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October 14th, 2015

The Star Virus by Barrington J Bayley

Filed under: SF Reviews — Tags: — William Cardini @ 8:45 pm

I’m ambivalent about The Star Virus and the other two Barrington J Bayley books I’ve read, The Fall of Chronopolis and The Pillars of Eternity. I like how his protagonists are existentialist anti-heroes who get caught up in psychedelic space operas, but I dislike his characters’s nasty misogyny. I have similar reactions to Philip K Dick, but Dick’s psychedelia is so much more spectacular and he makes his protagonists’ troubles with and disdain for women seem so pathetic, so it’s palatable. Bayley is rough edged. His novels are abrasive and bleak but weird and stimulating. He was praised by Michael Moorcock, published short stories in the New Wave magazine New Worlds, and influenced M John Harrison’s space operas The Centauri Device and Light. This influence on one of the greatest contemporary SF authors is especially evident from The Star Virus, Bayley’s first novel.

The Star Virus by Barrington J Bayley cover by Kelly Freas
Cover by Kelly Freas.

The Star Virus opens with the main character, a rogue named Rodrone, admiring the austere, violent landscape of an airless world. I prefer desert landscapes so I instantly grokked that and expected to sympathize with Rodrone but he quickly turns into an asshole, not caring about the loyalty or lives of his crew. In one scene that struck me as particularly hateful, he takes the evil emotional manipulation of a woman who plays a mind-altering musical instrument and extends her behavior to a stereotype of all overweight female musicians, whom he characterizes as craving and jealously hoarding the undeserved attentions of their audience. I can’t help but think that this is based on Bayley’s personal animosity towards someone, because he gives this villainess a normal-sounding name, Ruby, but all the other characters have otherworldly names like Kulthul, Redrace, and Clave Theory.

Mild spoilers and sexual assault trigger warning ahead. (more…)

October 6th, 2015

SPX 2015 Recap

Filed under: Event Recap — Tags: — William Cardini @ 10:40 am

My first time at SPX was a mixed experience. I had a blast hanging in the cartoonists concentrate of the Bethesda Marriott, sold a lot of Vortex and my two risograph minis, and brought home a heavy stack of fantastic comics, but I was unable to fully represent Sparkplug due to a shipping snafu.

On Friday, my hotel roomie and I caught a metro ride to join my friend at Fantom in downtown DC for a hot and humid but fun book signing with Farel Dalrymple, MK Reed, Brandon Graham, and others. We checked out Fantom’s inventory – DC is lucky to have such a great shop!

Saturday morning I was dismayed to discover that the box of books that Sparkplug had shipped to the hotel wasn’t at my table. Sam Marx, the friendly SPX Exhibitor Coordinator, and the hotel staff scoured the loading dock but the box was never found. So instead of a table full of books, I had a minimal installation of Vortex, Cold Heat Special #10, and Sphere Fear (which luckily did arrive at the hotel).

Sphere Fear by William Cardini

I hadn’t seen Sphere Fear before the show (published by Yeah Dude Comics). I was a worried about my riso color choices (orange and green – I worried that it would be unreadable but I wanted to expand beyond pink and blue) but Issue Press did a wonderful job printing the minis, they looked beautiful and I sold out of my comp copies. Look for it on the Birdcage Bottom Books distro soon.

After the morning’s disappointment I rallied. I was in an auspicious table location – to the right of Benjamin Marra and around the corner from Frank Santoro, who was selling treasures from his long boxes unearthed from the basements of comics history and promoting the IndieGoGo campaign to fund the embodiment of his school in a physical building, the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency (contribute to this exciting cause if you can), and supporting his table neighbors with snacks.

William Cardini at SPX
Sparkplug Books intern Jenny Flax brought the Sparkplug tablecloth and postcards to the table.

I tried to stay rooted behind my table but I couldn’t help but slip away to check out the rich outpouring of talent at SPX. Since moving to Kansas City I’ve been in a bit of an art comics desert so this was an oasis for me. My favorite book was the Blades & Lazers collection by the aforementioned Ben Marra, fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign, including a bad-ass genderbent comic by Lale Westvind and Keenan Marshall Keller, and brilliantly printed in fluorescent pink and metallic blue spot colors, genius choices by the Sacred Prism publisher. I also really dug Mickey Zacchilli’s Venom riso mini, which boils super villain angst and vicious energy down to their viscous essences; the very metal horror-fantasy book Azzuldekkon by Alan Brown; Meghan Goes to McDonald’s, Meghan Turbitt’s hilarious and absurd collaborations with her comics students; and Pat Aulisio’s Infinite Bowman, frenetic psychedelic SF that riffs on 2001. I got a lot of other great books too and I’m slowly reading my way through my pile.

SPX haul

Saturday night I stayed out far too late and got to hang out with a lot of great people. I love how everyone stays close to the hotel, it’s very convivial. I’ve been to enough shows at this point that I have a crew I usually hang with and most of them were there. I didn’t attend the Ignatz award ceremony but it was great to hear that so many skilled women were recognized, especially after this year’s Hugo nonsense.

Sunday was slower than Saturday. Sales were steady but I noticed a definite shift in what people bought – Saturday was all about the risograph minis and Sunday was for books.

Sunday night I took it easy – got dinner with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend; played (and lost) a round of the Magic card game, which was a fun nostalgia trip; and soberly talked with some people at the bar before trying to get some restorative sleep before my early morning flight. When I got up to catch a cab at 5am, a few people were still up, jam drawing. Next time I’ll have to get a later flight!

Despite the lows, I loved SPX and the close-knit atmosphere it emits. And thanks to Alex Hoffman and Matt Moses for being great hotel roommates. Sharing a room made the trip a lot more affordable for me. I can only do one out-of-state show a year and SPX might be my choice in 2016 too.

September 15th, 2015

SPX 2015

Filed under: Events — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 10:32 am

I’ll be tabling for Sparkplug Books at the Small Press Expo this weekend, September 19th and 20th, in Bethesda, MD.

Sparkplug Books at SPX

Sparkplug superstar Jenny Flax and I will be at table N11 with a bunch of great Sparkplug postcards, mini comics, and graphic novels!

Sphere Fear preview image

I’ll also have Vortex and my new risograph mini comic Sphere Fear, published by Yeah Dude Comics. Come by my table and say hi, it’s my first SPX and I’m really excited!

September 9th, 2015

Inkstuds Interview

Filed under: Press — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 10:25 am

Robin McConnell of Inkstuds interviewed me about Vortex, Skew, performance art, Jack Kirby, Sphere Fear (my risograph comic debuting at SPX, published by Yeah Dude Comics), and more! Listen to it here.

I was pretty nervous about the interview but friends have assured me that it sounds fine. There were a few things that I realized afterwards I should’ve mentioned:

  • José-Luis’ last name is Olivares.
  • The friend I’m doing the final Sparkplug Books Kickstarter painting for is also a cartoonist, Jason Poland. He does the webcomic Robbie and Bobby.
  • My performance art professor Mike Smith told me about chalk talks, which combine comics and theater. The performer tells a story or joke using drawings done quickly on newsprint pads or erased and altered on a chalkboard. I did a few of those in Mike’s classes.
  • My interest in psychedelia probably stems from my anxiety disorder. My reality is already distorted compared to most people’s perceptions. The constant battling and transformations in the Hyperverse is a manifestation of my persistent worries.
  • I’m not sure what show I’ll attend after SPX, but I contributed a six-page comic to Future Shock Zero and writing to Speculative Modern Dinosaur Quarterly, both edited by Josh Burggraf and both debuting at CAB.

August 4th, 2015

New Photo of an Old Painting: “Petrified Forest Spirits Dancing Beneath the Crescent Nightmare World”

Filed under: Artwork — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 10:52 am

Last week I shipped off the penultimate reward for the Sparkplug Books Kickstarter that funded Vortex. It was an acrylic painting and I still have one more to do. Glade and I took a photo of the painting before I shipped it (I’ll post a good one once the painting has safely arrived), and because I had the setup, we also took a photo of a 2012 painting that I’d never properly shot before. Here it is:

Petrified Forest Spirits Dancing Beneath the Crescent Nightmare World
“Petrified Forest Spirits Dancing Beneath the Crescent Nightmare World” (30 x 48″, acrylic, December 2012). Photo by Glade Hensel.

I originally made this for the “Surreal Landscapes” show at Gallery Black Lagoon back in Austin, curated by Cari Palazzolo.

July 14th, 2015

“Rock Troll” in RhiZome #3

Filed under: Press,Print Comics — Tags: — William Cardini @ 10:55 am

I’m the token American in the third issue of the British SF anthology series RhiZome, edited by Rob Jackson and Kyle Baddeley-Read. My comic, “Rock Troll,” is ten pages long. Here’s the first page:

Rock Troll Page 1

RhiZome #3 was reviewed by Richard Bruton on the Forbidden Planet blog. He liked “Rock Troll.” Here’s a quote:

A thing of some shape meets a rock. And the rock turns nasty. And then other stuff. It’s hardly War & Peace but by heck, it’s great. Maybe it’s the visual simplicity of it all, but whatever it was, it’s great.

Buy it from the shop link on Rob Jackson’s website. It’s £4 plus £2 if you’re outside the UK.

Here’s another page:

Rock Troll Page 4

Kyle Baddeley-Read posted an interview with me on the RhiZome blog. Here’s an excerpt:

From the first three issues of RhiZome, what stories have stood out to you? Why?

My favorite story is “Corporation Pop” by Rob Jackson. The first two installments were in RhiZome #1 and #2. I like how Rob depicts a mundane office life that is spiraling out of control into a paranoid fantasy where nothing seems real. Tyler Stafford’s comic in RhiZome #2 is also amazing, like all of his work. He puts in a lot of little details in his drawings that make his SF worlds grounded. I also dig his character designs.

July 10th, 2015

Blank Hill Zine

Filed under: Artwork — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 10:04 am

I did a drawing for Blank Hill Zine, a book inspired by King of the Hill. The editors, my buddy Jason Poland and Blake Jones, provided a template of Hank’s face that we could fill in.

Drawing this made me feel a little less homesick.

Blank Hill Zine is still available for sale. It’s the spiritual successor to SHAQZINE, edited by Jason Poland and Keith Mclean, which I also contributed to.

SHAQZINE is sadly sold out.

July 7th, 2015

Two Contrasting Vortex Reviews

Filed under: Press — Tags: — William Cardini @ 10:44 am

Here are two more reviews of Vortex with contrasting perspectives. Click here for blockquotes and links.

June 23rd, 2015

Vortex and Cold Heat Special #10 at Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS

Filed under: Life — Tags: — William Cardini @ 10:11 am

My wife, daughter, and I moved to the Kansas City area a few months ago. We’re mostly settled and have started exploring. KC is has an interesting vibe. It’s a lot older and more industrial than Austin. I’ve heard people describe KC as the westernmost Eastern city because of its age and architecture, lots of red brick buildings everywhere; the easternmost Western city because of its expansive grid of streets; and the northernmost Southern city because of its wide, winding boulevards. KC’s an undefined cloud in which everyone sees something different. Or maybe the Midwest is a mix of the rest of the country. For me, KC has a robust art scene; big free museums; beautiful, tree-lined streets; hanging out my wife’s extended family; and huge, cheap houses with basements so I can expand my studio practice.

Basement studio
My dungeon basement painting studio.

The massive population influx to Austin changed it almost completely in the 12.5 years I lived there. The constant condo construction, cranes all over downtown, crowds of new people, and churn in local businesses are exciting but Austin doesn’t have a strong sense of history, the traffic is terribly congested, and real estate is increasingly expensive. We were priced out of our neighborhood and didn’t want to live in Austin’s sprawling suburbs with a grueling commute. I miss breakfast tacos (and my friends and family of course) but I’m looking forward to new opportunities and possibilities here in KC.

Wonder Fair photos by Glade Hensel
Wonder Fair photos by Glade Hensel.

For Father’s Day, we decided to take a trip to Lawrence, which less than an hour west of KC in Kansas. It’s a small college town with a strong hippie vibe, like I imagine Austin was fifty years ago. The downtown has a lot of cool independent stores, including a rad print/zine shop and gallery called Wonder Fair. I dropped some copies of Vortex and Cold Heat Special #10 off there. I’m going to try and get them in some KC shops too.

June 16th, 2015

Gunner Cade by Cyril Judd

Filed under: SF Reviews — Tags: , , , — William Cardini @ 8:23 pm

Gunner Cade, published in 1952, was written by Cyril Judd. The author is not a relative of Donald Judd but is instead a pseudonym for the collaboration of Cyril M Kornbluth and Judith Merril. I haven’t read anything by Merril before but I have read Wolfbane, which Kornbluth wrote with Frederick Pohl and I highly recommend. Merril and Kornbluth both wrote more short stories than novels. Merril was one of the most influential people writing SF in the 50s and later moved to Toronto and was very prominent in the Canadian SF and protest scenes. She founded a SF library collection, an anthology, and most memorably dressed up as a witch to hex the Canadian parliament for allowing U.S. missile tests in Canadian airspace. Kornbluth wrote many collaborative novels but unfortunately died at the peak of his powers in his mid 30’s from a heart attack.

Cover by Paul Lehr
Cover by Paul Lehr.

Gunner Cade is a short, swiftly-paced SF novel that includes some incisive social commentary. The titular Cade lives in a far future Earth with an interplanetary society locked in stasis by the interplay between the emperor, nobles who rule different regions such as France and Mars (called Stars), the general (called the Gunner Supreme), and the spymaster (called the Power Master (has CF read this?)). The Gunners are warrior-priests who live an austere, celibate life of ritual centered on their one gun and fatalistic devotion to battle.

Some spoilers and more covers after the cut

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