Category Archives: Genre

Story Stew Served Hot in the Chicago Cold
by Corey Klinzing

Gumbo Gater 2This past week was so cold and inhospitable that the Gumbo Fiction Salon felt the need to knock down their already low cover by half, hoping to get people to brave the weather and come out to the cozy Galway Arms for their usual once-monthly reading. They needn’t have bothered—the crowd may have been small, but they were dedicated and welcoming, and as warm and enthusiastic a crowd as I have ever seen in an open mic. Watching them react was almost as entertaining as listening to the readers.

As a veteran of coffee-shop open-mics, where half the patrons are simply trying to get through their own work, and ignoring the writer on stage, the Salon was almost refreshing. Here there was nothing but interest, and even before the readings the regulars were more than willing to strike up a conversation and welcome you into their set. I’d made sure to wear a Doctor Who shirt to grease the wheels, since I’m not an effortless extrovert, and I was almost immediately drawn into conversation. Between the generous air of the Salon’s usual crowd and the comfortable atmosphere of the Galway Arms’ second floor, all warm colors and wood panels, I hardly felt my awkward self at all.

The bent of the Gumbo Fiction Salon, which calls itself a “Chicago’s Multi-Genre Story Stew” is crooked decidedly towards the fantastic genres (fantasy, science fiction, horror); Isaac Asimov was a guest of honor on the book table towards the back, and most of the readers listed that way. But the Salon doesn’t limit itself merely to what we call genre fiction. The featured reader, or readers I should say, were Polarity Ensemble Theater actors Rian Jairell, Allison McCorkle, and Margo Chervony, and Richard Engling, preforming from Engling’s novel, Visions of Anna, which deals with the death of a loved one and the presumed hereafter. From those who braved the ten-minute slots of the open mic, I heard bits of novels and grand adventures in foreign climes, and short stories: a young boy witnessed his brother’s sacrifice for their village, a bartender sent his patrons out to kill complete strangers made to look like their ex-lovers, a vegetable expedition was lost to the briny deep. Anything and everything was represented in some fashion or another, even in the writers themselves: experienced short story writers, playwrights, and novelists shared the stage with those still learning the craft.

One thing that the Salon founder and host, Tina Jens, made a point of doing was getting each reader’s autograph after they finished their turn at the mic. It’s a vote of confidence, as if she knows they’ll all go on to do great things and wants to get in there early. And from what I heard that night, I’m sure quite a few of them will.

I definitely recommend the Salon for new and upcoming writers, from those who want a little publicity for their latest published piece, to those who just need a few friendly ears for what they’re working on now. The regulars of this Galway Arms staple will be more than happy to provide. Just remember to bring a little cash if you want to get past the first floor.

The Gumbo Fiction Salon is held at Galway Arms, 2442 N Clark St, on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 7 pm, and will feature Rhysling winner and author of The Breaker Queen, C.S.E. Cooney on  March 11, and the authors of Exigencies: A Neo-Noir Anthology from Dark House Press on April 15. The cover is $4 per person, $2 for students of every stripe.


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Unapologetically Genre
by Alba Machado

Mark Twain has often been attributed as having said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” It seems that every member of the Story Week panel entitled “Genre Bending—The Faces of Fiction” can make the same boast. Mort Castle, Maggie Estep, and David Morrell are all unapologetically writers of genre fiction, in the categories of horror, mystery, and thriller, respectively, and Kevin Nance, while not a creative writer himself but, rather, a contributing editor at Poets & Writers, preserved his childhood love of comic books, Lord of the Rings, science fiction, and mystery, even though, as he puts it in tonight’s discussion, “When I went to college, I learned that everything I thought I knew about writing was wrong.”

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Is Joyce Carol Oates Slumming It?
by Alba Machado

When we think genre fiction, many of us often think of cheap, paperback novels that are quickly consumed and more quickly forgotten. It’s widely understood to be trite, formula fiction that’s manufactured for mass consumption—the stuff with which no “serious” author would ever want to be associated.

There is perhaps no better writer to challenge these assumptions than Joyce Carol Oates. The author of 58 novels, 34 collections of short stories, and more poems, plays, essays, and book reviews than anyone outside the Library of Congress can enumerate, Oates has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and a slew of literary awards, including the National Book Award, the O. Henry Award, and the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award. She also happens to teach at Princeton University. Writing doesn’t get more serious than Joyce Carol Oates, and yet, at the same time, her work is featured alongside the likes of Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and Robert Bloch in my copy of The Complete Masters of Darkness. Her status as a master of darkness was confirmed by the Horror Writer’s Association when, in 1996, she won their Bram Stoker Award for her novel, Zombie.

So what gives? Is she a literary genius who likes to go “slumming” once in a while? Or is she a horror and mystery hack who has managed to fool the literati into giving her undue recognition?

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