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International Bon Vivant and Raconteur

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October 18th, 2007

Thomas Tessier and F. Paul Wilson at the KGB Bar [Oct. 18th, 2007|10:28 pm]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
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Last night's reading at the KGB Bar was strange. Weird, even.

It was great seeing the usual crowd, as always. I don't get to the KGB readings very often anymore. My work schedule conflicts with the whole Wednesday night thing, so as much as I enjoy them, I can really only go on extra-special occasions. It was nice seeing my old Necon friends Thomas Tessier and F. Paul Wilson, and it was even more fun getting to hang out with jplangan in real life instead of just here on LJ. He's awesome and needs to hang out more! I was surprised Tom Monteleone and p_straub55 weren't there to egg them on (and disappointed too, as I'd brought my copy of In the Night Room for Peter to sign), but they were both indisposed.

The crowd was great, and dinner afterward at the traditional Chinese restaurant was grand. I sat at the best table and we had the most fun of them all. At the table next to us, Rick Bowes kept craning his head around to see what we were all laughing at.

Generally, it was a very fun time. So what made it weird? Well, that would be the readings themselves.

First, Tom was very sick, possibly delirious with fever. He read his story from the Van Helsing anthology very haltingly, as if he were confused by his own words on the page, starting and stopping and starting again, and he frequently paused in the middle of sentences to wipe his brow. As a result, it was impossible for me or anyone I spoke with to follow the story. I have no idea if it was good or not. By the end, I had no idea what was happening, except that it involved the uncomfortable and rather tired trope of the demon-rape victim who liked it and is now sexually insatiable and is giving birth to demon babies. I think. Anyway, it's not his fault he was sick, and I respect him toughing it out so the show could go on, but it was difficult to listen to and concentrate on what he read.

It's harder to describe what went wrong with Paul's reading. He read a Repairman Jack story, one I'd never read before. It was filled with truly uncomfortable racial stereotypes, which you can do successfully if you're playing with it or making a statement or something, but Paul wasn't doing that. Instead, the story read like one of those 1980s action movies where the white hero is in the wrong side of town and has to fight off a gang of ethnic minorities intent on robbing the store he's in. Worse, Paul insisted on giving each of these characters cartoonish voices: the big sassy black woman, the Asian tourists, the Rastafarian, etc. It went beyond cheesy and very nearly crossed the line into a minstrel show. Looking around the room, I saw people squirming uncomfortably in their chairs. I felt pretty squirmy myself. Paul's got a good heart, I know he wasn't trying to be a jerk or anything, but he might want to give more thought to his characters and their voices so they don't come off as shucking and jiving.

So yeah, weird night of readings. I guess the word that keeps coming up is uncomfortable. A rare off night for the series, and for both of the authors.
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