States of Deseret is now available

Cover of States of Deseret featuring a Casey Jex Smith pen and ink illustration of a Mormon temple with the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate bridge in the backgroundPeculiar Pages in collaboration with A Motley Vision is pleased to announce the release of States of Deseret. With a foreword by Theric Jepson, cover illustration by Casey Jex Smith and 8 pieces of short and short short fiction, States of Deseret is, as far as I can tell, the first anthology devoted solely to Mormon alternate history.

It was a ton of fun to edit. My thanks to the eight contributors who authored such interesting and varied stories and who put up with my editing notes. This is a short anthology–it’s about 26,000 total words of fiction. It’s lean and mean and packs a punch. But that means that we’ve by no means exhausted this particular patch of the garden. I hope that it’ll inspire other Mormon authors to tackle the genre of alternate history.

Here’s the blurb:

What if the territory of Deseret had never joined the Union and instead became its own nation? What if Leo Tolstoy or Nikola Tesla had converted to the LDS Church? What if Brigham Young had gone all the way to California instead of stopping in Utah? The genre of alternate history invites us to imagine how the past (and thus our present and future) would be different if different choices had been made. These eight stories provide glimpses at alternate historical trajectories for Mormons and Mormonism—of other states of Deseret.

States of Deseret is available in several different ebook formats worldwide for $2.99* from: Amazon/Kindle | B&N/Nook | Kobo | iBooks

We don’t plan on offering a print version at this time, but if things change, I’ll be sure to let you know.

*or local currency equivalent

A Rambling Review of Assembled Allred

Allred, Lee. Assembled Allred: 7 Tales by the Master Sergeant of Alternate History. Lincoln City, OR: Rookhouse Books, 2012. 171 pages. $14.99 in trade paperback, $8.99 Kindle. Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.

Much of science fiction is written in the spirit of What if? What if humans could fly? What if there were aliens among us? What if you could go back in time and marry your own grandmother? (Thanks for that one, Heinlein!)

The best of these questions are never just about science or technology. They invite us, instead, to consider what is real and constant — and what changes — in human hearts and minds and spirits, and societies. They prod us to reflect on our values and challenge our own easy answers about what is right and wrong. For all the conflict many readers and writers see between science fiction and religion, there’s a surprisingly large shared space (in my opinion, and that of many Mormon sf&f readers) between the kind of imagination needed to explore the stars, if only mentally, and a cosmology that sees the bounds of current mortality as merely a proscenium on eternity. Or maybe it’s mortality that’s the strictly bounded stage, and religion — and imaginative fiction — a mental transition space between where we are and the boundless limits of possibility?

Allred’s stories explore that space. They ask not only what if history had been a little bit different, what if the Mormons had repeating rifles during the Utah War, but also what if (for example) a magical implement could remove the signs of cowardice, at the price of blood? Or T. H. Huxley wound up after death in a Hell he didn’t believe in during life? The answers tickle the imagination; at their best, they engage the heart as well.

Continue reading “A Rambling Review of Assembled Allred”

Review: With a Title Like _Monsters & Mormons_, How Could You Not Have Fun?, Part One

It’s taking me a while to get through  Monsters & Mormons, not because it’s not super enjoyable (because it is!), but because it’s a pretty long book (which, to me, is no flaw. The upcoming Saints on Stage: An Anthology For Mormon Drama which I edited for Zarahemla Books is a behemoth as well). Also when I finish a short story, I feel a temporary sense of completeness, so the book doesn’t always draw me back like a novel does because I’m not left “hanging” so to speak. So I’ve decided to break up my review of Monsters and Mormons over a few different reviews so I can write while the stories are still somewhat fresh in my mind. It will also allow me to address the short stories more individually instead of as a blurred whole.

First, my overall impression of Monsters & Mormons: it’s a winner. A big winner. As some one who has lived in imaginative waters since he was a child and hasn’t been afraid to invite his religion to play in those waters with him, I totally dig projects like this. Now, I’ve never been much of a horror fan, especially when it leads to copious amounts of blood and gore. I mean, like, yuck. Not my thing. However, I do love ghost stories and supernatural monsters (I keep wanting to read some H.P. Lovecraft), and, if it doesn’t lead to too much gruesomeness, I can definitely enjoy stories like this. This is definitely not something I would suggest to some of my less adventurous or conservative thinking family and friends, but it’s something I would suggest to the imaginative Mormon who doesn’t mind mixing fantasy and religion (and I know a number of non-Mormons who would get a kick out of it!) . So let’s get to the individual stories in the first part of the collection:

Continue reading “Review: With a Title Like _Monsters & Mormons_, How Could You Not Have Fun?, Part One”

Bright Angels & Familiars:
“The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne
Guest analysis by Lee Allred

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On my post yesterday on this story, I claimed a certain ambivalence re the story’s attempts and affectations. Lee Allred claims to have cracked the lock and opened to story. And, frankly, he makes a compelling case. His argument (complete with diagram) appears below. (The only changes I made were the addition of hyperlinks.)

Tell him what you think.

Continue readingBright Angels & Familiars:
“The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne
Guest analysis by Lee Allred”

Monsters & Mormons: the final nine

Theric and I are pleased to announce nine more works — and the final set of works — that we will be including in Monsters & Mormons. Everyone who has submitted should now have a decision in hand. If not, email us. But I’m pretty sure we’ve replied to all of our ~70 submitters. Thanks again to all those who sent something in. It was fun reading everything, and we do wish we could find a way to accommodate every work. But editing time and page count and the parameters of the anthology mean we had to make choices. Some tough ones even.

And so we made them. And here are the final nine acceptances:

  • The poem “Water Spots” by Terresa Mae Wellborn — the kind of poem that gets under your skin. And then thrashes around.
  • The short story “Pirate Gold for Brother Brigham” by Lee Allred — A classic ghost tale featuring Brigham Young and the Great Salt Lake.
  • The short story “Bokev Momen “by D. Michael Martindale — Mormonism filtered through the eyes of aliens to humorous effect. Although how the abducted Mormon feels about that “humor” we shall not comment upon.
  • The novelette “Allow Me to Introduce Myself” by Moriah Jovan* — A demon-fighting Mormon nun with some nifty gadgets.
  • The short story “The Mission Story” by Bryton Sampson — What happens when your weird mission companion has a bit of the mad scientist in him?
  • The short story “Bichos” by Erik Peterson — Newlywed couple. The Amazon. Old stories of scary beasts. (And then the fun starts.)
  • The short short story “A Letter from the Field” by James Paul Crockett — the first letter home from an elder assigned to quite the unusual field of work.
  • The short story “Baptisms for the Dead” by Christopher Birkhead — a missionary companionship keeps working through a zombie apocalypse.
  • The short story “Out of the Deep I Have Howled unto Thee” by Scott M. Roberts — A haunted motorcycle in the Utah desert.

For those keeping track that brings us to 29 works and 30 contributors. Depending on how edits go, the whole thing will end up being between 160,000 and 175,000 words (not counting bios/forewords/afterwords). All of it Mormony, Monsterish goodness. We’ll keep you updated. And now, it’s off to work.

*So in the interest of full disclosure, Moriah Jovan will be doing the layout and formatting on the book. She also runs the publishing concern of which Peculiar Pages is an imprint. I can tell you that neither she nor Theric gave me any pressure on accepting the story, and they both know that I would have had no problem rejecting it. But I do like it, and it does fill a need — so it’s going in.

Theric would like to add that, in fact, no one was more enthusiastic about this story than William. Moriah considered withdrawing it and I was about to let her but William refused. And he was right. This story — like every other story listed in today’s announcement — fills a vital need. And now, finally, we feel complete. And boy oh boy but are these tales going to slap you around. Cue your excitement.

Mormons and Monsters: Musing upon one point of editing

M&M.

In editing The Fob Bible, I ignored any agony at including my own work. The constraints of the anthology demanded it. With Monsters and Mormons, I was planning on stepping aside and not filling any pages with my own writing. After all, I have generally found it rather obnoxious when editors include their own work. The first time I remember thinking this was reading a humor collection edited by Louis Untermeyer  (Amazon). The book, he claimed, contained only the best work from the English-speaking world’s funniest writers. And then he included himself. So I judged him by his own standard (only twice as hard) and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since. And I’ve read enough anthologies now to know that 75% of the time, the editor’s stories show—not surprisingly—the least editing. Continue reading “Mormons and Monsters: Musing upon one point of editing”

Why my not liking “Blood Work” means you should buy Dispensation

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If you know anything about Angela Hallstrom, you should know that she is a person of taste and a keen parser of literariness.

And if you followed my Twitter reviews of her new short story collection (archived here–scroll up for the key), then you know that I did not feel equally positive about every story she collected. In fact, some I didn’t really care for at all. But not liking a story in a collection–or even several stories–is a far cry from disliking a collection.

Let me explain. Continue reading “Why my not liking “Blood Work” means you should buy Dispensation

Couple-Creators: Mike and Laura Allred

Sir:
I’m still trying to get an ftp address out of Sunstone (they must have one and someone must know what it is) and as soon as that gets figured out, I’ll let you know what images I need. (Hopefully by then I will have finished my article.)
In the meantime, I thought I should send you the questions about being a couple of Mormon artists, married to each other. Please distinguish between your comments and Laura’s so I can do the same for readers. (Feel free to forward the questions on to her if would be easier for her just to reply separately.) (Or forward her your answers and let her reply to them.) (Or whatever. I’m flexible.)
I’ve included more questions than I expect you to answer. Feel free to pick and choose. And feel free to plug any upcoming projects as well. And I’ll (obviously) need to include some sort of image with this article — probably one off your website’s gallery or a scan from one of the Madman books I own. But if you happen to have a couple-portrait lying around that you made together, that would be ideal methinks.
Q: Were you both creators before meeting each other? Did creation play a role in bringing you together? How does creating together impact your marriage?
We met at BYU-Idaho and were both in the art department. So, we’ve always had that connection.
We were originally worried about getting sick of each other working together full-time, but it’s only brought us closer together.
Q: Since Michael seems to get hit up for more interviews than Laura, the general impression online is that projects you work on together are purely his ideas. How accurate is this?
Very.
I’ll give him input, but he really does do pretty much everything except selecting the colors.
Q: The Golden Plates. Doing that project seems like a financial risk and, sadly, it wasn’t a big hit. How did you discuss this project ahead of time, and was that discussion different than previous deciding-to-do-a-project discussions? What sort of strain did its lackluster sales cause? How likely are you to return to either that project or the Joseph Smith bio?
First off, it actually was a huge hit. But not big enough to sustain us financially given the time needed to do it right. So, we simply have to find time to do it when we can. We’re confident once we manage an efficient schedule that it will pick up steam.
Q: Speaking of, what is the relationship between faith, art and spouse?
It just is. We don’t have the words to express that answer correctly.
Q: Of course, you both work on projects apart from each other as well as working together — why is it important to take those jobs?
It’s always good to stretch on outside projects. Thats’ where we’ll find new inspiration to progress with different techniques and approaches.
Q: Speaking of, artistically, what are the advantages of working on properties owned by other people?
New perspectives.
Q: How is it different, working together as opposed to working with other people?
Together we have a rhythm and a comfort zone that can’t be matched.
Q: I know you’ve worked with Mike’s brother Lee. Have you involved other family members in projects as well? How does that turn out?
Our children have created characters or done small coloring jobs and stuff. It’s just extra fun.
Q: How do you balance family and art? Do you think it is easier or harder to be parents, you both being professional creatives? How do your careers affect your children?
We would just say it allows us to involve our children more in what we do, and they’re all creative too in music and art. And working at home just brings us closer together.
Q: At the beginning of your careers, before you were The Famous Allreds, how did you balance art with more mundane needs like rent?
We just plugged away. It’s not much different now except…
How has success changed your approaches to art?
…we have more confidence and it’s a little easier to get things done.
Q: How has success changed your relationship with each other?
Simply more comfort, less stress.
Q: I hear Laura is, first and foremost, a painter. Which begs the question: in addition to comics, what else are you two up to in terms of Fab Art?
Not much lately. I have my hands full with our regular work and spend as much time with the kids as we can.
Q: Any advice for Mormon artist couples like yourselves?
Just don’t be afraid to spend more time together. We love it!
Don’t forget to plug your upcoming work (including but not limited to continuing Madman, the Neil Gaiman Metamorpho, and whatever zillion other things you’re busy with).

That’s about it right now. Some things in the works, but nothing I can announce.

yet.

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I imagine the first thing that comes to the average mind when one mentions Mike or Laura Allred, together or separately, is Madman, Mike’s mid-Nineties comics creation that has lived long and is one of the most brilliant comics on shelves even today.

In Mormon circles, they are probably better known for The Golden Plates, their Book of Mormon adaptation.

For both these works, the writing and drawing is done by Mike, with colors by Laura. But their careers stretch far beyond these two titles, deep into the world of popular comics. Mike’s retro-pop stylings are in high demand (look for a collaboration with Neil Gaiman, coming soon) and Laura’s zowie colors for numerous popular titles have won her fan awards time and again. Check out these resumes: (Mike), (Laura).

Continue reading “Couple-Creators: Mike and Laura Allred”