January is here and that means TBRcon21 is on its way. TBRcon21 is a free, streaming Speculative Fiction convention hosted by FanfiAddict with over 85 authors involved on 15 panels. It’s going to be streamed on YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.

As stated above the convention is free but you are encouraged to check out the following charities and consider a donation instead of buying a ticket.

Attending conventions in person has obviously been impossible this year and with no real end in sight, TBRcon21 is the perfect opportunity to participate without turning us all into a ship full of plague rats. Instead, sit back, enjoy, and participate at a distance.

TBRcon21 spans six days with two to four panels and events per day. I’ll be a part of the author panel titled World-Building and Your Place with fellow authors Angela Boord, Brian D. Anderson, Angus Watson, Dale Lucas, and Travis M. Riddle. It takes place on January 25th at 5:00pm EST/4:00 CST or for me and those of us in Euhrope, 11:00PM CET. I can’t wait to take part and hope you’ll join us.

For the full schedule click here and stay up to date by following FanfiAddict on Twitter or heading over the TBRcon21 page on their site.

I want to start publishing more short fiction on this blog. Not only as a way to foster a habit of production within myself but as a way of sharing more of my ideas with you, my readers.

In that spirit, I’ve placed a new short story in the Writing Samples section of this site. It’s about the dark side of the web. The side that can turn you into someone you never wanted to become. Someone you enjoy being. Someone you crave. Some thing. Enjoy.

The Troll

I am a weirdo. I always have been. Some of it is on the surface but most is down deep. That’s how it is for everyone because everyone is weird in their own way. In lots of ways really. A key to happiness in my life has been to seek out weird things that are my kind of weird. The Voynich Manuscript is definitely my kind of weird. Porcelain dolls with their creepy little murderer eyes are definitely not. Finding our kind of weird is an important part of growing up I think.

I love weird fiction. I don’t just mean the genre. I love any fiction with elements that push the boundaries of what is normal or even possible. Star Trek TNG was a fine show but when the Borg showed up in those cyborg BDSM outfits, things got weird in the best of ways. Some of the most deep and insightful episodes revolved around them. The X-Files, Unsolved Mysteries, hell, Nova, and National Geographic specials were the main staples of my childhood evenings. All focused on topics that were interesting, little known, and above all bizarre.

So what is it about the bizarre? I’ve talked a bit about escapism before (here) and for me, the dark, creepy corners are where I choose to escape. Why? Because my life is neither dark nor creepy. It can’t be an escape if you don’t go someplace different. People who only ready happy, uplifting fiction make me wonder…

Anyway, on to THE CIPHER. This book is an oldy(sort of) but a very very goody.  Published in 1991, it is the first novel of author Kathe Koja. I just finished the book and I have to say, I have no idea what to think. I love when that happens.

The narration style is wild and chaotic yet suffused with an art that is both gritty and elegant. The loser Gen-X characters are hateful, awful people.  If they were real you would despise them yet she forces you to care about them and you do and you’re glad to. The brand of horror is  at times, in your face gore then, at once, existential and ethereal. As is the case for the characters within, this book makes its readers work to make sense of it all. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever did and that is where my recommendation of this book becomes pointed.

Do you like questions? If yes, continue, if no, you’ll hate this book. If a question is left unanswered, will you lose your mind? If no, continue, if yes, you’ll hate his book. If questions are the point, rather than answers, are you okay with that? If yes, read the book. If not… you get the idea.

I love questions. I love questions for the way they explode with more questions like some mushroom sending its legion-like offspring off to populate the world. I love weird things because they force questions. Why? Who? How? Even, huh? Questions take us places and THE CIPHER raises enough to send the reader on a wild ride.