Thursday, April 18, 2024

R.I.P. Bridget Colleen Langley-Broadwell, a.k.a. Suntigres

It is with the greatest sadness I bid farewell to my longtime friend and geocaching partner, Bridget Langley-Broadwell, known in caching circles as Suntigres. She and I met at a geocaching event back in 2011, and before long, we were caching together, oftentimes with numerous other geocachers in a regular group. Bridget and my wife, Kimberly, got to be good friends as well, so we frequently got together for dinners and even non-geocaching outings (heavens, I know). Bridget met her husband-to-be, Gerry Broadwell, in late 2016, I believe it was, and he became part of our regular geocaching crowd. In March 2019, when they got married at Gerry's place in Kernersville, NC, they invited me to officiate their "almost" official wedding, which was a true honor for me.

Almost from the day I met her, Bridget suffered issues with her lungs, which grew progressively worse over time, until she reached the point that geocaching or other rigorous physical exercise became impossible. She had been hoping and waiting for a lung transplant for a long spell before an appropriate donor became available. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late.

Bridget passed away on April 6, 2024, after an unsuccessful attempt at lung transplant surgery.

It's doubly hard to say goodbye since the geocaching community also lost good friend Rob "Robgso" Isenhour only a few months ago to lung cancer. Today, I send Gerry all my condolences during such a difficult time, and I pray all his memories of Bridget are the happiest of his life. R.I.P. Suntigres.

Memories of Bridget from other friends and family may be found at Dignity Memorial, here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Distant Early Warning Alert: Booksigning at Imagination Lavender Farm

Coming up on Saturday, April 27, 2024 — a booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm in Martinsville, VA,1–3 p.m. Besides me, there will be a slew of local writers, so if you're in reasonable traveling distance, you otter come around, say hello, and buy my books (not to mention any others that strike your fancy). As far as I know, I'll be the only author of scary things, and you KNOW you need scary things. Of course, if you don't like scary things (what's wrong with you?), there will be all kinds of traditional, uplifting, non-scary things as well.

Hope you'll stop by. Directions below. More info here.

Monday, April 15, 2024

My STC AuthorCon III Wrap-Up

Old Dude and Ms. B. at the Gross-Out Contest. No, we were not the stars.
Brugger and I just returned from a fantastic weekend at Scares That Care AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, VA, and I probably won't finish this blog tonight because I'm about to drop. Scares That Care is a charity organization put together by a group of horror professionals to help individuals in specific dire circumstances, and AuthorCon has become the biggest gathering of horror writers and artists in the country, if not the world. Largely via the conventions, the organization has raised an impressive amount of money over thirty-plus years, which goes directly to the selected recipients.

Ms. B. and I attended AuthorCon II last year and for me, sales-wise, it was one of the most successful cons ever. This year didn't quite match last year's total, but it was still a resounding success. I didn't have my own dealer table (tables had sold out within four minutes of being offered, and by the time I became aware that availability had been announced, they were all gone). However, being a regular Crossroad Press author, CEO David Niall Wilson offered me space at one of their three tables in the hotel's promenade area. My sincere thanks to the whole Crossroad Press gang — David W., David Dodd, and Trish Wilson (Patricia Lee Macomber)!
The Crossroad Press Gang: David Dodd, Patricia Lee Macomber (Trish Wilson), David Niall Wilson
Friday, April 12
We hit the road bright and early so we might arrive at Indian Fields Tavern in Charles City, about 25 miles this side of Williamsburg, in time for lunch. I've been there on a couple of prior occasions, and I cannot rave enough about their Charles City Burger. Yes, we got there in time for lunch, and I had one of them there burgers. So did Ms. B. I stopped for a couple of geocaches on the trip, but there aren't many near the major roads that I haven't already claimed.
Since it was considerably less expensive than the DoubleTree by Hilton, where the con takes place, we stayed at the nearby Merrimac Inn & Suites, which is an old-style motor court, hardly luxurious but comfortable enough. Our only complaints were a lack of good hot water and pressure in the shower and few electrical outlets. Fortunately, we had a tower with AC and USB outlets. Once checked in there, we booked it down to the con and set to work setting up one end of the Crossroad Press tables. Writer/Editor Katherine "Creepy Cat" Kerestman manned a table directly across from us and had plenty of copies of the anthology, The Weird Cat, which she and S.T. Joshi edited last year (this one contains my story, "Nimbus"). She's also a fellow Dark Shadows and Twin Peaks fan, so we have a lot of common interests, and it was cool to finally meet her in person. Along with Kat, I also met online friend and fellow Dark Shadows devotee, Ms. Amanda Trujillo, for the first time in person.
The notorious Mark Sieber

Also nearby lurked long-time friend and Horror Drive-In rock star, Mr. Mark Sieber, so we immediately launched into a lengthy gab session. I had just returned to the Crossroad Press table when my phone dinged, and I received notification that my interview on Cemetery Dance Online, conducted by writer Rick Hipson, had gone live. And who should be standing nearby but Mr. Rick himself, so again, it was great to meet yet another online friend in the flesh. (See Friday's blog announcement about the interview here.)
At 1600, the opening ceremony drew an already huge crowd to the main auditorium. It was a rousing kick-off, athough the temperature in there was oppressive enough to wilt the hardiest of the Fremen on the planet Arrakis. Lord have mercy. Fortunately, after the first night, the temperature in most areas of the hotel held steady at reasonably comfortable temperatures. At 1700, the main ballroom & promenade areas opened for business. Happily, business for me turned out fairly brisk. We found that old friend and purveyor of "Southern-Fried Horror," Mr. Ronald Kelly and his wife Joyce had set up across the way from us; I had originally suggested to him that we start a food fight, but with the high temps in the hotel, we decided it might be better to fling ice at each other. Ms. B. and broke around 2030 hours for what we hoped would be a quick dinner at the nearby hotel bar. But no; they ended up losing our order for two salads, and we ended up waiting an hour (at least they comped our drinks). We got back to our table with only a few minutes left before closing time.

Afterward, we retired to Dave & Trish's room and drank bourbon — well, some of us did, while others (Ms. B.) settled for boxed wine. It might have been a shade too much bourbon and wine, but I won't swear to it.
Katherine "Creepy Cat" Kerestman
Southern-Fried Horror! Joyce and Ronald Kelly
Saturday, April 13
Sirrah Madeiros and Joe Maddrey

Up bright and early, we stopped at a nearby Seven-Eleven to grab coffee and danishes for breakfast. At the con, business took off at a fair pace, and I moved a fair number of books. First thing, I ran into good friend Joe Maddrey, who had paid us a visit in Martinsville a few months back. He was talking to Kat across the way and trying to avoid me by keeping his back turned to me, but sadly for him, I recognized the back of his head. No escape for the wicked! About half the contributors to Deathrealm: Spirits were there at the con, so a good many lucky buyers were able to acquire some prized autographs in their copies. Onsite, we had contributors Maurice Broaddus, Heather Daughrity, Brian Keene, Ronald Kelly, Eric LaRocca, Patricia Lee Macomber, Bridgett Nelson, and David Niall Wilson. Also on hand were many of the Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter; during the afternoon, we all got together for a group photo. Also from the chapter, I discovered Sirrah Medeiros, Mike Rook, Charles Wood, Sidney Williams, and Valerie B. Williams running amok in the hotel, so I dutifully terrorized them. Plaguing old friends Jeff Strand, Tom Deady, Mike DeadyRichard Dansky, John Langan, and others with my existence proved particularly exhilarating.
Scary Sidney Williams. Okay, maybe not that scary here.

At 1230, I had a reading with longtime compadre P.D. "Trish" Cacek, and attendance turned out to be pretty good, considering it was right in the middle of most people's lunchtimes. I had suggested that folks bring their lunch, though I worried a little that they might hurl food my way (not such a bad prospect if it were delicious, I guess), but no one flung anything. Afterward, a nice little discussion ensued, so this was one of the con's highlights for me.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit slower. The crowd had thinned after lunchtime, and there never was a very large resurgence, at least until the evening's festivities began. I did get to spend some time on the social front with Heather Daughrity and her husband, Joshua Loyd Fox, which was a treat. I recently read Heather's Echoes of the Dead fiction collection and gave it a blurb. Enjoyed a few nice spells yakking with Paul Tremblay, Eric LaRocca, Brian Keene, and others. For the evening, Ms. B. and I joined a large party headed up by the Crossroad Gang for dinner at the nearby The Whaling Company restaurant. Very good it was, with spicy cajun scallops for both Brugger and me. Present in the gang were old friends, artist Keith Minnion and writer Dave Simms, as well as newer acquaintances Justin Holley, Dan Henk, and Garrett Boatman, so we yakked on and on. This led us until fairly late in the evening, just in time to attend the customary Saturday night Gross-Out Contest. Such an event had never been high on my priority list, but I will say that we enjoyed it enough. Laughed a lot, and I guess it was pretty gross, if you have a penchant for that sort of thing.

We managed to drink considerably less than last night, which was a good thing, since that might have been way too much.
Mr. Dansky (and his good buddy, Sasquatch!) and Mr. Deathrealm
Jeff "I Am a Gross-Out Contest Judge and You're Not!" Strand & Bridgett "I Am Too!" Nelson
Oh, Lordy, the horror! Artist Keith Minnion and author David Simms
The Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter, looking as pleasant as you'll ever see them
Sunday, April 14
Mr. Deathrealm, Heather Daughrity, Joshua Loyd Fox

After a brief stop at Starbucks for coffee and a light breakfast, we returned to the con for a couple of hours, did a little business, and then broke down a few minutes before noon, as we didn't want to be too late returning to our houseful of starving cats (who only had our cat sitter to look after and overfeed them under duress while we were gone). This time, we aimed ourselves at Cul's Courthouse Grill in Charles City, which we had discovered many years ago. They too are known for fantastic burgers, but I try not to have too much dead cow in one weekend, so I opted for their chicken tenders. Also very good. Only one cache stop on the way back to Martinsville.

I always enjoy AuthorCon, and we plan to attend next year's in Williamsburg, for sure — hopefully with a dealer table of my own. There's going to be new AuthorCon in St. Louis later this year, but that one is not in the cards for me, alas. Although sales were bit slower for me this year than last, I consider the weekend an absolute success. The events, the networking, and all-around fun times make this a con to treasure — not to mention the great good it does as a charity function. Such fantastic, selfless jobs by all the con organizers and volunteers, with special shout outs to Brian Keene, Joe Ripple, Angel Hollman-Gaston, Jake Lerner, Brian Smith, and everyone else who give this thing life and purpose — not to mention the wonderful folks who shelled out money for my books, only to have them devalued with my autograph. Such brave souls!
So... till next year, AuthorCon folks!

Friday, April 12, 2024

New Interview Live at Cemetery Dance Online

A few months back, writer Rick Hipson put together a nice Q & A interview with me for Cemetery Dance Online, and the interview posted today. It felt rather serendipitous, as I discovered the fact just as I arrived at Scares That Care AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, and Rick himself — whom I'd never met in person — just happened to be standing nearby. So I introduced myself, and he ran screaming from the hotel, and I do hope he's all right. Anyway, Rick did a great job with the interview, and I appreciate his effort. If anyone finds him, please make sure he gets back home.

Anyway, do check out the interview. I expect — or hope, at least — that you'll survive the experience.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

A Graveside Chat with J.B. Lee

Artist J.B. Lee is a prolific painter/illustrator with an impressive portfolio of scary images, influenced by horror authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Joseph Payne Brennan, and others, as well as such classic horror/science fiction TV series as The Outer Limits, Thriller, One Step Beyond, and others. J.B. kindly agreed to talk about his work and provide a number of his creations to be posted here.

AGC: You are clearly a devotee of some of the most seminal television science fiction/horror shows of the 1950s and 1960s — specifically, The Outer Limits, Thriller, and One Step Beyond. Much of your art is done "in the style of" these shows. Could you relate some of your earliest memories of these classics — and elaborate on how they influenced your art and its themes?

JBL: I saw all three of those shows in their original run, maybe not every episode, but enough to make an impression on a kid somewhere between 3 and 9 years old. The first One Step Beyond — or “Alcoa Presents,” as we called it — that I remember was "Emergency Only," and that aired in 1959, three days before I turned three. Maybe I caught it in reruns, I couldn’t say, but I do recall it. But I could read at two and a half, or at least that was when they realized I was reading. L’il Abner gave me away! Remember L’il Abner, the newspaper comic strip? My parents thought I was just making up things the characters were saying until they actually checked one day. That must have been a shock! August Derleth would have italicized that sentence: “The boy was actually reading what it said in those word balloons!”

So, I was quite precocious, and if I didn’t understand everything that was going on, I sure caught enough of it. And I was a kid, so I took everything that was said at face value. When scary John Newland said this was a true story, hey, it was a true story! He’s an adult, so he wouldn’t lie about it! So, yes, that woman foresaw the future, and yes, the ghost really haunted the U-Boat, and you bet that guy’s wife kept hearing an airplane crashing through their house. That was the one that scared me the most — it’s titled "Tonight at 12:17" — not least because we lived near a small airport and planes were always buzzing around. Another gem was "The Captain's Guests," written by Twilight Zone scribe Charles Beaumont, based around an idea he’d resurrect a few years later for the Lovecraft adaptation The Haunted Palace.  That certainly left an impression!

The first Thriller I remember seeing was "The Purple Room," and that’s considered the first “horror” episode, even though it Scooby-Doos us with a fake monster in the end. But there would soon come things that weren’t fake, oh, you bet! Harry Townes’ good look at himself through the cursed eyeglasses of "The Cheaters"… Macdonald Carey striking a deal with John Emery’s terrifying devil in "The Devil's Ticket"… Hans the mannequin coming to life in "The Weird Tailor"… William Shatner, not yet Captain Kirk, vainly fleeing the scythe of "The Grim Reaper." And Boris Karloff as host. He was very different from One Step Beyond’s John Newland; he was rarely sinister, he just invited us to join him and see sinister things. More often than not he was seemingly as scared of what was coming as we soon would be!
From H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu"

The scariest episode of that show, at least to a 5 year old, was "The Return of Andrew Bentley." The undead Bentley skulking around the house was bad enough, but he had a demon familiar with him, clawed, cloaked, with an eyeless maw for a face! When the first pictures from 1979’s Alien began to appear in magazines – just a close-up of the business end of the head – I looked at this eyeless monster and his mouth full of teeth and immediately flashed on Andrew Bentley’s Familiar. And John Newland is in that one as a hero – I didn’t recognize him as the One Step Beyond Man, but I have no doubt that at least subconsciously that made the episode even scarier.

And then came The Outer Limits, and by that time I was old enough to recall every episode. Not perfectly — for many years I thought "The Guests" was titled "Parasite Mansion," and when a Starlog Magazine episode guide revealed it as "The Guests," I found myself baffled, because I knew something scary had been titled "Parasite Mansion," but couldn’t recall what. (It’s a Thriller episode.) I was there from the start, Monday night 9/16/63, watching Cliff Robertson pick up a transmission from the Andromeda Galaxy, and ultimately picking up a radioactive alien from said galaxy in the bargain! I have no doubt that Joseph Stefano’s purple prose for that show helped prime the pump for me to be completely receptive to H.P. Lovecraft’s strange stories about 6 years later. Consider this alien’s line from "The Invisibles": “We were conceived in the nothingness of space, sired by a satyr of cosmic energy, formed by the coming together of sick, nameless nuclei that waited a billion billion years for that precise, ungodly moment.” HPL would sign his name to that! And while The Outer Limits was supposedly science fiction, it was actually the most Lovecraftian of the three shows that powerfully influenced this Monster Kid way back then. For many years certain TOL episodes were the most HPL-ish films we had. Watch "A Feasibility Study," "Don't Open Till Doomsday," "The Guests," "Wolf 359," "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork," everything about those shows is Lovecraftian — the direction, cinematography, monster design, Weird Science. They nailed the atmosphere perfectly.

And it was the atmosphere that I took away for my own work. The bizarre camera angles, the chiaroscuro. Since embracing this monochromatic approach to my monsters, I absolutely believe there is something about black and white that makes things more terrifying — working on your subconscious fear that the light is failing, and you’re about to be left in the dark. “Red is grey and yellow, white,” intoned the Moody Blues all those ages ago, speaking of nightfall. And I say “my monsters,” but they’re someone else’s monsters. I’m like Lovecraft’s weird artist Richard Upton Pickman — he was a skilled craftsman with no imagination at all. Thurber goes on in the story about how the best weird artists have a model conjured up by their imagination, but the irony is that Pickman doesn’t have that. He has his skill and a camera, and he knows where the weird things are. I do the same thing with other people’s imaginations. Someone writes “…a darkness fell out of the clouds like a black meteorite, a darkness grotesquely shaped like a man with carmine eyes like stars for eyes in its bloated blot of a head,” and I show that to you with my craft. Points if you know who wrote that — it’s from the best story about that monster that’s out there, and it wasn’t written by the creator of said critter. In fact, its creator never saw that story! Another tale that someone needs to be putting on film, instead of putzing around with the unfilmable At the Mountains of Madness! Oops, did I say that out loud?

AGC: The works of H.P. Lovecraft and other writers from that "weird tales" era feature prominently in your compositions. Do you feel that those literary works and the visual/narrative styles of the shows mentioned above naturally complement each other? Given the constraints of budget, technology, etc. from the 1950s and 1960s, those black and white television shows oftentimes presented remarkably effective "bears," as they called the monsters in those days. What "bear" out of dark lit would you most liked to have seen back then if you'd had your druthers, so to speak?
From August Derleth's "The Shuttered Room"

One Step Beyond was hampered by its format. It could only do things that might be accepted as “true” by the audience. So dreams, visions, premonitions were its stock in trade, occasionally a ghost. They definitely did Harvey’s "August Heat" as “The Stone Cutter”, though. Didn’t credit Harvey, either, but give that one a look and decide for yourself. I think Charles Beaumont forgot he was writing for OSB, not Twilight Zone, when he did "The Captain's Guests," because there’s a transformation there that might be a little hard to swallow as a real event. Not that I had any problem accepting it, not back then! But Thriller and The Outer Limits had no such constraints. The Outer Limits always tried to explore the human condition with its stories — Joseph Stefano famously said he was allowed to show a genocidal massacre as long as aliens were the ones getting massacred — but Thriller, at least under the hand of producer William Frye, existed for one reason: to scare the viewer. To the devil with morality plays!

That said, I would have given much to have seen The Outer Limits take on Lovecraft’s "The Colour Out of Space." That oft-filmed story begs for the sort of grotesque noir approach TOL became famous for… and their Acme Optical Printer would have been putting in overtime on that show, when the Colour began to spread through the farmhouse and over the farm! But Lovecraft doesn’t have the sort of character depth and interaction The Outer Limits demanded, and Thriller just barely touched on science fiction, so "Colour" didn’t happen. A second-season TOL episode titled "Cry of Silence" proves to be a much more benign take on the same sort of story, and as close as TOL ever came to such a thing. The German filmmaker Huan Vu gave us something pretty close to what I imagine TOL would have presented in his 2010 version of the story, Die Farbe (The Colour). I consider it the best HPL film we have at present.

And Thriller — how I wish we’d had a good Joseph Payne Brennan adaptation from that show! They did two of his stories as "The Lethal Ladies," and they’re good, but neither of them were the sort of weird horror he did so well. I absolutely believe that show could have pulled off his classic "Slime," even in 1960 — no TV show had shadows blacker than Thriller could muster, and they could have used that cinematography to make us think we saw more of Brennan’s shapeless black monster than any costume could present. Failing that, though, I’m sure Thriller’s take on "Canavan's Back Yard" or "The Horror at Chilton Castle" would have been unforgettable, and much easier for the show to accomplish. Worlds of If!

AGC: You are a minister at a Christian church, if I'm not mistaken. Have any of the tenets of your faith played into your appreciation of cosmic horror — or vice-versa?
From H.P. Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark"

JBL: I am the pastor at Hughes Creek church of God, up the hollow where I live. I tell people I pastor "up Hughes Creek" and people say “Oh, you’re the pastor of that great big church with the electronic sign,” only to have me reply “No, I’m the pastor of the little tiny church with no sign, where the paved road ends and the dirt road begins.” Our tenets are somewhat different from much of Christendom — at least American Christendom, I don’t know what people are teaching in the churches of Denmark or Vietnam! We believe there’s one church; the Biblical name for it is "Church of God," but every follower of Christ is in it, regardless of what it says over the door. Hence one of our mottos is “We reach our hand in fellowship to every blood-washed one.” We keep no roll and sign no membership books for the same reason — your membership in the church is between you and God. We don’t believe in a literal millennial reign on the future earth, but a spiritual kingdom of the heart in the here-and-now, where the law of Christ is to be followed: Love God, love people (Matt. 22:37-39). The church and the kingdom are the same thing. We believe the book of Revelation to be almost all symbolic, and that most of it has already occurred. So we don’t expect a literal Great Tribulation, or a literal capital-A Antichrist — a term that doesn’t appear in Revelation, by the way. We don’t believe 666 is the number of the devil, the mark of the beast, and we don’t believe it’s going on your head or your hand in some nightmare future dystopia, and we don’t buy a piece of gum to prevent getting $6.66 in change back at the grocery. So we differ from much of Christianity in our doctrine. If someone reading this does believe in those things and wonders what kind of heretic I am, then I’ll say to them what I’ve said to many others: “You pray for me and I’ll pray for you, and we’ll come into an understanding of the truth together.”

I said all that to say this: traditional Christian-based demonology horror, which revolves around exorcisms and demons and antichrists, never did much for me before I was Christian, and does even less given my beliefs now. I did like the first two Omen movies, 666 or no, and Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for those films are great. And The Car, in which the devil becomes an automobile, is definitely a “guilty pleasure,” as they say. Had a great time with that film at the Kearse Theater in 1977. Alas, the Kearse is gone now, like so much of the Charleston of my youth.

But my favorite horror movie, without question, is Tourneur’s Night of the Demon, and that demon certainly wouldn’t listen to Fathers Merrin and Karras or trouble Regan MacNeil, unless she went to school with Karswell’s kid and he pranked her with the dreaded runes. That fiend isn’t a Biblical demon. Much closer to one of Lovecraft’s menagerie. There’s this bit in the film where one of the investigators shows us all these pictures of demons from different mythologies, reciting their names, and yikes! They all look the same! That was a constant in August Derleth’s Cthulhu stories — someone relating all the mythological fiends that resembled Cthulhu or Ithaqua or whoever the monster of the month was, so we’d believe there was Something To It and all these peoples had seen the same horror. Anyway, the monsters that really scared me, from childhood on, weren’t Biblically based at all. The Zanti Misfits. the Killer Shrews. the Monolith Monsters. the H-Man. So even before my experience with Christ, weird horror, cosmic horror, meant much more to me than traditional demonic stuff. The three greatest horror stories ever written are "The Colour Out of Space," "The Willows," and "The White People." You won’t find much traditional Christian-based horror in any of those.

AGC: Although not at all similar in style, I feel your body of work is in some ways comparable to that of Lee Brown Coye, who rendered many, many of my favorite illustrations of Lovecraftian horrors and related imagery. Are there any artists, either in the horror field or out of it, whom you might claim as influences for your work.
From John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids

JBL: I like Coye’s work, but just not as illustrations! His Wilbur Whateley, for instance, on the dust jacket of The Dunwich Horror and Others — that’s a remarkably creepy guy, but it doesn’t look like Lovecraft’s Whateley boy at all! I grew up watching all the Hanna-Barbera superhero shows on Saturday morning, so of course Alex Toth influenced my stuff. Likewise the comic book artists of the time — Dr. Strange’s Steve Ditko, Fantastic Four’s Jack Kirby, Magnus Robot Fighter’s Russ Manning. My parents were suspicious of comic books, no doubt because of the Horror Comic Panic of the early Fifties, which they’d probably heard about in the magazines and newspapers. That was all over by the time I came along, but my folks didn’t want me reading those “bad books.” So of course they had the magnetism of the forbidden, and when I was 6 I cried and begged and pleaded to get one. The one I wanted — and got — was DC Showcase #39, starring the robotic heroes The Metal Men, and introducing their most tenacious enemy, a walking vat of toxic waste called Chemo. This thing was drawn by the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, and it scared me senseless. I was afraid to touch any part of the comic where Chemo resided. I’d read so far and then go bury it at the bottom of the toy box, only to eventually come back and go on reading. I had occasional nightmares about Chemo until I was in my mid 20s. I’d be dreaming about some girl I had a crush on in jr.high school, and suddenly Chemo would barge in and Ruin Everything. There’s one for you, Dr Freud! Sometimes a monster is just a monster! It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the old boy would pop up again some night, all these years later. So I’d say Andru and Esposito — and Metal Men scribe and creator Robert Kanigher -- definitely influenced not only my art, but my BENT as well!

There were others, surely. I remember the epiphany I had the first time I ever saw an Edward Hopper – that would have been "Gas," when I was in 10th grade. My goodness, that struck me powerfully. I wrote an essay about it so overloaded with Lovecraftian adjectives my art teacher could only say “I guess you liked it—?” And still others. Piet Mondrian. Was he a synaesthete? I sure think he was. Marc Chagall. Paul Klee. Roberto Matta, exposing the terrifying colliding angles of other dimensions! Frank Belknap Long referred to two Matta works I have never been able to track down, with weird Cthulhuoid names: "Icrogy Fecundated" and "Rghuin Monstrous Triumphs." Somewhere out there those things are waiting to blast me, I’m sure. “Sometimes it’s better not to know…” but I’m determined to know, sooner or later. Brancusi and Calder, bringing the abstraction of dream into the real world with their sculptures and mobiles, not that I’ve ever been very good at that sort of thing. But they sure were! I sometimes refer to the wonderfully designed alien robot in the movie Kronos as the “Brancusi bot.” And that reminds me of William Neal’s biomechanical creatures that were all over the sleeve of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus album, itself an opener of the way as well. Dali of the molten watches, of course. And the EC Comics artists, better late than never. My favorite of that lot was Jack Davis; really liked Bernard Krigstein and Wally Wood, too.

There have been all kinds. I could go on, but I won’t. I’m happy to have lived in a time when so many great works of art are so easy to find. All but Matta’s Icrogy and Rghuin, those mysterious devils! Someday... SOMEDAY...

AGC: You typically post a "NOT AI" disclaimer with your work, which I personally applaud. I think it's safe to say that you have anything but a positive opinion of AI-generated art. Do you foresee AI having longterm negative ramifications for the creative field? What about in the broader world — in business, science, news, etc.?
From Walter C. DeBill's "Where Yidhra Walks"

JBL: I’m sure you know about the recent "Willie Wonka" Experience — they couldn’t use the name Wonka in the thing, so they called him Willy McDuff — in Glasgow across the pond, where all the ads and the script were generated by AI, and that was the beginning of sorrows. Quite a few people believe Disney wrote the script to their film Wish with AI, and if you watch that film you’ll understand why they think that. AI is nothing but a plagiarism engine, shaving real people’s art and writing so it can present its user with an aggregate of the stubble. A musician named Per Thomhav, who releases excellent Tangerine Dreamish electronic music under the name Synth Replicants, bought one of my pieces for the cover of his album Zentropol — which you can buy on Bandcamp, let me add! I was looking at that cover one day and glumly thought to myself “AI could turn out something like that pretty easily.” Especially if my Zentropol cover was used to train it first! That’s the world we live in. Before I learned that the more you play with an AI, the better it gets at its crimes, I fiddled around with ChatGPT a little. I asked it for an outline for a sermon once, giving it the pericope to use, and it spat out a reasonably teachable Bible study with absolutely no practical application to real life. Next, I asked it to write an outline for a horror story about a man possessed by the cold. I don’t know who fed it Ramsey Campbell’s Midnight Sun, but it had definitely been trained on that novel! But I no longer play with it at all. I know a man involved in the mechanics of film-making who considers it the greatest tool he’s ever encountered, but I don’t know how he’s using it. His talents are beyond my understanding. Let’s hope it has some use beyond plagiarism. We are certainly going to find out if it does, because you can’t put the explosion back in the bomb.

But there will always be artists and writers who do it because they want to, no matter what AI does or doesn’t do. Keep creating! Keep expressing yourself! Everyone is an artist until life talks them out of it. Don’t let that happen. Work to show the world the worth of human inspiration. As Phillips Brooks said a long time ago, “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come in you by the grace of God.” That seems like good advice to me.

AGC: Thanks very much, J.B.!
Another rendering from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark"
From Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's "The Twonky"
L: From John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?
R: From H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth's The Lurker at the Threshold

See More of J.B. Lee's Cosmic Horrors at
Deviant Art and Art Station

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

THIS WEEKEND: Scares That Care — AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, VA

This weekend — Friday, April 12 – Sunday, April 14 — Brugger and I will be at Scares That Care Presents AuthorCon III - Williamsburg, set up at the Crossroad Press table in the Promenade area. I'll have many books available, including Deathrealm: Spirits. Lots of the contributors will be present, including Heather Daughrity, Brian Keene, Ronald Kelly, Eric LaRocca, Patricia Macomber, Bridgett Nelson, and David Niall Wilson.

SATURDAY at 12:30 PM — I'll be doing a reading, along with author P.D. Cacek. If that's your lunchtime, bring it along. Just don't fling food at us (unless it's something delicious and you're keen on sharing).

Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting as many new folks as possible!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Cache In, Trash Out, Cooking Out, Chaos In

Geocaching is not solely about hunting hidden containers and scribbling your moniker on a log sheet. Geocaching is intended to be an environmentally friendly activity, so, in keeping with that concept, geocachers periodically get together at what's known as CITO ("Cache In, Trash Out") events, where the focus is on cleaning up litter.

This morning, friends Tom & Linda (a.k.a. Skyhawk63 & Punkins19) hosted a CITO event near their place in Browns Summit, NC, along a stretch of rural road that they adopted in honor of Tom's parents. Brugger and I got up early and headed down to the event ("Bud & Ann Memorial CITO 2024") where a fair number of cachers were just gathering. For the next hour and a half, we scoured a mile-long stretch of the roadway, which passes through a lovely section of forest along the Haw River. By the time we were done, one would have been hard-pressed to find a speck of trash along there with a magnifying glass.

To cap off the morning's work, Tom & Linda then hosted a lovely post-CITO cookout event ("Bud & Ann Memorial Post-CITO Cookout Event) at their place, with grilled burgers & chicken, killer tater salad, pasta salad, homemade brownies, cookies, and other such goodies. An awesome good time with great company. I do so appreciate the geocaching communities of the NC Triad and Triangle, for which there is considerable overlap. Alas, there's scarcely a remnant of the once-vibrant caching community in our area of Virginia, but at least we don't reside very far from our longtime friends and fellow cachers.

After the event, Ms. B. and I thought we might see about a glass of wine at the not-so-distant Grove Winery, but once we arrived, we discovered they were having a pretty massive event, so that plan didn't pan out. Instead, we trucked on over to one of Skyhawk63's newest caches near Reidsville, NC, which offered a bit of a challenge ("Arboreal Chaos," as it's rightly titled). Happily, I actually managed to make a quick find once at ground zero. If I hadn't been lucky enough to spy it from the angle I did, we might have been out there for some time.

Once back home, I went for one of my long walks around the neighborhood. It was necessary because that cookout food was really, really good.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Jamison Mill Firsts, Farts, and Friends

Team Old Farts and Friends: Old Rodan, Less Old McTwin, Old Skyhawk, REALLY Old McTwin
How nice it was on Saturday evening to hear my phone gonging over and over to notify me of a passel of new geocaches being published somewhere near me. How much nicer to discover they were at Jamison Mill Park, not far up the country roads along Philpott Lake, which I consider one of my favorite settings on Earth. So, yesterday morning, I got up with the sun and headed out to see if I might manage at least a few first-to-finds before lunchtime, since I had an Easter dinner engagement with old family friends. I hadn't hiked at Jamison Mill before, and what I discovered on my arrival was an extensive, beautifully maintained park and trail system — now populated by 19 new geocaches.

I knew I couldn't conquer the lot in swell foop, so I figured I'd hike and hunt until I had to head home in time to clean up for Easter lunch. I logged my first find at 0830 and my last at 1200 on the nose — a total of eleven first-to-finds and a hike of just about four miles. Not sidewalk miles... rugged, rocky, very steep miles, so suffice it to say that I worked up a pretty good tired and came home with slightly sore feets (the cushioning in my hiking boot soles is worn out in the extreme, so I think it's time to replace them). I managed to get home in plenty of time to make myself presentable and enjoy a wonderful Easter lunch with longtime friends/second family, the Wickliffes. Ms. B. had also intended to go, but she caught the crud I'd suffered last week and so stayed home to avoid infecting anyone else. She's nice that way. Sometimes.

Then, last night, friend Tom (a.k.a. Skyhawk63) hollered at me and said he and friends/fellow cachers, Daniel and Dustin (a.k.a. 2McTwins) planned to go after those caches I had not to see if they might pick up some first-to-finds this morning, and would I care to go along? I cared to. So, again, up early and off to Jamison Mill with the team, which we dubbed "Old Farts and Friends." I'm not sure who came up with that; I think it was one of the McTwins. Anyway, how very apt.

Today, since all the caches I hadn't picked up yesterday resided farther out in the park, we had a long hike ahead of us. To our surprise, we'd just begun our first hunt of the day when friend & fellow cacher Todd (a.k.a. Tbbiker) wandered over the hill. He'd started even earlier than us and was just about finished for the morning. He too had left a few first-to-finds unfound, so we managed to snag those before finishing our outing. We had one disappointment, which was failing to find one of the caches — which, of all things, Todd had found; we suspect that, in our zeal, we ended up displacing the container without realizing it and burying it in the thick layers of leaves. It wouldn't be the first time.

Anyway, such disappointment demands another outing that I might make a clean sweep. Maybe next week. Today, we put in over five miles on the trail, and so, between my two days of geocaching, I've hiked almost every inch of the trails out there.

On our way home, Tom and I stopped for lunch at The Checkered Pig, a Martinsville BBQ institution. It were all kindsa good.
Early Easter morning at Jamison Mill Park
Nice view of Philpott Lake from the trail
All that remains of the Bob Carter House along the banks of Philpott Lake
Trail along the lake bank
Looking upward from the center of a massive, ten-trunk sycamore tree
Trail map of Jamison Mill Park. Between two days of hiking and caching, I covered almost every
inch of those trails — about nine miles