Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bruce Boston - Bram Stoker Award Winner

Bruce Boston has lived the usual writer's checkered life, spending time as a professor, computer programmer, tech writer, book designer, movie projectionist, gardener, and furniture mover. He now lives in Ocala, Florida, with his wife, writer-artist Marge Simon, with whom he often collaborates on poetry, short fiction, and cartoons.
(See here for more on Marge)

Bruce and Marge will be program guests at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia, April 20-22
and Oasis in Orlando, Florida, May 25-27

Check out Bruce's Web Site

Marva: Thanks for giving us some time, Bruce. You're a pretty busy guy lately. Tell us what's going on with you. Don't be shy. Shameless self-promotion is welcome here. Tell us about that Bram Stoker award for sure.

Bruce: Hi, Marva. Thanks for the opportunity.

My poetry collection Shades Fantastic recently received the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. You can find a complete list of the winners at Bram Stoker Winners.

I must admit, it gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling to appear on the same final award list as Stephen King. ;)

When Shades Fantastic was first published I didn't see it as a serious contender for the Stoker Award. In fact, I believe it the first staple-bound book that has ever won a Stoker. I have another poetry book, The Nightmare Collection, longer, much darker, and more thoroughly rooted in the horror genre, that was supposed to appear in 2006. I thought The Nightmare Collection might have a chance at the Stoker. In contrast, Shades Fantastic, although it contains its share of dark poems, also includes science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream poetry, and humor. The Nightmare Collection is now scheduled to appear later this year or in 2008. You can find out more about Shades Fantastic at my website.

By the way, the secret of winning a Bram Stoker Award is to have Marge Simon illustrate your book. She has now illustrated four Stoker-winning collections.

A new book that has just appeared, from Kelp Queen Press in Toronto, is my collaborative collection with Marge, Night Smoke, including 27 poems, prose poems, and flash fictions, and 15 full-color illustrations by Marge. Night Smoke is quite an attractive book, a bit like a mini-coffee-table book, particularly if you have friends dropping by who like dark literature and art. Read more about Night Smoke here.

Marva: Now let's talk about your forthcoming novel, The Guardener's Tale. How about we just start with the pre-pub quote from Nebula-Award author Mary Turzillo:

“A gripping dystopia wickedly extrapolated from our present. Boston brings to bear his narrative genius on this noir tale of a love triangle in a society gone mad, probing the way technology and science alter our reality. Transcending genre, The Guardener’s Tale combines suspense and breathtaking plot twists with macabre humor. Involving, compelling, a masterwork.”

Now, fill us in a bit more. What else would you include in your query pitch?

Bruce: With The Guardener’s Tale I was trying to write a novel that captured the same kind of compelling plot-driven read I experienced when growing up on science fiction in the 1950s and 60s, but also a novel that would embody more adult themes than most of those books did. One agent who has read the novel described it as “a great book....that deserves a wide audience” and then went on to say that she didn’t think she could successfully represent The Guardener’s Tale because of the current climate of the commercial marketplace, where there is “no room for the socially-conscious, cautionary-tale kind of SF these days.”

I can’t testify as to whether or not the book is great, or regarding the changing needs of the commercial marketplace, but I think her characterization of The Guardener’s Tale as a socially-conscious cautionary tale is an apt one. However, I believe there is more to it than that. Thematically, beside its socio-political content, the novel concerns itself with human relationships -- male-female love and sexual relationships, friendship, and familial relationships – and also with the possibility of human transformation. All five central characters in The Guardener’s Tale go through significant personality changes in the course of the narrative, emerging as different people with different values and views of their world by the end of the book.

Finally, at the level that is sometimes referred to as meta-fiction, The Guardener’s Tale is a novel about writing a novel.

Marva: Interesting spelling of “Guardener.” What does it mean?

Bruce: Speculative writer Malcolm Deeley, in his pre-publication review of The Guardener’s Tale, explains this as well as I could.

“The imagery that presents this puzzle in Boston’s novel has all the richness of his poetic hand: the forces of societal order, called Guardeners, scan the minds of those considered aberrant, and from these scans glean patterns, the most desirable to society being one that strongly resembles a flower. When this pattern is diverged from, they prune the emotional and intellectual strands that distort the flower, in the hope that the result will be a happier, more stable, and productive citizen.”

The Guardener’s Tale will be released by Sam’s Dot Publishing in a few weeks. If I’ve whetted your appetite enough to want to know more, you can find publication details, ordering information, and additional pre-pub quotes from Paul Di Filippo and Gene O’Neill at The Guardener's Tale.

Marva: What else are you working on?

Bruce: Most of my writing life I’ve produced poetry and short fiction, though not entirely by choice. Although I’ve published one other novel, Stained Glass Rain, and half a dozen novelettes, I’ve always found it difficult to work on longer fiction unless I could devote nearly all of my time and energy to it. Now that I’m retired, and have more free time, that seems to be the direction I’m moving. I’m currently in the process of mapping out two new science fiction novels, but not sure which one I will embark upon first.

Marva: Okay, any topic you'd like to expound on here. Go for it. 500 words or fewer.

Bruce: Okay, yourself! Let’s talk about the state of book publishing, which has changed radically in the last two decades. I used to think it was too hard to get a novel published. Now I think it may have become too easy. With the advent of the Internet, ebooks, print-on-demand publishing, and many companies offering self-publishing with little or no editorial intervention, the marketplace is flooded with more novels and more books than ever before. The problem the individual writer faces, without a major commercial publisher to promote his or her work, is how to you get your book noticed among the literally thousands of others out there. The problem the individual reader faces is what to choose from this deluge.

On the one hand, from a writer’s vantage, I’m reminded of the old joke about the couple that go for a Sunday drive in the country and get lost. They see a farmer standing by the side of the road, so they stop and ask him for directions to get back to the city. He starts to give them one set of directions, then pauses, and says, “No, that won’t work..” Then he begins with another set of directions, only to stop again and reach the same conclusion. Finally, he says, “Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”

On the other hand, I hope there may be a way to get there from here. Obviously, as a writer, you have to use all the publicity at your disposal. Interviews such as this for example. Appearances at conventions, signings at bookstores, emails and letters to those whom you think might be interested, whatever reviews you can garner. Yet ultimately, whether or not a book gets there, may be more up to readers than to any individual author. Commercial publishers often claim that many bestsellers are created more by word of mouth than by advertising or reviews.

So what I would say to readers is that if you want entertaining and worthwhile literature to survive amidst the avalanche of books we are now facing, when you read a novel, or any book that you really enjoy, don’t keep quiet about it. Tell you friends and your acquaintances! Tell anyone you know who reads! And if you like a book well enough, if you have taken significant pleasure in the read, don’t forget that books make great gifts. Buy the book for a friend, or loan the book to a friend, and share the experience.


  1. What a great interview! Thanks Marva and thanks Bruce Boston for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I must admit, it gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling to appear on the same final award list as Stephen King. ;)

    I bet it does. I'd be sick for sure. Excitement would make me ill!



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