Ephemera: Essays, Updates, Reviews by Mike, and Other Things

Dawn Song

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  • Reviews by Mike are coming soon. Please check back!

  • Read a particularly nasty story of Mike's called "Burden" on the Gothic.net web site. Just follow the links to the Fiction Writing Archives. "Burden" will be posted until March, 2000.

  • You can read some of Mike's older Headbanger Movie Reviews at the Movie Magazine site... where, if you have Real Audio, you can listen to Movie Magazine every Wednesday at 9:00 PM Pacific Time.

  • Read Mike's newspaper article on why Godzilla is less destructive than Ally McBeal: Ally McBeal and the Stockholm Syndrome: Or, Why Monsters Will Set You Free.

  • Read Mike's essay on How to Book a Book Tour (for Horror Writers).

  • Mike has an article on how to sell your first horror novel: The Long, Hard Odds.

  • If you're interested in signed copies of Mike's work, the following bookstores should have them in stock (actually, if you're interested in horror and SF at all, you should check out these great stores, anyway).
    Dangerous Visions. A great specialty store in Sherman Oaks... owned by Mike's cousin Lydia and her husband Art. They have an amazing selection. (A shameless plug for a family member? Nah! Could never happen.)

    Stars Our Destination, one of the coolest stores in Chicago, a very cool town.

    Dark Delicacies in Burbank; give your regards to Morticia and Gomez.

    The Gargadillo, a mail order specialty store deep in the heart of Texas.

    Borderlands Books at the corner of Laguna and Fell in San Francisco. Dig that performance space below...! Serves great brownies, by the way...

    A Different Light in San Francisco, just down the street from the coolest movie palace in North America, The Castro.

    Pandemonium Books and Games in Mike's old stomping grounds of Harvard Square in Cambridge Mass.

    Last but not least is The Other Change of Hobbit in in Berkeley. Say hi to Thecla the Cat.

  • And just because we got permission from Brian Hodge to do so, here's the full text of his review of Dawn Song, written for Hellnotes:

    "1998 is turning into a banner year for debut novels. In its scope, at least, DAWN SONG is one of the most ambitious, a sprawling book with multiple threads to follow and full of allegory and arcane symbolism.

    Set in December of 1990 in Boston, against a media backdrop of the military build-up preceding Operation Desert Storm -- and whose opening date is Pearl Harbor Day, which can't be coincidence -- DAWN SONG most closely follows two intertwined lives new to the city. Lawrence is a beleagured young gay man who has left the more provincial atmosphere of Providence for a better life, and quickly finds himself out of his small town element. Close on his heels arrives a Succubus, fresh from Hell, for the purpose of stealing twenty male souls, which will enable her to rise through an equal number of angelic spheres between deepest Hell and highest Heaven and attain true existence. Naturally she takes up residence on the roof of Lawrence's apartment building. And you thought YOUR neighbors were obnoxious.

    But soon the city is roiling in the turmoil -- even if it doesn't realize it -- caused by a far grander rivalry between two of Hell's rulers, sort of the mud wrestling match of all time. In one corner, Belial, the Unbowed One, and father of the Succubus. In the other corner, Leviathan, the Enfolded One, and true instigator of the Gulf War, thereby proving that there is indeed something nuttier than Saddam Hussein. Caught in the middle, humanity, or at least Bostonians, some of whom are earthly allies, some of whom are tools overtaken by demonic possession, and some of whom are plain old casualties of war or innocent bystanders getting the sense that a lot more is going on than meets the eye.

    Marano's juxtapostion of two kinds of war, as well as the more domestic varieties of urban strife, is an interesting tactic, particularly in the use of a recent, real-life event as a reflective focal point for the collective mindset of violence. Although he does wear his politics a bit too prominently on his sleeve, portraying everyone who isn't adamently opposed to the Gulf War as jingoistic, saliva-spewing loudmouths.

    But beyond the social allegory, which also makes room for AIDS, there's a solidly mystical core here. A passing familiarity with alchemy and the Kabbalah isn't required to enjoy the novel, but it will enrich the experience, primarily because Marano doesn't beat the reader over the head with them. In fact, one might not even realize they're there at all, incorporated less within the surface story than its iconography and movements. In that sense, Marano has managed the extremely clever feat of writing a text that can be read on multiple levels, if one knows what to look for, much like the old alchemical and Kabbalistic texts of centuries ago.

    Case in point: Alchemy's quest to transmute base metals into gold was never the end goal; rather, it was the elevation of the alchemist's soul as a consequence of the process. Marano's use of alchemy as a model for the Succubus' ambitions makes her one of the novel's real delights. Rather than a tedious portrayal of evil-for-evil's-sake, she is despite her fantastical origins as fully realized as any character.

    If the novel suffers from anything, it's too much character. With quick-switching multiple storylines that don't always intersect, and some characters given extensive build-ups only to be dropped later, it can be difficult to keep everyone sorted out. No doubt Marano will get as solid a grip on this as he has his conceptual skills; there's far too much bravura work here for him not to.

    In Marano's acknowledgments he thanks a number of people for telling him "to shut up and write." Advice well heeded. In that spirit, then: Shut up and write some more."

    Brian Hodge
    -- Hellnotes --

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