Thursday, August 20, 2015

Yet Another Feast - A Call For Action

The time is upon us to start assembling Feast of Laughter Issue 3.

We already have some amazing stories, essays, artwork, interviews, and reviews lined up. We need YOUR contribution. We need your original stories, your original essays, your original artwork, your original reviews, and your old and ancient and oft reprinted versions of the above. And if you've seen something online about Lafferty that you think ought to be reprinted, by all means suggest it. Try to reach out and get permission from the author to reprint it. The only real guideline is this: Share your love of Lafferty!

  • Expression of Interest: Saturday, September 19, 2015 
  • Content complete: Sunday, October 11, 2015
  • Publication: Saturday, November 7, 2015 (Lafferty's 101st birthday!)

Email with all your ideas, submissions, stories, artwork, and daydreams of things you'd love to say about R. A. Lafferty, and even requests. 

Share and be published! Join the growing phenomenon that is Feast of Laughter!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Read New Books

As science fiction fan and especially as a Lafferty fan, used bookstores are my constant comfort and often my greatest resource. I love exploring the stacks of used books, stumbling upon obscure treasures at bargain prices. I firmly believe books are to be read. The narrative does not expire after one person has read it, and the more people who have read a book, the more conversations and explorations of ideas it can spark.

As a father of 3 (2 in college), used bookstores and libraries are just about the only way I can afford to support my book habit.

There are some living, publishing authors for whom I make an exception of my borrowed and used book policy. I buy their books because I really like what they write. When I can, I buy new copies of their books because they are earning a living writing and publishing books. If I buy a really good secondhand copy, the bookseller makes a small sum. If I buy a new copy, the bookseller makes a small cut, the publisher makes a small cut, and the author gets paid! What a concept!

Authors like:

  • J Simon I have been reading his stories for decades. I even had the joy of publishing his Lafferty-inspired story, “The Woman Who Wondered What Onions Think” in the first Feast of Laughter. Check out his enormously fun Fossilized Gods at
  • Michael Swanwick writes with both humor and erudition, and he is an unabashed Lafferty fan. I first discovered his writing in the Periodic Table of Science Fiction (just look for it—you will not regret the loss of time). He has just published his newest Darger & Surplus novel, Chasing the Phoenix. He blogs frequently at
  • Michael Bishop includes a deep sense of humanity in everything he writes, even when he is writing about the utterly alien. I recently discovered his writing when he graciously, gladly, gloriously offered us his Lafferty tribute, “Of Crystalline Labyrinths and the New Creation” for the first Feast of Laughter. In reading as much of his work as I could get ahold of, I discovered that I had read and been impressed by the depth of some of his stories in New Wave anthologies when I was a teenager, and more importantly that I was truly enjoying reading him today! My current favorites are his Philip K. Dick tribute, The Secret Ascension (or Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas) and the truly incandescent Transfigurations. Check him out at
  • Howard Waldrop is a uniquely American voice, who should be classed with Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and R. A. Lafferty in creating an American literature. I cannot say enough about his writing. Find and read “The Ugly Chickens” “Mary Margaret Roadgrader” “Willow Beeman” (which he graciously allowed me to publish in the second Feast of Laughter). Howard is also one of the nicest human beings anyone is likely to meet. That coupled with his glacially slow and painstaking writing process and his penchant for selling stories to the lowest paying markets (like Feast of Laughter) has nearly guaranteed him a future of crashing on friends’ couches. Would the universe collapse if we all rushed out and bought enough copies of his books to let him live in comfort? It’s a risk I am willing to take! His latest collection, Horse of a Different Color is available from Small Beer Press at
    Also, check out his collections Things Will Never Be the Same and Other Worlds, Better Lives still in print and available new from
    Seriously, buy Howard's books. 
  • Stephen Case is a relatively new author I really enjoy. Again, I discovered his writing when he offered to let us published one of his reviews and a story in Feast of Laughter. I am really enjoying reading everything of his I can. Check out his First Fleet series of books. Check out his blog at
  • Anne Hillman has taken up the pen to continue her father’s Chee and Leaphorn detective series. Not only is this a continuation of a book series I have loved for decades, it turns out she is a good writer in her own right. Her website is
  • Daniel Pinkwater Read everything you can of his. You will be a better person for it. He is ostensibly a children’s author, and his books are aimed anywhere from the preschool audience to early teens. However, there is a depth and wry observation of our humanity in there that will help educate and enlighten any reader willing to let his word magic work. My favorites are his novels Lizard Music, The Neddiad, and Bushman Lives! He makes occasional announcements and answers readers’ questions at

The world of publishing is rapidly changing, and I do not know much about contracts and payment structures. I am sure there are plenty of players in the system who are out for themselves and who do not really care if the authors ever earn a single penny. However, without taking up arms in (and without devoting enough time to fully understand) this particular battle, I still feel it is better to support the authors I like. And the system does work to a degree. One friend of mine worked for twenty years writing a textbook. It has been gradually adopted by the biology departments of more and more universities, and he is now living far more comfortably than he was as a college professor trying to write his first textbook. To be honest, if he was paid fairly for the amount of effort and expertise he put into the book, he would be a millionaire many, many times over. On the other hand, Students are buying his book and he is getting paid. This is a good thing (though I may say differently when I see the bill for my son’s textbooks this fall).

For the most part, I will continue to hunt used bookstores and library sales for dirt-cheap used paperbacks of my favorites and perhaps new and future favorites. But when any of these authors publish something new, and when I happen to be able to afford a nice hardback, I will gladly shell out for a new book.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quick Thoughts on Fourth Mansions

Lafferty's Fourth Mansions is my favorite book. It is the book I re-read most often, the book I enjoy the most, the book I draw the most encouragement from. There may be better books in the world, for instance I argue that Okla Hannali is both better written and more important. However, since I first encountered it, sometime around my 19th year, I have not found a book I enjoy reading more than Fourth Mansions.

On the other hand, there are many readers who do not resonate as strongly with the book. For some it takes two or three readings to catch on to what it is doing, and for some it will never click. I understand that every reader is different, and different aspects of Lafferty's writing resonate differently with each of us. However, I still ponder the mechanisms--the reason this book instantly hit all my resonant frequencies while leaving others cold.

One cause may be the way Lafferty plays with levels of metaphor so freely that it is not always apparent what is in the "reality" of the narrative and what is metaphorical. For example, in one scene Freddy Foley is trying to reach Biddy Bencher over a long distance:
     Freddy called her up, not by phone. Other forms of communication had come onto him lately almost without his noticing them. He got her but could not get her attention. She was lounging on subterranean beaches and wild dogs were tearing her apart. “You’re missing pieces, you’re missing the best pieces,” she kept calling at the tearing dogs. “All you’re tearing off is the legs. Don’t any of you like the white meat?”
     Freddy couldn’t get her attention that way. Finally he called her on the telephone and she answered on the fourth ring… 
I had no trouble with this passage. It's actually very funny. Freddy has been touched by the brain weave of the Harvesters and is in constant mental contact with everyone who is part of the weave or has also been touched by the weave. However the parts of consciousness connected by the weave are often a part of the person's subconscious, so the events that occur in the weave are more like the events in a dream. They are metaphorical and sometimes nonsensical in the same way that dreams are, but they do contribute to the tenor and the interpretation of the events happening in the "real" world of the book.

In this passage, Freddy has realized that because of the weave, he has powers of communication and insight that he'd never had before. He tries to use these powers to communicate with Biddy, but because she is a distractible and impulsive young lady with a rather lurid subconscious imagination, these abilities are useless. Freddy then has to use more normal or mundane means to reach her.

In a way Lafferty is poking fun at his own invention. Most SF authors come up with a nifty gimmick, and it becomes the lynchpin for the narrative of the book. Consider Heinlein's Time for the Stars in which scientists discover telepathy between certain identical twins. That communication becomes the core of the narrative of interstellar exploration. Heinlein treats his invention with great reverence. Lafferty, on the other hand invents the brain weave, which has tremendous impact on the narrative and reveals the actions and motivations of the characters on several levels of consciousness, and then in this scene dismisses it as being superfluous and not very helpful--at least at that particular moment. In parallel, imagine if someone invented a way of connecting all the sources of knowledge and computing power over the world, and people mostly used it for posting pictures of their cats or what they ate for breakfast...

Once Freddy is touched by the weave, he slowly uses more and more of the capabilities it gives him. He sees in the dark, seeing with Harvester eyes, with Toad eyes, with Falcon eyes, with Patrick eyes. "One misses so much who uses one set of eyes." He gets updates from Miguel Fuentes and reports on his revolutionary movement--even drawing him accurately from memory without ever having seen him. He follows the battles and plots of the Harvesters. This allows the narrative to follow Freddy, but also to report in detail on all the other groups of characters who have become connected. However, many of the events come through the weave and are on a metaphorical level. The vision of Richard Bencher doing battle with the dragon or hydra that the weave has become is happening on a level that Bencher is not even consciously aware of. We never know if Biddy's demon boyfriend is a real demon of Hell or a metaphor for the energy of the weave--though I suspect it is intended as real. And then there's Bagley's dog-ape plappergeist, and the weave-inflected metaphor for the world in Michael Fountain's lectures.

I can imagine that some readers have trouble switching so quickly and so often between layers of metaphor and reality.

Everyone has their own particular mental and emotional structures, and everyone has their own patterns of Lafferty reading. I wonder if the way Lafferty's corpus resonates with a person is as individual as a fingerprint. For me, Fourth Mansions leaves the biggest mark.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Fandoms Collide

This may come as a surprise (though it shouldn't), but I am a fan of many different authors. R. A. Lafferty is at the top of my list, but I am also rather ardent (and therefore perhaps dangerously boring in conversation) about Howard Waldrop, Ursula Le Guin, Barry Hughart, Tony Hillerman, Edward Abbey, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, etc. Depending on what I am reminded of in conversation, you may find me forcing a book by any of those authors into your hands.

Notice that I mentioned Waldrop and Le Guin first after Lafferty in that second sentence.

In a way Lafferty is a great unifier. His fans span the literary gamut from those of us who possess remarkably little talent but love to read to those who are Literary Giants. And yet, we all enjoy sharing our love of Lafferty, without acknowledging any kind of hierarchy.

As an ardent Lafferty fan, I have stumbled into being the editor of Feast of Laughter, our semiannual Lafferty fanzine ("bookzine" as Michael Swanwick called it). While this is the result of countless hours of dedicated work by some really talented and devoted people, of which I am only one contributor, I still get to claim the title. This has led to some truly neat things happening, and sometimes not happening but in really neat ways:

The other day, some months ago, I asked Lawrence Person if he could contact Howard Waldrop on my behalf asking permission to reprint "Willow Beeman," a deliberately Lafferty-esque collaboration by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop. He gave me Howard's phone number.

Understand, I have loved Howard Waldrop's writing for decades, ever since encountering "The Ugly Chickens" in a copy of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Tenth Annual Collection in the UNM Library sometime around 1984 or '85. He is very high up in my pantheon of literary gods. So it was with some trepidation that I called him the next morning. I was afraid I would be too much a smitten fan boy to sound like a professional editor. Yet when I started talking to Howard, he is such a genuinely kind person he immediately put me at ease. He was happy to spend an hour on the phone chatting about what Lafferty had meant to him, how Lafferty's writing had inspired him, telling me stories about Lafferty at conventions, and telling me the story of how he and Steven Utley had decided to write their Lafferty story. I have since had numerous phone conversations with him. He is always gracious, kind, and excited about helping preserve R. A. Lafferty's place in the literature of Science Fiction. And yes, we did publish "Willow Beeman" in Feast of Laughter #2 this spring.

On another day a couple of weeks ago, I sent an impassioned rambling letter to Ursula K. Le Guin professing my love of her work and asking her to contribute something to Feast of Laughter. While this contact didn't work out anywhere near as amazingly as did my contact with Howard Waldrop, I did receive in the mail last night a very gracious hand written letter from her saying she was honored by our request and that she applauds our efforts to preserve Lafferty's writing. She doubts she will be able to write anything for us, but will keep it in mind. If you are going to turn someone down, that is the way to do it--with kindness, graciousness, and class.

That Lafferty's writing can unite so many talented, intelligent people shows the power of literature to eliminate barriers and bring us all together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Feast of Laughter 2 is Here!

It's ALIVE!!

The new Feast of Laughter is here!

Download it from

or buy it from Amazon:

Thank you to everyone who contributed and thank you many millions of times over to the members of the Ktistec brotherhood who fought through the long creative (and occasionally combative) hours to bring this beast to life. It is far better in quality of production, writing, design, and even editing than the first book. It was truly a collaborative effort by all.

Check it out!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Watch This Space

The stew is bubbling, the roast is in the oven, the drink is fermenting, and the desserts are baking. The second Feast of Laughter is due out on March 18.

Watch this space.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Call to Action - Contribute to Feast of Laughter Issue 2

Happy New Year everyone!

2014 has been been an enormous year for Lafferty Fans. It started with the arrival of The Man Who Made Models volume 1 of the complete short works of Lafferty published by The Centipede Press. November 7 was Lafferty's 100th Birthday, and also the publication date of the first issue of Feast of Laughter the new Lafferty fanzine (read book of essays, commentary, scholarship, and stories) published by yours truly and the magnificent people at the East of Laughter fan group on Facebook.

The first issue was an enormous success--far beyond our wildest dreams (see my blog entry, Andrew Ferguson's entry, and Neil Gaiman's post; go and buy it on Amazon)!

Now it is time to focus on the next issue. We want to make the next issue even better than the first, learning from the few mistakes of first publication and attracting even more top quality content.


  • Expression of Interest: Saturday, January 31, 2015 
  • Content complete: Friday, February 20, 2015
  • Publication: Saturday, March 18, 2015
Email with all your ideas, submissions, stories, daydreams of things you'd love to write about R. A. Lafferty, and even requests. 

  • Q: If I have a perfect idea that I can polish into an amazing entry, but I dream it up on February 1, am I out of luck until Issue #3?
  • A: Most likely we can fit it into Issue #2. The January 31 deadline for expression of interest is a guideline to help know how much content to prepare for, and see if there are any synergies between topics from different writers, so I can coordinate conversation and work. Please be as thoughtful as you can, but if it absolutely ought to be in this issue, by all means submit it!
  • Q: Can I suggest essays by other bloggers, scholars, critics, and authors that ought to be included?
  • A: Absolutely, that is where a huge amount of our content in Issue #1 came from. If you suggest it, be prepared to follow up by contacting the original author and requesting permission to include the content.
  • Q: Copyright?
  • A: Absolutely respected on all fronts:
    • 1. Ktistec Press and Feast of Laughter is scrupulous in respecting copyrights for all material. We WILL obtain full permission to use any content before including it, unless that content is already in the public domain (see Andrew Ferguson's essay on "The Six Fingers of Time").
    • 2. All authors retain copyright to their entries. 
  • Q: Do you pay for content?
  • A: No. At this time, the Ktistec Press makes no money whatsoever. Our goal is to raise awareness of Lafferty's place in American literature and SF. To do that we want to reach as many people as possible, which means keeping the printed edition as inexpensive as possible. To this end, all of the content for Feast of Laughter is donated. Gleefully, joyously, jubilantly donated. Even Michael Bishop's story and Lissanne Lake's magnificent painting were donated with enthusiasm (and I am humbled by their greatness in so doing). 
  • Q: Can I help format, edit, proofread, publish, etc?
  • A: Yes, please!
  • Q: Where can I submit content?
  • A: Email it directly to or post a request in the East of Laughter fan group on Facebook, and I will share a submissions folder in Google Drive with you where you can deposit your work.
  • Q: Do I have to laugh while submitting content?
  • A: No, but if you don't, just keep it to yourself.

Issue 2 of the feast is being prepared, and you are invited! Remember, it's a potluck affair. Take as much as you can consume, but bring something to share.

Thank you and bon appetit!