Skip to content

Personal’

Video from Book Court Reading of FTA

Michele and I did a reading (I’d say performance, but that seems a little grandiose) of a small section of FROM THE ASHES at Brooklyn’s Book Court, a lovely independent bookshop. I was losing my voice, but did my best.

You can’t see it here, but she wore her TRASH shirt, proving I didn’t make it up.

Suppressing the Urge

In the last few days I’ve been recipient of the Internet phenomenon of instant criticism in the form of user comments. Since Monday (and today is only Wednesday), I’ve incurred the wrath, scorn, sneering derision and hurt feelings of horror and fantasy/Furry folk (though mainly the latter).

In conjunction with the release of Pariah, Entertainment Weekly’s web edition ran an item in which I recommend the work of some of my favorite contemporary horror writers. Now, maybe the title of the article (“Pariah author Bob Fingerman reveals his five favorite tomes of terror”) was a bit inexact. They were five faves that came to mind of authors I like and/or feel don’t get enough notice. So, I knowingly left out people whose work I’ve enjoyed, like Stephen King, because I figured he’s not hurting for readers. The thing is, by not touting King I’d committed the crime of omission and was dubbed a “moron” for such (and for not hyping Poe or Lovecraft, either). Thing is, over the course of my nearly hour conversation with Mr. Collis, I did mention Lovecraft in regard to one of the authors I commended, Ramsey Campbell, who is present day’s closest heir, having even started off as pretty much a Lovecraft imitator. But the article compressed and edited the discussion (of course), so I appeared to some as a culturally illiterate horror dilettante.

The urge to respond is hard to suppress. I want to address my critics and in a reasonable tone explicate what’s what and how, “No, really, I love Lovecraft and Poe! But again, they don’t need the ink (or pixels, as the case may be).”

And always Michele sagaciously instructs me: “Don’t you dare!” Because it’s a slippery slope that leads to a bottomless hole.

Today brought back memories, though. A piece I wrote went up on tor.com, today, about my aversion to Avatar and its elongated blue cat-like native critters, the Na’vi. I wryly posited that I regarded Avatar as a mainstreaming of the Furries, those people for whom dressing up as curvaceous cartoon animals is an erotic experience. I thought it was funny, but clearly I was wrong. I’d offended, big time. The fur flew. It was a dog-pile of censure.

Years ago, when I first got on the ‘Net—back in probably 1993 or ’94—my buddy John introduced me to the Furries. My gateway Furry was called AJ Skunk (you never forget your first). I thought it was a joke, but John assured me, “Oh no, this is a real thing. And he’s not alone.” I was gobsmacked that this was a lifestyle people would pursue (or would that be fursue? And don’t give me shit about the bad pun; they call their gatherings ConFurences.).

So, anyway, my Tor item brought the thunder. I had offended the sensibilities of this not officially classified special interest group. Thing is, that wasn’t my intent. In my own wiseass way I’d been quite naïve. I thought it was just a droll (humor being subjective) puff piece that turned out to be neither droll, nor puffy enough. Seeing the comments (which were, I must say, articulate and mostly fairly reasonable, given the subject matter) part of me thought, “Oh, get over it. Really? Really? This is what sets you people off?” Another part felt genuinely bad about offending. It was like I’d stepped into their clubhouse and taken a shit right in the center of the floor. The third part, the dark side, wanted to egg it on. Throw down.

But I didn’t. This is my response. The response is: never respond. Walk it off. Take a breath. Write a one-off essay about the self-destructive urge to participate and get on with your life.

FUTURAMA MEETS FROM THE ASHES

Michele and I had the great good fortune to attend a studio voice record session for one of the forthcoming episodes of the greatest show ever, FUTURAMA, courtesy of being invited by my friend, Phil LaMarr. Phil is an amazingly gifted comic actor who recently filled the very large boots of Laurence Fishburne by stepping into the role of Cowboy Curtis in the recent live run of The Pee-Wee Herman Show in Los Angeles. On FUTURAMA Phil breathes tropical life into Hermes Conrad, Planet Express’s resident bureaucrat (and paperwork enthusiast), among others. Phil was kind enough to provide a blurb for the trade of FROM THE ASHES, and between sessions his mega-talented cast mate Maurice LaMarche (Kif Kroker, Morbo, Hedonismbot, etc.) gifted us with a few spontaneous reads of Phil’s quote in his FUTURAMA announcer voice. I got one of them on tape:

These guys are my heroes. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Bender Bending Rodríguez is my favorite cartoon character of all time, and that is mainly due to the unfathomably great voicework of John DiMaggio, who was also in this session. I can take to the grave that I made him laugh. Plus, as the voice of Marcus Phenix in Gears of War, John gave me tips on how to finally beat the climactic boss battle. How cool is that?

Phil LaMarr, me, Billy West.
Me and John DiMaggio.
Me, Billy West and Maurice LaMarche.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t cap this by saying I was in the presence of the God of Cartoon Voicedom himself, the great Billy West. Astonishing. Witnessing him seamlessly and without pause slipping from character to character (Philip J. Fry to Professor Hubert Farnsworth to Dr. John Zoidberg in nanoseconds) was a thing of beauty. He’s a genius. I felt like a too-old/too-healthy version of a Make-a-Wish Foundation kid. I was in Heaven. These are my gods, people. And I walked among them.

Billy giving FROM THE ASHES the West Bump!

John DiMaggio giving me gaming tips for the final boss battle in Gears of War (the crossbow and the Lancer… I’ll try that).

Me, Michele and John DiMaggio.

Irwin Greenberg, Albert Weatherly, R.I.P.

“Do rather than don’t.” — Irwin Greenberg

I really don’t want to start a trend here—especially not this kind of trend—but again I find myself adding another pair of obituaries. My most beloved art teacher, Irwin “Greenie” Greenberg, died yesterday, at the age of 87. He profoundly touched the lives of everyone who knew him.

I was fortunate enough to have had him as a teacher at the High School of Art & Design. Greenie—as his students and colleagues knew him—was a true inspiration. The adage “those who can’t do, teach” might have suited others, but not Greenie, whose work was, is and ever will be breathtakingly assured, graceful and lovely to behold. He was a master watercolorist and his teaching was commensurate with his talent.

Greenie lost an eye in WWII, but you’d never know it to look at his work. Though he often employed a small spyglass to see the models in better detail, his lack of depth perception never showed in his work, as you can see in the examples here.

Greenie was a beautiful person who shared his gift and his life, through stories told in class, with everyone lucky enough to have known him. I always regretted not staying in touch after I graduated. In a way, since I chose the path of cartooning, I always felt I’d somehow let him down. But that was on me. I’m sure he wouldn’t have felt that way. Greenie didn’t judge.

My uncle, Albert Weatherly, Jr., also died, today. He was 85. He was much more of an enigma to me. He was a concert flutist who left the orchestra to pursue fixing and selling flutes. He ran his own business, Albert Weatherly Flutes, in midtown. He brought an unsurpassed level of craft to servicing flutes that garnered him a clientele of all the biggest names in the field. Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway and James Moody were among his patrons, and all held him in the highest regard.

I did my first “professional” (ha!) assignments for him, doing art for t-shirts and tote bags for his business. Another late hero of mine, the cartoonist B. Kliban, had a cartoon called “Nephew Art”, which depicted bad art done by nephews. But it, like some of Kliban’s best work, was a metaphor for bigger, deeper things. That said, it might be my favorite Kliban cartoon, and that I am guilty of having created some “Nephew Art” of my own makes me both proud and humbled.

At thirteen I did a bag that boasted an anthropomorphized flute strutting along, à la Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin’”, only in this case it was “Keep on Flutin’”. Yeah, I know. I did many bags and tees for Uncle Al, and he actually paid me money. That meant a lot to me. It made me feel a bit more legit at an early age.

Al was very hard to know. He was quiet and, as I say, a bit of an enigma. But when he did share I always appreciated it. I never really knew him well, but I’ll miss him. I’ll miss them both.