Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pride Month: Interview with STEVE BERMAN

For my lil' ol' Pride Month, I knew that I wanted to have an interview with someone that was a prominent figure in the gay literary scene and that wrote the kind of fiction that I, as a gay man, love to read and try to help promote here on my humble blog.  And as my reading continued, the same name kept popping up, via either his own marvelous fiction or through helping others get their voices heard.  So without further ado, may I present Mr Steve Berman!

Tell us about yourself:   
Hmm, not sure what secrets to reveal. Actually, I'm a rather mundane, average fellow. Well, perhaps if you saw my apartment with its collection of plush monsters, Halloween artwork, and mad scientist lab-style decor you might not think that. But I rarely have guests. I wonder why?

Your contribution to GHOSTS IN GASLIGHT, MONSTERS IN STEAM was my favorite in the book; where did the idea for "Feeding Desire" come from?  It's definitely a darker, more graphic story...  
Actually, I had intended the story for the 2011 Bear-themed anthology Tales from the Den (ed. by R. Jackson). But I could not finish the tale by the deadline. This often happens to me. I am a slow writer. And I did not have a good grasp of the protagonist or what he would encounter at the sinister restaurant. Other than the Gourmands. I had come up with them as villains some years earlier and just needed the right story to feature cannibalism.

You are a great champion of Speculative and Young Adult fiction; have you always felt a connection to these genres?  
Oh, yes. My favorite books have always been the strange and spooky. And I often feel like a hapless adolescent trapped in an aging body. Both genres champion the Outsider. As does some of the best gay literature. I am about as interested in the stereotypical twink party boy as I am catching bubonic plague from a prairie dog. Now the quiet, buck-toothed 15 yr old that happens to be gay and believes that the abandoned wishing well in the park is the key to his finding a date for the prom? That starts my imagination. Especially when the silver dollar he throws in is pitched right back at him. By something...

You wear more than one hat, Steve; besides an acclaimed writer, you are also owner/publisher of Lethe Press, arguably one of the most prolific gay presses today AND you've been an award finalist many times!  How do you juggle all that?! 
Well, it's not easy. I think whenever a writer starts a press and takes on additional roles their creative energy is channeled away from fiction or poetry or whatever. I never intended (back in 2001) that Lethe would be the behemoth it is. I think we're the second or third largest LGBT press in the nation. I do not regret enabling authors to share their voices, though. And I have made many new and vital friends through my work with Lethe.

I've noticed that your're also having success with two new imprints, Tinture and BrazenHead.  First, congratulations and second, what made you feel the need to create two new imprints versus publishing these works under the Lethe banner?
 Tincture was needed to address the paucity of quality books written by and for LGBT people of color. The publishing world is still a very white-washed field and if I can help remedy that, then I am doing some good. BrazenHead was truly the brainchild of author and graphic designer Alex Jeffers. There are few markets for novellas, let alone gay spec fic novellas. He's pretty damn particular in accepting manuscripts, which explains why his release of Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone won us our third Lammy Award.

I've enjoyed many, many of your anthologies; as a matter of fact, a favorite of mine SO FEY: QUEER FAIRY FICTION was one of the first Lethe books I ever reviewed.  How can you tell when a story is going to be a perfect fit? 
I am flattered you enjoyed that anthology. All I can say is that every editor has a vision for their book's needs. I hope to fill an anthology with fiction that is not only entertaining but also evocative. I remember at least two stories from So Fey that I thought so beautiful, so moving, that I cried when I read the manuscripts. That has happened since, and it is a wonderful feeling.

And finally, what is coming up for Steve Berman?  What can we be looking forward to?  Will we be seeing more of your own fiction out there? 
Well, this is the year when I have a lot of anthologies releasing. From Lethe Press there is Best Gay Stories 2013 and Wilde Stories 2013 in June. July is Where They Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe (BC: Yes!). August is Heiresses of Russ 2013 with co-editor Tenea D. Johnson. And in October is Suffered from the Night: Queering Bram Stoker's Dracula (BC: YES!!). And I have edited horror anthologies for Prime Books:  Bad Seeds in July, Zombies: Shambling through the Ages in August, and Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War in September. Whew. I think in October the Strange Horizons website will feature a new gay YA tale from me. Other than all that...I'd like to sleep. Alas, I sleep alone.

Steve, thanks again for taking the time to chat with me!  I'm looking forward to plenty of hours of amazing reading this year, thanks to you!

You can find out more about Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam due out in July here and here.

For all things Lethe Press, Tincture, White Crane, Bear Bones Books, BrazenHead and Icarus here.

And help yourself to Steve Berman's writing here.

Happy reading!

Review: GHOSTS IN GASLIGHT, MONSTERS IN STEAM edited by Evan J Peterson and Vincent Kovar (Minor Arcana Press)

Another queer horror anthology, with the added bonus of steampunk?!  Count me in!

Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam is the new anthology in the Gay City Anthology series from Minor Arcana Press and the Gay City Health Project based in Seattle.  The series "produces vibrant, multi-disciplinary collections comprised of fiction, comics, poetry, photography and art" that raise awareness of the Gay City Health Project.  This volume, the first one I've had the opportunity to read, features a steampunk/queer monster theme and boasts fiction, poetry and some great illustrations.

The book is divided into two "acts"; "Victorian Venom" and "Modern Monsters", and for me, the stories progressed from good to great, making for a very strong second half.  The highlights for me:

Evan Peterson's introduction.  It really sets up his process behind editing the book and what to expect inside, and also had me recalling my younger self, growing up gay and being drawn to that otherness that all LGBT people feel at one point in their lives...

Medium Mechanique by Catherine Lundoff is a wonderful story that successfully blends the steampunk and horror theme of the book with the desperation of wanting to be with that lost love just one more time...

Anthony Rella's The Heart of the Labyrinth offers a mystery, a bathhouse and what secrets lie deep in its core.  Excellent storytelling here!

Monster Movie by Rebecca Brown is a moving remembrance of loving, and even sympathizing with, those classic movie monsters as young person, and knowing what it feels like to be different...

B.E.M.s by Gregory L. Norris is a fun, clever tale that is both light hearted and entertaining and pays homage to classic shows like Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone.

Splinter by Ryan Crawford is a weird tale that takes place in the woods...please do not hike in the forest at night.  You've been warned!

And lastly, Steve Berman brings the collection to a satisfying close with what I think is his most horrifying piece to date.  Boasting the most gruesome villains I've encountered in awhile, Feeding Desire is worth the price of admission alone, with its mix of suspense, burly men, and...meat.  LOVED IT!

Ghosts in Gaslight...is being released in July and you can find out more info here at Minor Arcana's website.

Happy reading!

(This counts towards the 2013 Horror Reading Challenge hosted by Midnyte Reader)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


We interrupt Pride Month to bring you, via Tor.com, the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!  Enjoy!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review: PACIFIC RIMMING by Tom Cardamone (Chelsea Station Editions)

Tom Cardamone's writing is addictive.

I was first introduced to his work last year when I had the pleasure of reviewing the Lambda Literary Award winning Green Thumb.  Since then I've sought out his other work and recently crossed paths with the filthy, gorgeous Pacific Rimming.

Pacific Rimming chronicles the sexual adventures of a nameless narrator who loses himself in drugs, the Manhattan gay club scene and his obsession with Asian men.  He forms no attachments, preferring to move from one night stand to one night stand, attending only the bars and clubs where he knows he can indulge his paticular fetish.

This novella is worlds away from the speculative cataclysm of Green Thumb.  Cardamone keeps this tale firmly rooted in 1990s New York City. And there is a grittiness and immediacy to his writing here that envelops the reader; you can feel the tingle of the drugs, smell the smoke and sex.

Pacific Rimming is yet another example of an artist who writes with a sure hand, comfortably at home in any genre he chooses to write in and navigating with ease the language that each tale needs to be told in.  I'm very thankful to Chelsea Station Editions for bringing this book back into print, since it is not to be missed.  If your looking for an unapologetic, graphic slice of the sexual underground and enjoy writing that will place you firmly in the story, then Pacific Rimming is the book for you and Tom Cardamone is the man that will bring it to you.

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC by Mark Allan Gunnells (Evil Jester Press)

I love me some Mark Allan Gunnells.

He is an author whose work I enjoy reading again and again; whenever I'm immersed in one of his novels or  numerous short stories, I am never disappointed.  His writing is always a feast for the imagination.  And Ghosts In The Attic is no exception.

Trying to list my favorites from the choice morsels here was made nigh impossible by Mr Gunnells, as the stories range from great to excellent, but I managed to whittle it down to the gems:

The collection opens with 911, a poignant ghost story with its origin straight out of 9/11.

Another stand out for me is The Delivery Boy, a great thriller about a seemingly crazy pizza delivery boy that ends with a bang!

Wasted On The Young starts out pretty straight forward then takes an unexpected turn that brings the story to a creepy end.

The crown jewel of the collection, The Ghost Of Winnie Davis Hall, is a lovely, haunting story about belief and myth.  In it, we meet a ghost who over the years has become lost, and now only wants to find her place in the world again.  Beautiful!

Circular is a graphic tale about grief and desperation that can lead to obsession.  Very creepy!

A Stranger Comes To Lipscomb Street and Finders Keepers are both love stories at their core, yet surreal and weird.

Ghosts In The Attic is another superb collection by an author who injects his writing with thoughtfulness and heart.  Even his "horror" stories are emotive, and those collected here are wistful and wicked.  Probably my only complaint is that the majority of these stories are very short and while that makes for quick reading, when I am reading Mark Allan Gunnells, I want to be lost in the writing for as long as possible.

Happy reading!

(This counts towards the 2013 Horror Reading Challenge hosted by Midnyte Reader)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


June is Pride Month and over at the SF Signal website, they've compiled a list of favorite LGBT authors, stories and novels, asking some authors to chime in with their own recommendations.  Here is that list; use it to help find books and authors for your own reading lists!

"Q: LGBT themes and characters have, thankfully, enjoyed an emergence in speculative fiction the past few years, and we’d love to know who some of your favorite LGBT authors, stories, and novels are, and why?"


Happy reading!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: HUSTLER RAVE XXX by David Caleb Acevedo and Charlie Vazquez (Tincture)

Admittedly, I do not read poetry often. However, when an author whose work I respect and enjoy releases a new collection of poems chronicling the joys and pains of the street hustler, I will sit up and take notice.

With Hustler Rave XXX: Poetry of the Eternal Survivor,  Charlie Vazquez and David Caleb Acevedo have put together a collection that makes for erotic, compulsive, and at times, poignant reading.  Each author puts a magnifying glass to what transpires between these hustlers and their "johns", illuminating what is more often than not a tragic, lonely and dangerous existence.  Acevedo, in his introduction, is very open about his own past as a hustler and pulls some very graphic imagery from his experiences and Vazquez's pieces also sear themselves into your brain; these poems combine to give voice to the countless young men that have found themselves on the streets.  They are cautionary tales.  They are memorials.

As is often the case with poetry, several readings may be needed to help interpret the meaning behind the words on the page, and Hustler Rave XXX is no different.  Each time I reread the poems, I learned a little more and my heart broke a little more for these poor souls out there on the streets.  I found myself hoping that somehow, these eternal survivors would know their stories were being told and that they were not forgotten.

I'll end this review with a thank you to the authors, for bringing to light such a controversial subject and handling it with both honesty and heart.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review: NIGHT SHADOWS: QUEER HORROR edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann (Bold Strokes Books)

Nowadays the horror and urban/paranormal fantasy genres seems replete with anthologies centered around one theme or another; shapeshifters, vampires, zombies-they all have had the starring role.  But it's harder to find a good, solid anthology that just has "horror"as its central idea, and harder still when the theme is "queer horror".

I haven't read such a book since 2002 when Michael Rowe's Queer Fear came out.  That book, along with its successor Queer Fear 2, was an ambitious and critically acclaimed collection that thrust "queer horror" into the spotlight and filled a vacancy in the horror genre that hadn't been occupied before.  Now Night Shadows: Queer Horror continues that fine tradition with a fresh, new collection of stories that encompass many facets of horror, not just the fanged and furred kind.

I am a big fan of anthologies but I am always prepared for each one I read to be a mixed bag;there are always some stand outs and some clunkers.  This time, however, I found that each story was a worthy entry and the collection as a whole made for happy reading.  Here are my favorites:

The Zealous Advocate by Carsen Taite; a well written, bloody revenge story...

Matinee by Vince A. Liaguno is another juicy revenge story and also an ode to the slasher horror films of the 80s...

Capturing Jove Lunge by Steve Berman was for me the most erotic entry in the book; a darker, pulpy tale  ..

All The Pretty Boys by Michael Rowe is another of the sexier entries here, a seductive werewolf story...

Filth by 'Nathan Burgoine is one of the creepiest stories I've read in a long time.  I literally felt my skin crawl as I read it...my favorite of the bunch!

Blackout by Jeffrey Ricker is an eerie ghost story, well told by the author who keeps the tension mounting throughout the entire piece.

As I said, each of the stories here are good, solid tales but these listed here are for me well worth the price of admission alone.  Night Shadows: Queer Horror does an excellent job of exploring and celebrating the gay horror genre and will appeal to fans of horror from every walk of life.

Happy reading!

(This counts toward the 2013 Horror Reading Challenge hosted by Midnyte Reader )