The Backstory behind Backstories

Back in February, I was staring at a photo I had taken recently: The impressions that my shopping cart made in damp snow, and it occurred to me that somebody who was overthinking things might think it was left by something or someone other than a shopping cart. Like two flamingoes on bicycles.

flamingos on bikesI posted that on Facebook and thought, well, that was fun. The next evening, I was staring up at the various tschotskes on my mantel, and starting wondering what some of the little plastic Android bots were actually thinking — or doing — as they stood up on the mantel. So I wrote that up, careful to stay within the 140-characters (less, actually, because of the photo) demanded by Twitter, and posted it on Twitter and Facebook. And, I decided at the last minute, on Instagram.

So Backstories was born. Backstories are basically short, ridiculous imaginings of what is going on in the minds of the animals and supposedly inanimate objects around us. After all, they live in our world alongside us, don’t they? Who are we to presume that birds, trees and garbage cans don’t have inner lives as well? And thoughts as wise or as silly as anything that runs around in our human brains?

Currently, I set them to go live at 8:30 am every weekday on Facebook and Twitter; they usually appear on Instagram sometime the night before. On Facebook, they are gathered in an album called Backstories; on Twitter, they can be found in my personal feed; and on Instagram, tagged as #theirbackstories. If you’re curious, please do check them out.

How long will I keep publishing them? As long as I can continue to figure out what the animals and objects around me are thinking, I suppose — and as long as that process continues to be fun. Right now, it is a great deal of fun — to create and, I hope, to read.

Lights, camera — you know the rest

Just because I can: I’ve created a new video page on my blog site. This was, in the main, prompted by the reading I did back in April for the NYRSF Reading Series of my short story “Sabbath Wine,” which appears in the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5 (and which I’m inordinately proud of).

The series is now (through the good work of Jim Freund and Terence Taylor) being broadcast via Livestream. So I have a video of the reading, which I can now offer to anyone who wants to hear me tell the story in in my full Brooklyn accent.

I also have a video that was taken by editor Kay Holt (thanks, Kay!) of a party that took place at the 2011 Readercon SF con;  I read my story “Seder Guest,” which had been published in the late lamented small-press magazine Crossed Genres. (Crossed Genres still exists as a publishing company; check out their site here.)

There are also a few videos of panels I’ve sat on at various spec-fic conventions which I may add at a later date, but that’s about it for now. Enjoy.

My Readercon Schedule

Readercon has posted its “preliminary” schedule; since there are only a few more days to go, I’ve decided to go ahead and post the panels/readings that I’m going to participate in. There are loads of great-sounding panels coming up; I’m really looking forward to it!

Here are mine:

Thursday July 7

8:00 PM    Room 5    Living in the Future. John Chu, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Andrea Phillips, Tom Purdom, Terence Taylor. Today, if we’re going to see another person, we have cellphones to instantly communicate with that person, and maps on the cellphones to help us find our agreed-upon location. Twenty years ago we would have had to phone each other on landlines, pick a restaurant in advance or agree to meet at a landmark known to both of us. Five hundred years ago we wouldn’t have had watches on our persons, so even keeping to the correct time of the appointment would have been difficult—how would we even know when the agreed-upon time of our meeting arrived? Our panelists will discuss some of the conveniences, large and small, that we take for granted, and the absence of which would cause difficulties of the sort that are often elided in fiction. The discussion will also discuss science fiction novels and stories that incorporate and project modern technology into their fictions, and which fail to take these things into account.

9:00 PM    Room 5    The Life and Times of Mary Sue . Gillian Daniels, Gemma Files, Ben Francisco, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Natalie Luhrs. New Republic senior editor Jeet Heer wrote, in a short Twitter essay about Mary Sues, “The popularity of the term ‘Mary Sue’ really says everything you need to know about sexism in fandom/nerdom.” Instead of unpacking the concept of Mary Sue, we’d like to zero in on the troubled history of this term, why it’s troubled, and how better to talk about “self-insertion” in fiction without the sexism.

Friday July 8

12:00 PM    Room A    Reading: Barbara Krasnoff. (It says I’m reading “Sabbath Wine” but I’ll probably read an unpublished story instead.)

5:00 PM    Room A    Clockwork Phoenix 5 Group Reading. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Cameron Roberson, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise. Contributors to the bestselling fifth installment in the critically-acclaimed, boundary-expanding Clockwork Phoenix anthology series read excerpts from their stories.

Readercon & Videos

Is Readercon really next week? It feels as if it’s crept up on me; I keep thinking it’s sometime in the nebulous future. I’ve gotten my initial schedule, which right now is made up of two panels, an individual reading and a group reading, but the schedule is apparently still tentative. So I’ll hold off posting it until everything is set in — well, if not stone, then at least in reasonable secure rubber.

Meanwhile, as usual, I’m indecisive about what to read. I was originally going to read “Sabbath Wine” from Clockwork Phoenix 5, but I realized that not only might I be repeating it for any of my friends who show up (since I read it at the NYRSF Readings back in April), but that it’s way too long for a 25-minute slot. So I’ve asked them to change the description in the program to “Barbara reads a new unpublished story,” and that way, I can make the decision at the last moment.

Meanwhile, if you want to hear me read “Sabbath Wine,” you can! I’ve created a “Videos” page on my website (here: https://krasnoff.wordpress.com/videos/), where you can catch the NYRSF reading. There’s also a video of me reading a short story called “The Seder Guest” that I did at a Crossed Genres party at a previous Readercon.

More on Readercon soon — and I hope to see you there!

A Brooklyn writer reads in Queens!

This coming Thursday, April 28th, I’ll be participating in the Queens Literary Crawl in Forest Hills. According to the website, “The event, the first of its kind in the borough, celebrates the literary and artistic community of Queens and NYC while creating a hip event celebrating national poetry month.”

Yes, I’m from Brooklyn. Yes, I usually tend to avoid events that describe themselves as “hip.” So sue me.

I’ll be part of a group of 14 writers who will be reading short works from 7 pm to 10:30 pm at the Aged Restaurant on 107-02 70th Road in Forest Hills. It’s a great line-up, with lots of writers whom I admire and others whom I look forward to discovering, including Rajan Khanna, Marleen S. Barr, William Shunn (who is organizing this segment of the event on behalf of his Line#Break series of readings), Robert Howe, Nancy Hightower, Keith RA DeCandido, and many others.

So if you’re planning to be in the neighborhood — or even if you’re not, but you happen to have an evening free — see if you can drop by. There will be readings at several venues (and breaks every so often so you can switch between venues) and a party at the end of the evening. Tickets for the event cost $9.99; proceeds will benefit the Queens Book Festival.

I’ll be participating in the first segment, which starts at 7 pm. So get there early!

You can find all the information at their website. Come if you can!

Upcoming anthology from Triptych Tales

Triptych Tales 2016 CoverTriptych Tales is one of the online publications that I’ve been lucky enough to have sold more than one piece to. It’s worth checking out: It publishes science fiction, fantasy and non-genre short stories which, in the words of the editors, “take place in our world, our world with a twist, or our world as it could be in the very near future.”

And, of course, to fit its name, there are always three stories on the home page.

So why am I talking about it now? Because Triptych Tales is coming out with a print/ebook anthology of stories published in past issues called Triptych Tales: The Anthology 2016. It will include my story “The Waterbug” along with some excellent fiction by James Aquilone, Sarina Dorie, Melissa Mead, Rati Mehrotra, Ken Schneyer, David Steffen, Anna Yeatts and others.

More details as I know them. Meanwhile, here’s a link to The Waterbug if you’d like to read it online.

Short review of Skeleton Crew at the Atlantic Theater

Skeleton Crew, a play at the Atlantic Theater’s Stage 2 in NYC, is a really fine, moving play by  Dominique Morisseau, a playwright whom I was not familiar with before. It concerns four workers in a Detroit auto plant in 2008, when there was a virtual collapse of U.S. manufacturing. The play opens as there is word that a sister factory has just shut down, and before the first act is over, it’s obvious that this factory is being prepared for the chopping block as well.

As the play progresses, we slowly learn about the lives and hopes of four people who work in the factory — Dez (Jason Dirden), an ambitious and angry young man; Reggie (Wendell B. Franklin), who made it from the factory floor into lower management; Shanita (Nikiya Mathis), a soon-to-be single mother who is proud of her work and her independence; and Faye (Lynda Gravatt), a union rep who is nearing her 30-year retirement. The entire action takes place in the break room of the factory and the actors do an incredible job of bringing the characters to life.

sc_5

My mother, who saw the play with me, also thought the actors did a splendid job and liked the play; however, she felt the resolution at the end was a bit pat and somewhat forced. I didn’t have that issue; perhaps because I was so caught up in the characters’ problems and conflicts, both external and internal.

I only do occasional reviews of plays and/or books, but in this case, I wanted to promote what I think is a really excellent slice of life about a group of people to whom attention should have been paid. Skeleton Crew runs through February 14th; if you have a chance to see it, I recommend it.