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Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. He enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey), and he firmly believes that Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is the single greatest atrocity committed against mankind. He is a graduate of Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD ('13) & Emerson College ('08).

My latest comic book, "iCthulhu," is now on sale!

Grayhaven Comics' latest anthology issue, The Gathering: Sci-Fi Volume 3 is now on sale, and features a short sci-fi action comic by me and my good friend Dave Ganjamie!

Dave and I were bouncing ideas around when he made the intentionally-absurd suggestion of doing a "Futuristic Lovecraftian steampunk horror story." I decided to take this challenge literally...and thus, iCthulhu was born!

Our story is just one part of a 48-page anthology featuring tons of great creators, and the whole thing will only cost you $3.50, so what are you waiting for? Buy it before it becomes a rare and valuable collector's item!

 A little sneak peek at Dave's awesome artwork...

A little sneak peek at Dave's awesome artwork...


REVIEW: King Dork by "Doctor" Frank Portman

I gave this 4 stars on GoodReads but it's really a 3.5. I'm generously rounding up because it reminded me of my excitement when I got to open up for Dr. Frank's band, the Mr T Experience, in high school.

Overall, I really enjoyed King Dork. Tom was a funny narrator in his anti-Holden-Caulfield-but-still-so-Holden-Caulfield way, and as a former aspiring punk rock star myself, I definitely saw a lot of me and my high school friends in the story. That being said, I was disappointed with the exposition-y ending. As a writer myself, I was somewhat bothered the whole time through with how much of the story was told in summary exposition, but I was willing to give it a pass because it makes sense diagetically with the narrator that this is how he would convey this story (similar to Holden Caulfield in that way). But Tom's main two journeys -- Fiona, and the relationship with his dead father -- were literally summed up and resolved without any effort on his part (even his hospitalization, though it certainly made sense that he wouldn't have a good memory of the specific events leading up to it, was so blasé: "and then I was hospitalized for a month because I got beat up NBD.").

All that being said: it's probably a good book to help get adolescents into classic books and help with their vocabularies (and the glossary was *hilarious*).

Also, the women in the book left...much to be desired. In some ways (again, diagetically, that is, within the world of the story), I got it, because it was absolutely how a 14 year old King Dork would probably talk about and depict women. It certainly sounded like some of my friends at 14, anyway. But as an adult feminist male, it was a little, well, exactly the kind of subtle misogyny that people are finally and rightfully paying attention to, and I wish had been approached with a more deft hand.

Anyway, here's the MTX song "King Dork," which actually has very little to do with the book (which I assume was named more for brand recognition than anything else, as this is generally seen as one of Dr. Frank's "hits," if you will).

Buy My Poetry In This Month's Issue of ASIMOV'S Science Fiction Magazine!

My time travel love poem "I Loved You More Last Time" is now available in the February 2015 issue of ASIMOV'S Science Fiction Magazine (along with a poem by my Clarion classmate and recent winner of Apex Magazine's Story Of The Year, Marie Vibbert). 

As far as I can tell, Asimov's is erm, not very good at making online purchases easy for anyone. But you can pick up the current issue or subscribe on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes Newsstand (unfortunately, I don't know the exact cut-off date for when the current issue ceases to be "current," and I can't figure out how buy specific back issues either). I'll also have a small stash of hard copies available for direct purchase (more info to come).

My ARISIA Convention Schedule

I'll be at the Arisia sci-fi / fantasy convention in Boston this coming weekend, speaking on a few panels and generally hanging around. I've never been to Arisia before, nor have I ever been on any convention panels, so I'm doubly excited (and very much hoping that I don't say anything too stupid).

Anyway, here's where you can find me. Come say hi!

  • Neurodiversity in SF/F
    Saturday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    How are autistic and other neurodiverse characters presented in SF/F? What works handle this subject well, and which do not? Who are some neurodiverse authors whom we should all be reading? And how, as a genre, do we move beyond stories only focused on a “cure”?
    with Don Sakers, David G. Shaw, and JoSelle Vanderhooft
     
  • DC Comics on the Small Screen: 2015 Edition
    Saturday, 5:30-6:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    For all of DC’s much-disdained recent lack of creative success on the big screen, they’ve put together a string of received cartoons going back over twenty years ranging from episodic (Batman) to serialized (Young Justice) to goofy (Teen Titans Go). They’ve also launched multiple TV series, including Arrow, The Flash, and Constantine, even as their actual comics have become a pit of creative despair. We’ll discuss DC’s success (and occasional flop) over the years on television.
    —with Nomi S. Burstein, George Claxton, Jaime Garmendia, Dan Toland
     

  • Behind the Bristol Board: Comics as a Profession
    Saturday, 7-8:15pm in Marina 4 (2E)
    If you’re a comics fan, odds are you’ve thought about what it’s like to actually work in the comics industry. This panel will feature working professionals explaining the ins-and-outs of everything from writing and drawing, to editing and publishing. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about being a comics pro, but were afraid to ask.
    —with Ken Gale, Bettina Kurkoski, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Mercy E Van Vlack
     

  • Superman and Religion
    Sunday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Burroughs (3E)
    Superman remains an enigmatic figure in American mythology. Created by two Jewish kids from Cleveland, perhaps as a metaphor for Jewish assimilation, Superman also represents a Christlike figure in many stories, and the screenwriter of Man of Steel consulted, among other sources, the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. Does the wide cast of Superman’s religious influences render him a defender-of-all-faiths? Can any religion claim him as one of their own? Come explore this thorny issue with Arisia 2015.
    —with Michael A. Burstein, Ken Gale, Alex Jarvis, Daniel Miller
     

  • Story Autopsy
    Sunday, 2:30-3:45pm in Alcott (3W)
    Our group of panelists takes a few well-known works of genre fiction and picks them apart to show you how they work, why they work, and in some cases point out the parts that don’t work at all. If you don’t like spoilers this is probably not the panel for you.
    —with M. L. Brennan, James L. Cambias, John P. Murphy, Ian Randal Strock
     

  • The Medium and the Message
    Sunday, 5:30-6:45pm in Hale (3W)
    A story can be told in a multitude of formats. Anything from short stories and epic poems to graphic novels and screenplays can be used to convey a narrative. How do the various formats compare? Do certain genres work well in one but not another? What about translations from one medium to another? How can you tell which works best for your story?
    —with Heather Albano, Alexander Feinman, John G. McDaid
     

  • Writing and Racial Identity 
    Monday, 1-2:15pm in Hale (3W)
    What does your race have to do with what you write? Depending on your race, are certain topics forbidden to you? Obligatory? None of the above? If your race matters, how do you know what it is? By what people see when they look at you, or by what you know of your genetic background? By your cultural upbringing? By what you write?
    —with John Chu, Mark Oshiro, Victor Raymond

"The World Is, Generally and On Balance, A Better Place To Live This Year Than It Was Last Year"

...according to this uplifting article by Ramez Naan, anyway, but also according to Spider Jerusalem, my favorite fictional anti-authoritarian druggie bastard liberal journalist of all time, whose voice and opinion are clearly superior to any non-fictional persons real or dead (other than Warren Ellis or Hunter S. Thompson).

So before you pop that bottle of bubbly, here's one of my favorite short comic book stories of all time—about winters, futures, and totally sweet snowblaster guns. Happy new year!

Legal-y things: Transmetropolitan was written by Warren Ellis with art by Darick Robertson. I did a quick & simple Google search for these page images, but it was originally published by in "Vertigo: Winter's Edge #3" and later re-printed in Transmetropolitan Vol. 4: "The New Scum". And you really need to read Transmet if you haven't yet.

Also, thanks to Jenna Scherer for reminding me of my own annual posting of this delightful message.

JRR Tolkien's Top 10 Tips For Writers

I feel like I'm supposed to make a snarky comment about Peter Jackson* in order to contextualize this, but the truth is, I haven't even seen The Desolation of Smaug or Battle of the Five Armies yet, because I found An Unexpected Journey to be little more than an overlong cut-scene from a corny Tolkien-themed Disney ride. But anyway, this is still fun!

*For the record, I was even skeptical when Jackson was first announced as the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, because he was one of my favorite go-to directors for my frequent Horrible & Horribly Offensive B-Movie nights back in high school. Don't get me wrong, Beautiful Dreamers and The Frighteners are both pretty fantastic — but Meet the Feebles? Dead-Alive? Bad TasteLet's just say that he's better telling someone else's story than his own.

Although, he did give us this:

For Sale: Genuine Soil From Dracula's Castle

Remember those wacky mail order ads for weird pulp fiction products that you used to be able to find in the back of old comic books?

This little gem from 1979 — limited to only 5,000, get yours today while supplies last! — was supposedly an attempt to capitalize on the release of yet-another Dracula movie that same year. I probably shouldn't be so dismissive, that was obviously well-before there were way too many vampire things around, but 1979 was considered by some to be 'The Year of the Dracula,' as Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (which, it should be noted, was not about Dracula) and Love at First Bite were also released that same year. So in that case, I guess that an amulet of "genuine" soil isn't the worst bit of opportunist merchandising possible? (he says, from a strange future world where pretty young vampires all love and sparkle)

If this was 2014, that little necklace would cost you $40 with shipping, all because some shkeevy marketing guy paid some Romanian dude $10 to dump some dirt into a box and ship it off to America. Forty bucks — and it doesn't even grant the wearer any mystical powers! (although if you ask me, that little disclaimer text is a prime example of "Thou doth protest too much"...)

However, it does include a certificate of authenticity, which makes me wonder — who exactly signed that certificate, and what sort of qualifications did that person have? Truly, what makes one an expert in vampire soil? Are there real vampire archaeologists out there who do this stuff? If so, the official Vampire Archaeology Authentication Council should probably review their application process, because "Dracula's Castle" isn't even a real place. Presumably, this soil comes from Bran Castle, which does claim itself to be "Dracula's Castle" as a tourist attraction due its location near the border of Transylvania and Wallachia. Although previously owned by Hungarian kings, the castle was actually repossessed by the city of Brasov in 1533 after Vlad II Dracul failed to pay some other loans he'd taken out — Vlad II Dracul being the father of Vlad III aka Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler, the supposed inspiration for the fictional character of Dracula, who was never known to have spent any time in or around Bran Castle during his life.

Supposedly, Stoker's inspiration for the physical layout and appearance of Dracula's castle in his novel is based on New Slain Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, according to Clare Haworth-Maden in The Essential Dracula. Despite popular opinion and prevailing cultural imagery, Dracula may have his roots more in Gaelic traditions and history than those of Eastern Europe, especially when you consider that Stoker himself was Irish. Fun fact: while "dracul" in Romanian does indeed translate to "Son of the Dragon," "droch fhola" in Irish Gaelic (pronounced "droc'ola") translates to "bad blood." Curious? Consider then the legend of Abhartach, an Irish warlord with dwarfism (but not one of the Daoine Maithe or Tuatha Dé Danann!) from present-day County Derry who was supposedly immortal and was said to have drank the blood of his enemies. From The Origin and History of Irish Names & Places:

There is a place in the parish of Errigal in Derry, called Slaghtaverty, but it ought to have been called Laghtaverty, the laght or sepulchral monument of the abhartach or dwarf. This dwarf was a magician, and a dreadful tyrant, and after having perpetrated great cruelties on the people he was at last vanquished and slain by a neighbouring chieftain; some say by Fionn Mac Cumhail. He was buried in a standing posture, but the very next day he appeared in his old haunts, more cruel and vigorous than ever. And the chief slew him a second time and buried him as before, but again he escaped from the grave, and spread terror through the whole country. The chief then consulted a druid, and according to his directions, he slew the dwarf a third time, and buried him in the same place, with his head downwards; which subdued his magical power, so that he never again appeared on earth. The laght raised over the dwarf is still there, and you may hear the legend with much detail from the natives of the place, one of whom told it to me.

Regardless of Dracula's origins, or the origins of his alleged soil from Castle Dracula, I suspect that this exclusive offer is no longer available. Fortunately, Darling Pet Munkee, a Boston-based band that just writes songs about ridiculous ads from the backs of old comic books, was kind enough to immortalize this rare necklace in song for our enjoyment:

Help Me Raise Money For Suicide Awareness & Get Free Stuff!

That's me and Mike to the left, circa 1999. Mike was one of my first friends I ever had, very much raised as a brother to me. He lost his life to suicide nearly five years ago now, and while you learn to deal with loss as time goes on, it never really goes away — you're left with questions and loss and one big hole that will never ever get refilled. That's part of the reason that I'm so sensitive and vocal about mental health (aside from own struggles); because I know what that suffering is like on all sides, and I don't think anyone else should ever have to experience those things.

I had other friends who'd lost loved ones to suicide, but Mike's death was really the first time I was forced to deal with losing someone so directly close to me, and especially in such a way. Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with loss, I've gotten my fair of share of practice in these last five years, and Mike's wasn't the only one of those that could have (maybe, possibly) been helped, or stopped.

I could go on and on about this, but since suicide has recently been in the public eye, I've decided to do something different. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts walkathon fundraisers every year to raise money for research, education, and outreach programs about suicide. The Out of Darkness walk (as it's called) in my hometown is not just for Mike, but it is taking place right around the anniversary of his passing. I want to raise some money for the walk, in the hope that even though its too late to save my friends, it might make a difference in someone else's life, so that they don't have to suffer the same.

So here's the deal: I've put together a sweet little package of music and eBooks, all various things that I've created, and they can all be yours with a donation of any amount to the Hamden, CT Out of Darkness Walk for the American Foundation for Society Prevention (Go Team Mikey).

All you have to do is click here to make your donation, and the download should start right away! (It's a pretty hefty ZIP file, because all the music is uncompressed)

Thanks in advance for your support. It means more to people than you realize, and I hope you enjoy your little rewards. Here's what you'll get:

eBooks:

  • Fixing a Hole, a one-act play about two friends and a hole at the end of the world. Mike lived for theatre, and shortly his death, I wrote this as a kind of elegy to him, and a reflection on our relationship.
  • EndProgram.txt, a darkly comedic (or maybe just sad) short story about the death of a robot. Originally written and conceived in the 5th week of the Clarion Writer's Workshop under the guidance of Kelly Link and Karen Joy Fowler. 

Music:

  • If You Really Want To Hear About It, the unreleased EP from my college band the Roland High Life. Six tracks, plus two bonus b-sides. Track 2, "Your Last Fall" was written before Mike's passing...but listening to it now, it feels frighteningly prescient.
  • Three new cover songs recorded especially for this occasion:
    • "The 59 Sound" by the Gaslight Anthem, changed to "The 69 Sound" in honor of the recording of Mike's beloved "Let It Be";
    • "I Was Meant For The Stage" by The Decemberists, one of Mike's favorite bands, this song could just have easily been written from his point of view, especially given how he had committed his life to theatre. At the reception following his funeral, some of Mike's friends played a haunting video of him singing this song at karaoke (my parents actually thought it was a song he had written). Recording this was the first time I've listened to this song since then;
    • and "You Were Cool" by the Mountain Goats, an unreleased track, with a few lyrical changes, as John's protagonist lives in his version of the song (also Mike wasn't really known for wearing high heels back in high school, although I did think about changing it to something like "stalking down the concrete hallways / in your tight jeans / back in high school," but then I didn't). Still, the lyrics remind me a lot of Mike growing up, and what I wish I could say to him now.


If you have any trouble with your download, please let me know.

Legal stuff: all content made available in this offer is available free and will not used for personal profit or gain. All files, content, intellectual property, etc. is the legal property and copyright of Thom Dunn and is made available through a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike4.0 International license, with the following exceptions: 

  • "The 59 Sound" is copyright 2008 Brian Fallon / The Gaslight Anthem
  • "I Was Meant For The Stage" is copyright 2003 Colin Meloy / The Decemberists
  • "You Were Cool" is copyright John Darnielle / Mountain Goats