Sunday, November 27, 2011

Water damage -- not very jolly!

I started yesterday morning thinking the worst problem I was going to have was when I'd be able to get the rest of the Christmas decorations up, and when my shipments of various goodies and stocking stuffers would be arriving via UPS and FedEx. Silly me.

When I opened the door of the shop around 10:00am after running a few errands, I immediately smelled something very strange. Next, I heard the drip drip drip that I have dreaded hearing since the first leak the shop had, just after opening in 2009. I threw down my coat and bag and ran for the back of the store, and started moving items away from the water, starting with my computer.

Having a leak in a bookstore is bad enough, but the timing couldn't have been worse. :P The weekend of Black Friday? Are you kidding me?!! This is the short window of time when customers inject the economy with a much needed last hurrah before the months of winter drought kick in, namely January, February, and March. (Luckily, as they say, "That's what we have insurance for"...)

When I came in, water was dripping copiously from the area just in front of the counter and the area behind, where my work area and backstock sits. Water was trickling out near the counter from where it was flooding the ceiling crawlspace that covers most of the front part of the shop, and through the electrical fixtures (lights and smoke detectors) and vents over the first row of bookcases near the counter, and along the back wall of the work area and the side wall. Those of you who have been in the shop know just how many books are packed into this space. Miraculously a lot of them escaped unscathed, so while there were numerous book casualties, overall it could have been much, much worse.

I was told by the Trelawny workmen that someone upstairs stuffed a bunch of washcloths into a drain. Of course. Why wouldn't you? Seems perfectly normal to me. *smacks forehead with palm* Ahh, Congress Street. You are a wonder.

The shop is likely going to have to remain closed through Tuesday at least, which really stinks. I'm being hopeful, though, and waiting to hear from the ServPro and insurance assessors that I'll be meeting with on Monday. Catching the leak early on was a huge break, and ServPro's quick arrival and setup should make a big difference. With any luck no ceiling or walls will have to be replaced, just cleaned and repainted. (You can't see it, but I'm crossing my fingers.)

Today I'm spending the day tying up loose ends, updating everyone online, and then sitting down to the not very fun task of slogging through all the boxes of damaged books that will have to be thrown in the dump. Ugh.

But I'm just happy it wasn't worse (imagine if it had happened on Monday when I wasn't here), and that I DO have insurance, and I'm going to look at it as a chance to clean and reorganize my work area. Ack!!

I owe big, HUGE thanks to a bunch of folks who helped out.

The Portland Fire Department was quick to show up and diminish the chances of an electrical fire. Not only that but they helpfully brought in a bunch of tarps to protect the books in the at-risk area. AND they even helped lug books out of the way of the leak, definitely living up to their reputation of going above and beyond no matter how small the task. I hope that was their easiest call that day. Once they got called in, the Trelawny Building work crew did their best to fix what they could and assess the damage.

I had a crew of half a dozen friends who gave up their day off to lug books and help clean up the mess, all of whom are amazing lifesavers: Ross Kearney (and it was on his BIRTHDAY!!!), Jan Wilkinson, Amie & Dave Neikirk, Brandon Kawashima, Chad and Kristine Pennell -- you guys are awesome. I know who I can call if the apocalypse ever comes!!!

Even the local businesses in the area helped out -- Local Sprouts donated much-needed buckets, the Merchant Company donated boxes for sadly demised books, and Coast City Comics/Fun Box Monster Emporium for totes for the same purpose. As Jan said, "Small Business Saturday, indeed!!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New arrival: Devils' Drums from Medusa Press!

Although the Green Hand is ostensibly a used bookshop, we also try to carry a few select small press items that focus on our weird fiction interest. We have just restocked all the selections from Medusa Press's catalogue, with the addition of their new release, Vivian Meik's Devils' Drums!

Devils' Drums by Vivian Meik

Since its publication in 1933 as part of the Creeps series, Vivian Meik's short story collection Devils' Drums has long been an especially desirable book for collectors of weird literature. When one considers the scarcity of the title and the fact that it hasn't been reprinted for nearly eighty years, it's easy to see why sellers ask for very high prices for worn copies.

This wouldn't mean much if the stories were not as enjoyable and as thrilling as they prove to be. Vivian Meik's best horror fiction is unconventional, and it is probably for this quality that his work will be remembered.

Devils' Drums contains his very best work.

With this book Meik found his m├ętier. Set in and around Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique and Malawi), the ten chilling stories in Devils' Drums provide an abundance of zombies, curses, vengeful ghosts, and arcane witch doctors to appease the most pulp-hungry reader, and are a refreshing contrast to much of the British horror fiction of the early part of the twentieth century.

For this long-overdue reprint, the original contents have been augmented by two uncollected tales, and an episode from one of his autobiographical books that reads remarkably like his stories.

Douglas A. Anderson has also written a thorough, well-researched introduction to Vivian Meik's colorful career and adventurous life, with many anecdotes revealed here for the first time.

Medusa Press is proud to reissue Vivian Meik's Devils' Drums after decades of silence for a new generation to enjoy.

Edition limited to 300 copies, hardcover, 214 pages + xxx

Medusa Press is producing really wonderful little volumes that focus on too-often neglected authors and their work, including the astoundingly good fiction of John Gordon (a personal favorite of mine). Not only are they produced in small batches, like some sort of microbrew bookery, the designs they cook up are succinct and delightful. And if that wasn't enough, the quality of the bindings is solid, attractive, and engineered for enjoyable reading.

Devils' Drums features striking 5-color cover art (see above), but the design doesn't stop there. The book is bound in matching ochre yellow cloth, with additional design elements struck into the cloth in black. The endpapers inside are a rich chocolate brown.

As I started to write this post, and began casting about for some additional information about the press, I was shocked and dismayed to find no interviews with Medusa's members online. Of course, not being able to leave well enough alone (as usual), I felt compelled to drop them a line and assuage my curiosity the good old fashioned way!

Elysia Chuh juggles many roles at Medusa Press, including designer, art director, and partner at Medusa Press (as well as processing their online orders from bookshops like us!), and was kind enough to answer my questions. Her official title is "Co-owner/Book Designer,” but that seems to only cover part of the job. She also designs for other publishers, and just did a couple of covers for Centipede Press which will be coming out in January: “Night and the City” and “London Stories,” both by Gerald Kersh.

Q: When did Medusa Press start?
We started in 2004 with the publication of Frank Chigas’ The Damp Chamber, which garnered some very good press for us, and allowed us to continue forward with John Gordon’s great works.

Q: Why did Medusa Press start? What was the inspiration, the initial goal, and has that evolved at all?
I think our initial intention was to put out reprints of obscure supernatural/horror collections, along with new works that harken back to that style. I think we haven’t evolved much from where we started, but in our case, that may be a good thing! We’re very much of a traditionalist mindset (classic story structure, book design and artwork that compliments the vintage/retro look).

Q: Who was involved in starting Medusa?
Medusa Press was started by a small group of people in the San Francisco Bay Area who have a passion for the genre, and is definitely a homegrown, part-time effort, which we work on when when there is time to do so. We would love to someday get it to the level where it could be a full-time company like others who started small (Nightshade Books, PS Publishing) but that might be a far way off.

Q: Starting up a small press as the economy foundered so heavily must have thrown a fair number of roadblocks in your way. Did it make you more determined to succeed, make your decisions the result of a more careful process...?
With small press, there is always a big challenge with getting a return on investment, so you have to make sure there’s an audience for it. Short story collections don’t sell (which is why big publishers never put them out), so it’s a dying art of sorts, one we want to preserve. With small press, it’s very expensive to print the books (unless you’re doing print-on-demand), and they don’t fly off the shelves, as there is a very select group of fans and collectors of the genre that will buy them on a regular basis. Our process in choosing the right books to put out is determined by several factors, such as whether the author’s works have already saturated the market (another Poe or Lovecraft collection?), whether the rights are easily available, and whether there is some desire from readers to have this author’s works in their collections. So, when one adds all this up, it can be a slow, time-consuming process to put a book out. As an example, Meik’s Devils' Drums took eight months to put out, from start to finish.

Q: Have folks been discovering you, or are you our little secret still?
We have been getting larger interest in our press since first appearing on the scene, and now have regular customers who look forward to the next release, regardless of how long it takes us to get it out! I suppose we are a little secret still, if our still unsold inventory is any indication. It’s hard vying for space with reviewers, which ultimately gets the visibility we need.

Q: Do you have any tidbits to tantalize readers with regarding future endeavors of Medusa?
We have a few projects in various stages that we are working on, and hope to have something out soon. Look out for more reprints from horror’s golden age, along with another collection from Frank Chigas, which he is currently working on.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Come visit us @ Coast City Comicon!

This weekend we're taking part in our first convention, the Coast City Comicon (tickets are available at the door). It's being held here in Portland at the Eastland Park Hotel on Saturday and Sunday, and it should be a blast! We will have local guest authors at our table, and loads of the tasty new Philip K. Dick books on sale. Huzzah!

Our main author guest is Michael Connor, who just wrapped up his art exhibit Fuzzy Allotropes 2 here at the shop. He will be at our table throughout the weekend (when he isn't heading panel discussions at the SPACE Gallery!). Our other author is Mark LaFlamme, Lewiston native, crime beat writer for the Lewiston Sun Journal, and a terrific horror author. Mark is being held hostage by alpacas so he will only be able to visit on Sunday afternoon, starting at 2:00. I recently reviewed his short story collection Box of Lies:

Here is the schedule of events for the convention as it stands now:

8:00pm-1:00am Convention kickoff! Nerd Rave @ SPACE Gallery with DJ Pony Farm and Waranimal, plus Heloise and the Savoir Faire, plus a costume contest w/crazy prizes!

10:00-6:00 Vendor and artist tables open @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-4:00 Super Mario 3 Tournament in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel:
A timed, score based, big screen Super Mario 3 Tournament! Crazy prizes from Coast City Comics for winners! No Powerglove required.
10:00-6:00 Wet Paint Project demonstration @ Eastland Hotel
Guest artist Chris Dingwell will be demonstrating the dynamic painting techniques that allowed him to produce such masterworks as seen in his new book, Inside Out, copies of which will be available. Dingwell will be joined throughout the weekend by special guests who will throw their painting techniques into the mix. Prepare to be amazed.
12:00-1:30 Self Publishing 101 @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Comic artist & writer Ben Bishop (Nathan the Caveman & Lost Trail)
-- Comic artist and writer Michael Connor (Coelacanthus comic zine)
1:30-3:00 Breaking into Comics panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Comic artist & colorist Ray Dillon (DC’s Brightest Day & IDW’s Servant of the Bones)
-- Comic artist & creator/editor Renae De Liz (IDW’s Servant of the Bones, Womanthology, IDW’s The Last Unicorn)
-- Andy Schmidt (former Senior Editor @ IDW Comics, former Editor at Marvel Comics, founder of Comics Experience career school)
-- Comic artist, writer & editor Mort Todd (former Cracked Magazine editor-in-chief, owner of Comicfix)
--& other special guests TBA!
3:30-5:30 Deadly Spawn screening (78 min) @ SPACE Gallery, followed by Q&A w/director Ted Bohus.
4:00-6:00 Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Tournament in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel
6:00-9:00 Dinner break!
9:00pm Doors open for Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts screening @ SPACE Gallery
9:00-11:00 Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts – East Coast premiere screening
For the first time, see Warren Ellis’s work and life as seen by himself and others in this sharp new documentary by the team that brought you the critically acclaimed film Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods. This premiere screening is timed to coincide with the film’s West Coast weekend premiere at the Napa Valley Film Festival!
9:00-12:30 Doors open for Comiccon Rock & Roll After Party (21+) @ Empire. Hear the fantastic Flipsides with the Heeby Jeebies, and added attractive attraction the Whistlebait Burlesque troupe at Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress (corner of Forest and Congress). $5 cover or FREE w/your comicon badge!

10:00-6:00 Vendor and artist tables open @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-6:00 Super Mario 3 Tournament continues in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-6:00 Wet Paint Project demonstration @ Eastland Hotel
Guest artist Chris Dingwell will be demonstrating the dynamic painting techniques that allowed him to produce such masterworks as seen in his new book, Inside Out, copies of which will be available. Dingwell will be joined throughout the weekend by special guests who will throw their painting techniques into the mix. Prepare to be amazed.
12:00-1:30 Cryptozoology in Comics discussion panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-– Perhapanauts comic artist Craig Rousseau and writer Todd Dezago
-- Loren Coleman, director of the International Museum of Cryptozoology
1:30-3:00 Philip K. Dick panel discussion @ SPACE Gallery w/giveaways from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s new edition of author Philip K. Dick’s books, including copies of Exegesis!
Special guests:
-- Author Alex Irvine (Marvel’s Hellstorm: Son of Satan, The Narrows, A Scattering of Jades)
-- Zack Handlen of the Onion AV Club
-- Sam Pfeifle of the Portland Phoenix
3:00-4:30 Guerilla Film-Making discussion panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Ted Bohus, director of Deadly Spawn
-- Rob Fitz, director of God of Vampires
-- Barry Dodd, director of Ragged Isle
-- Shawn French, director of Wrong House
-- Shoggoth Assembly members
4:30-7:00 God of Vampires screening (106 min) @ SPACE Gallery,
Followed by Q&A w/director Rob Fitz.
7:00-8:30 Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods screening @ SPACE Gallery. This critically acclaimed documentary about the life and work of comic writer Grant Morrison is crafted to feel in part much like one of his stories, and was produced in close collaboration with the author himself.

8:30-10:30 Coast City Comicon wrap-up party (21+ only) @ Geno’s Rock Club: The Geek Chorus presents that awful Captain America movie from the 70s

Game Geeks will be running Heroclix Superman Sealed Drafts all weekend, for $24 (clix included), as well as Magic The Gathering: Standard Constructed Draft tournaments. Check in at their table for more details, or you can also call their shop before the con at (207)767-1101.

Main Convention Floor:
The Eastland Park Hotel is at 157 High Street, near the major intersection of High, Congress, and Free Streets, where the Portland Museum of Art is located. Opened as a grand establishment in 1927, the hotel has maintained itself over the decades as one of Portland's most prominent hotels. The convention is being held in one of the large event halls at the hotel. If you reserve rooms at the Eastland, make sure to mention you are attending the convention for a discount.

Discussion Panels and Film Screenings:
The SPACE Gallery is at 538 Congress Street, about a block and a half from the Eastland Hotel, where the convention floor is. This venue is small and heavily involved with the very young and vibrant local arts scene, as it is located in the same block as both the Maine College of Art, the Artist Studios Building, and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

For a Google map which shows the distance between the two locations, which will allow you to get driving directions to either spot: