality even of the folks who attend Comic Con. Peers of mine who’ve moved from obscurity to writing flagship Marvel titles did so by striking up relationships that have eluded me over a lifetime of chasing comics work. It took a couple years of bird-dogging Dark Horse at events to cultivate an editor who liked my work, and they almost immediately let her go. Same thing happened at IDW, where Jeff Conner tirelessly put together a raft of great prose anthologies based on their cheesy properties, which were dumped on the market with so little fanfare that year in and year out, the reps at their booth weren’t even aware they existed.

Truth is, every year, Comic Con leaves me feeling like the poor fucker in Kafka’s “Before The Law” piece from The Trial. I lost my capacity to enjoy playing RPGs after the decade-long hosing I received at the hands of Chaosium over the San Francisco Guidebook, so I’ve always tried to balance my disappointment with my progress in the comic industry against the fear of losing the pleasure of reading them. Though I failed to add any new “contacts,” my greatest pleasures of the weekend were the times I got to spend with my real friends in the community––Mike Dubisch, who’s helped me give life to ideas no sane comic company would ever touch; Ron Kirby, Comic Con volunteer since before you or I were even born, who has always made sure I was welcome; Brian and Gwen Callahan of Sigh Co Graphics and H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, who’ve always carried my wares and let me hide from the inevitable backlash to my guerilla marketing stunts in their booth; and a bunch more people, dear friends I only see at Comic Con every year, who make the dream a reality.

Moving the smell at Comic Con with Anthony Trevino

If I’ve learned anything worth knowing from twenty-one years at Comic Con, it’s just that: know who your friends are. Lift them up and never forget all the times you’ve leaned on them. Strangers won’t pick you up unless you’re spilling money out your pockets.

It was Sunday evening of another Comic Con several years ago. I’d just spent the last of my disposable Con cash on a t-shirt for my daughter and was hanging out on the lanai of the Hilton, watching the sunset and enjoying a beer before driving back to Los Angeles, when a writer of some note in both prose and comics, invited me to join him and some close friends and colleagues for a limo run to the Mission Valley In N Out.

I’d eaten there often; in fact, I like as not would’ve stopped there by myself on my way out of town, but this was exactly the kind of secret handshake socializing thing I’d despaired of ever getting in on.

I was barely acquainted with this author, having been introduced to him at a World Horror con in 2005 when we were both coming up, but we’d never interacted since. I’d been on a science fiction panel with some notable luminaries that weekend in spite of having no major publications to speak of, so his invitation couldn’t help but strike me as some kind of threshold moment. The cool kids had invited me to ride in their fancy car to get lunch! It was like hanging out with the seniors freshman year of high school, all over again.

The limo was so long, it couldn’t get up the ramp to the Hilton carport, so we had to come down to it. The author introduced me to his wife, whose idea the limo ride apparently was, but not to any of his friends, who conversed animatedly with each other all the way to the In N Out.

The limo couldn’t fit into the drive-thru either, so we got out and filed inside to order. I got my food and ate in the car next to them, but managed to insert not a single word into the conversation. I felt like a ghost, alive but too boring to be perceived by my fellow passengers. I had more than enough time to wonder why I’d been invited at all, since they had plenty of friends.

When we got back to the hotel, I found out. The writer’s wife cornered me on my way to the restroom and hit me up to chip in for the limo ride. I didn’t hear her talk with any of their industry friends about paying for the ride. The writer had told me his wife was independently wealthy and wanted to do it for her friends who’d never had In N Out before. I had to explain to her that I was flat broke and didn’t know we were supposed to chip in, or I’d have gone to In N Out by myself in my car, which was parked at Qualcomm Stadium, about a mile away from Mission Valley. I apologized to her, but I could tell I’d offended her deeply, that if she got any impression of me at all, it was as a freeloader who’d taken advantage of her little outing for a free ride. I took the trolley back, past the fateful In N Out, and though my belly was filled, I had to go to my parents’ house in Lakeside before leaving town and made them cook tacos before I felt solid again.

I don’t want this endless bummer post with a bummer, so here’s the most amazing guy I’ve had the pleasure to get to know and work with through Comic Con.

Don't be a sinner... be like SKINNER!

April 27, 2017

Mystery Meat Lives!

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktrhonky @ 4:25 am

Available wherever quality paperbacks and edible underwear are sold.

So we haven’t updated our store yet, but RIGHT NOW, you can get Mystery Meat in print HERE, and for Kindle HERE.

April 16, 2016

The Neighbor Of The bEast

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — doktrhonky @ 4:17 pm
We forgot to poke holes in his box... again.

We forgot to poke holes in his box... again.

So many weirdos have added fuel to the burgeoning XPULVER controversy, that we felt compelled to restore a little sanity. So here, reproduced in full, is our brief interview with Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., conducted only days ago, to assess his mental and emotional state prior to crating him up for transport to these United States for an appearance at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & Cthulhucon–San Pedro, April 29-May 1. This interview will also appear in The Daily Lurker program handed out at the fest…

Few dark stars in the weird horror genre shine brighter or burn stranger fuel than Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.. From his novel debut, Nightmare’s Disciple, he has doggedly pursued a passionate human urgency into the clinically detached modern horror scene, and restored a rhythmic dynamism and a reverence for the conjuring power inherent in WORDS(!!!!) to a field largely overwhelmed by the influence of cinema. Making the most of the brief-but-tranquil interval between feeding and smoking out the Beast, we posed a few questions to try to get into the head of the man who went to Carcosa way before it was cool.

Your unique stream-of-consciousness prose style seems to draw as much upon musical and poetic influences as literature.

Music is my heroin, and I read more poetry than fiction, true, so yeah, I’m bent that way. I like film, a lot, but it’s not me. Film looks, I feel. I feel music, I feel the poet’s pain, or their wonderment, or rage, or the weight of their crown.  So, no, no films in my head (excepting my “Carl Lee and Cassilda” trilogy). Places/events, X’s on maps, I see one and just start walking toward it. Can’t plan the walk, as there may be detours around a corner you can’t yet see, or you may bump into someone leaving their abode and suddenly you’ve turned right and are in a divebar having watered-down drinks w/ a woman (with an ass that could start a revolution) who tells you she has an OUTthere pad in Dimension Z… and she has a cure for yer ills. The teXt goes where it wants to go. Screams or cries, as it wants. It’s all JAZZ, improvise as you go. It’s all about FELT! !!

(SEE?)

You’ve also said that your passion is crime fiction, and particularly David Goodis, but you seem to write exclusively weird horror. How has crime fiction schooled what you do, and/or how you do it?

Ah, crime. Dreams and downs. LOTTO tix and losers that can’t spell S.O.S. Wine, women, and FUCK YOU for thinking you could get ahead, or get out alive. Crime fiction told me what’s true. Showed me my city, and its sisters. The city is grey, it’s hard, it HUGE… and yer nothing, less than zero—COSMICISM anyone? The city is a character, not a place. It provides the oxygen. It tells you what’s on the menu and if you get to eat today. It decides where the stop lights are and if there are any detours on the route you were planning on taking.

Goodis, Himes, Spillane, Ellroy, Vachss, dozens of others, they put it plain, they’re jazzy, expressionistic, the pain comes slashing off the page. Reading crime since I was 12, it got in deep and when I began to write, it’s what came to the page naturally.

Loved Bloch and Poe and Crime as a teen. They were all dark, and the Crime/Weird fit, to me, seemed as normal as a broken window in an abandoned factory.

I have penned 3 straight noir tales, no weird in them, not a whiff. One day, I’d like to do a noir novel, no weird!

You’ve written a few dozen stories using Robert Chambers’ King In Yellow cycle, and edited two anthologies of Carcosa fiction. What is it with you and the King in Yellow, anyway?

12 years old, 13, Bloch and Poe set me up for MADNESS. They scared the hell out of me, w/ “Tell Tale Heart”, “ACoA”, and Norman and Jack the Ripper. I was a book kid, a library kid, I lived in books, they were my car, my wings, my teachers—books were the true power in the universe. At 16, along came Chambers with his madness. WHAM, a book w/the power to drive you mad. Add the mystery of the King in Yellow play, the allure of long ago and far away, and what’s behind the mask, damn, I was hooked! 45 years later, I still am.

See? Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. America, open your hearts and your medicine chests!

He's tanned, rested and ready.

February 1, 2016

The Long Hard Road Up To Hell

Super-Size this...

We got bored, so we’re coming back.

Perilous Press was always going to be a refuge for projects by myself and others that nobody else could or would put out. We started Perilous to release my first two books because I was too paranoid to submit to a publisher after getting burned badly in my first pro sale. We’ve kept it alive to put out edgy, weird works by a few people we’ve liked who came to us because they had fire in their hands nobody else could handle. It was never my intent to make it a vanity press, and I’ve worked with a host of other, albeit nearly as small, outfits in the intervening years.

Perilous lapsed into dormancy; we didn’t even have a slush pile. But it was always the intent to reactivate it if and when the publishing world left us no choice. That time has come again.

In about two weeks, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign to promote a graphic novel project I’ve been working on for several years with my excellent artist friend and frequent collaborator, Mike Dubisch. MYSTERY MEAT is coming, and you’d bester bring two pairs of gloves. It’s sticky.

WATCH THIS SPACE…

December 5, 2015

BABY GOT BASS

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktrhonky @ 10:28 pm

(photography by Todd Chicoine)

Witnessed and disavowed at Cthulhu Prayer Breakfasts and damned with faintly droll praise in the New Yorker, banned wherever basic standards of intellectual property are respected… here, at last, for a limited time, is the studio recording of BABY GOT BASS.

Baby Got Bass

Dignity. Always dignity.

August 27, 2015

So This Happened…

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/croissants-with-cthulhu

June 27, 2015

San Diego Comic Con

Along with the inestimable Leslie Klinger, Mike Dubisch, a crack panel of scientific experts and my film-festering partner Aaron Vanek, I will be holding down a panel on The Science Of ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ in the midst a crazy Friday afternoon at San Diego Comic Con. http://www.comic-con.org/cci/friday If you’re looking for a quiet, dark place to hide from crowds and celebrities, this is it. If time allows, we might even sneak in a quickie preview of my new graphic novel with Mike, Mystery Meat…

September 14, 2014

The Festival That Swallowed San Pedro

Skinner with his Shoggoth

Perilous Press has suspended operations for the time being, though we’re always fulfilling orders. My focus has been entirely eclipsed by the Lovecraft Film Festival coming back to LA in two weeks.

This has been my first year as a co-director of the festival, though I’ve organized the literary program and hosted the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. This year, we’re striving to bring off an insanely ambitious program, from commissioning a stupendous mural by the infamous Skinner to screening Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3-D on one of the biggest screens left in LA, and bringing the Lovecraft Historical Society to perform The Shadow Over Innsmouth radioplay live onstage. Mythos authors John Shirley, Gary Myers, Nancy Holder, Ross Lockhart, Leslie Klinger and others will read and discuss Lovecraft’s lasting impact and controversial legacy. And I’m hosting an all-night secret screening of forbidden mythos movies in a basement that was once an 80′s fetish nightclub. We’re striving to bring 700 people to the fabulous Art Deco landmark Warner Grand Theater for this uniquely freaky event. Because that’s how many of you need to buy tickets, if we’re going to come back and do it even weirder in May, 2015.

May 13, 2014

The Perilous Process

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktrhonky @ 5:23 am
We still exist, though in what capacity remains to be seen. We are not currently considering submissions, unless they’re really, truly awesome. Perilous was never intended to become a vanity press, and now that the first books we put out over a decade ago are finally beginning to find a sizable audience, we feel content to wallow in the intangible benefits of our foresight for a while. On the personal front, my latest novel, REPO SHARK, is available now from the excellent Broken River Books, which has generously produced a sampler of all their titles to date. Hopefully, they will set up a store soon to bypass Amazon, who seem to have taken an intensely adversarial dislike to the book, failing to keep it in stock and promising a three-week delay in processing the order.
In other news, I’ve been infected by a writer’s virus vectored by The Writing Process Blog Tour (by way of the inestimable AraBurklund) and compelled to answer four questions related to my process.
#1– What am your working on?
Currently attacking a raft of short stories, all Mythos-related, for a whole slew of anthologies with “Cthulhu” and a number in the title, of the sort I would have loved to be doing about ten years ago. Trying to get through to my next novel, tentatively titled, TOMORROW, which will be a major transformation in every sense from my previous work.
#2– How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’ve staked out a little cul-de-sac between the “conventional” small-press horror genre and the Cthulhu Mythos and Bizarro subgenres, and my work uses varying proportions of these primary ingredients. I try to do something different every time I start a project. But from what I hear, everything I write is infused with the same cynical wit, the same iconoclastic impulse to turn everything inside out.
#3– Why do you write what you do?
I can’t stop. I never could. I don’t write to explore my fears so much as my fascinations, the things that obsess me and make my sphincter pucker. That it has begun to find fans and like-minded artists after so long is rewarding, but incidental to the process.
#4– How does your writing process work?
It’s probably pretty much like anyone else’s… Ideas, bits of ideas and loads of random intriguing detritus get mulched into a rough notion of a structure, and I start throwing words at it, until I’ve discovered at least the general shape of a story. Editing is pretty painless by now, though I have a difficult time adhering to any formula for reducing word counts with each draft. I tend to tighten the prose while adding more detail, and while I welcome astute insights when something doesn’t work, I’ve encountered few editors salty enough to try to cut me.
When I need a story posthaste, I can generally force out an idea within hours and get it outlined within a day or so, if it’s shorter than novel length. But I like to let my work ferment between each stage of development, because it stays in the back of my mind, accreting detail until I see it in print. Nothing bothers me more than a dangling detail that got left out of a story, so I try to give myself time to thoroughly cure the work before it sees other eyes.
The two worthies I tagged have not yet begun to show symptoms, but I will update as the infection progresses.

March 4, 2014

Michael Shea (1946-2014)

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktrhonky @ 5:59 am

It is a sad side effect of our digital age that all too often, we first learn of the death of a dear friend through an ill-conceived post on Facebook by some jackass who only met the deceased once at a convention, but who felt moved to compose a hamfisted eulogy instead of complain about the sexist/racist/homophobes in charge of SFWA.

We were honored to publish Michael’s collection, COPPING SQUID, and had the indescribable pleasure of his company whenever he came to Southern California. The last time he came down with his wonderful wife, Lin, I took them downtown to see some readings and bands, and lost my car to a car park that closed at 9 when we were done at 10. We had to wander the streets of downtown until 2:30, when we found a bus on the advice of a public-spirited panhandler. I never stopped apologizing, but they never once complained that they were having anything less than a magical evening. When some asshole assaulted us on the bus, Mike literally threw him out the door onto the street. He fell asleep talking to me at my dining room table at 4:30, and then woke up half an hour later to go catch a plane home. We talked about Perilous digitizing his back catalogue of short fiction, and promised to get back to him soon.

Mike was truly wonderful, in the most literal sense. He was always energized, inspired and engaged with the mystery, the secret magic that suffuses all of life, if we could only hear it. His was not a loud self-congratulatory voice, but almost a window through which that strange music just seemed to come rolling, with his self-effacing, gentle humor for a melody.

We will be working with Michael’s family to bring his out-of-print and classic fiction back to digital circulation and to help establish a forum where his work, his ideas and voice can continue to be shared.

His death can only teach us what every death teaches, that time is precious and short. If his death moves you, we would ask you to celebrate and share his life. Don’t just tell your Facebook friends he died. Tell them that Nifft The Lean and “The Autopsy” are very much alive.

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