Gary Bourgeois has passed. Gary was a fellow New Orleanian sf and fantasy writer. His work was a foundation on which I built two steampunk fiction anthologies. I had planned to ask him to write the introduction to the third. When I felt the need to step back from the role of facilitator for the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Group, it was Gary who took up the slack and provided focus and organization to that group.
Gary Bourgeois was particularly proficient with the long story. It was my hope that, over time, we would refine the form and format of the long story together with other New Orleans sf and fantasy writers so that one day there would a type of long story in the sixteen thousand word range that would be known as the Bourgeois.
My upcoming projects may be more focused on the novel than short or long stories for the near future but work towards a regional variant of the long story continues to be part of my dreams as a writer.
Goodbye, Gary. I hope you reached whatever afterlife you sought and that your gods continue to watch over your soul. Blessed be.
Gary’s obituary from the newspaper:
Gary Joseph Bourgeois, age 64, went to heaven on Thursday, October 19, 2017. He died 6 months after diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was the husband of 41 years to Deborah Campos Bourgeois. He was the son of the late Harold and Lois Bourgeois, oldest brother to Michael Bourgeois (Marilyn), Philip Bourgeois (Carlen), the late Robert Bourgeois, Ann Bourgeois Schmidt (Scott), cousin to Will Dermady (Julie), and uncle to Moira, Erin and Tommy. Treasured brother-in-law to Rhonda Campos.
He retired from Entergy Nuclear and Jefferson Parish Westwego Library. He graduated from UNO, and he led the fiction writers West Bank group at the Westwego Library, and the science fiction writers group at the East Bank regional Library. Writing and mentoring others were his passion. Every member of his group was prized. He wanted to encourage everyone to succeed. He was published in short story form and placed in a writing contest. Rescuing, loving and caring for over 100 cats in his lifetime demonstrated his endless compassion.
He leaves behind a large feline family, two in particular; Jolson and Pogo, in heaven now, will be the first to welcome him. Gary’s every day was spent centered in kindness. He was never judgmental to others, always caring for other people’s feelings. A more loving husband does not exist. Our years together will never be enough.
Relatives and friends of the family are invited to attend the Celebration of Life on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at the Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Drive, Metairie, LA from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm. In Lieu of flowers, donations to Jefferson Parish Friends of the Library and Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO) may be made in his name. Online condolences may be offered at www.gardenofmemoriesmetairie.com. The family would like to express their sincere thanks to the Ochsner Oncology, Cardiology, and Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic physicians, all nursing and support staff and especially cardiology nurse Raj for the outstanding care and comfort provided.
Published in TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25, 2017
A new voice in the field of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy fiction, New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His most recent story, “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” was published in Dark Oak Press’ Capes and Clockwork II, edited by Alan Lewis. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon lives with his guardian and protector, Battle-cat Princess Kaleidoscope, in his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana. Find out more about Brandon’s work at http://www.brandonblackonline.com.
All original text copyright Brandon Black 2017.
We invite you to attend.
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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel, I Was A Teenage Air Pirate.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.
This post contains a scene of explicit sex. You have been warned.
This is a scene from the cutting room floor if you will from my story “Songs of the Divine Pulsation,” a steampunk erotica story I published in New Orleans By Gaslight. This scene wound up being cut from that story after David Ducorbier, local celebrity and man about town, physically lifted up the pages with this scene on it from my story and dropped them to the floor as being non-essential to the plot. I agreed with him then and when I returned to “Songs,” to add back in some of the material I had cut from it, this scene remained on the cutting room floor. That said, I still think it has some lovely writing.
Dave said I just want to get it on with Marie Laveau. He may be right about that.
The scene involves one of the main characters of “Songs of the Divine Pulsation,” a young black man named Evan who has a great deal of mystic potential and has elected to study under the New Orleans sorceress Sabine rather than with the voudouns of the city.
Evan and Marie
by Brandon Black
Evan gathered tools and supplies from his basement lair to take back to Sabine’s workshop. He placed the metal implements in a large bag for the trip. A knocking sounded on the door and Evan went to answer. The open door revealed none other than Marie Laveau.
Evan stood, silent, in surprise for a moment.
“Hello again,” Marie said.
“Hello,” Evan said with a nod, clearly wondering what this was about.
“I wanted to talk with you again about studying at our temple,” Marie said.
“Why are you so interested in me?” Evan asked. “Or is it that you just can’t stand to see me trained by Sabine because I’m black and she isn’t?”
“It is about Sabine. But it’s not entirely about race. It’s more about the fact that she does nothing with her power. I serve the lwa, I serve the community. People like you and I are rare. Everyone has the basic potential to serve the spirits but only a handful of people are strong enough to be adept at it. I just hate the thought of someone like you, someone who could be a houngan, a strong one, and a real asset to this community, going down her road and never doing any good for anyone.”
“I see,” Evan said.
“I just want you to see what we have to offer. Come to the peristyle and see what we do. It may interest you.”
“I’d like that. When?”
“Why not right now? We’re having a ritual tonight. Come to the salon. My peristyle, my temple, is out back. Come see how your ancestors served the spirits.”
“Let’s go,” Evan said with a nod.
Marie led Evan through the streets of New Orleans to one of the older neighbourhoods and a lovely, if modest, house with a building in back. The pair of them went up the stairs and into the house. Each and every room of the house held a small shrine, some just small tables with a cloth and statuettes and offerings but others the size of large dressers and covered in an array of exotic objects, incense holders, candles and candle holders, statuettes and figurines, carvings of snakes, skulls and sundry other mystic symbols all festooned with swirling pictographs and painting. Cigars, cigarettes, candies, flowers, coins, dollar bills and glasses and bottles of rum were left in offering on the various altars all over Marie’s home. Adjacent to the master bedroom, was the house’s temple room, painted entirely in black, with a main central altar and two sub-altars in the corners, more elaborate than anything he had seen in the house before.
“This was our main temple before we built the peristyle in back. We still hold certain special rituals here.” Marie led him back into the master bedroom and they sat down. “So, what do you think?”
“I am impressed. And curious. I want to learn more about what it is you do.” Evan said.
Marie smiled, triumphant.
“But,” Evan continued. “I’m happy learning from Sabine and Vespers. I’ve learned a lot and I know there’s more, much more, to learn. I’m not ready to give it up.”
“What has she taught you?” Marie asked.
“How to marshal and gather the forces of my body and spirit, how to commune with the Divine Presence,” Evan said. “She’s shown me things I never thought were even possible. I won’t turn my back on her or her teachings.”
“So, show me.”
“What?” He asked.
“Show me what you’ve learned,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Evan asked.
“Yes. Show me what you’ve learned,” Marie said.
“All right,” Evan smiled and began to unbutton his shirt.
“What are you, ” began Marie but Evan simply lifted his index finger gesturing for her to wait a moment and finished opening his shirt. He lifted a hand towards her and waited. She offered him her hand in return and he placed it flat over his heart, enfolded his hands over hers and closed his eyes.
In his mind’s eye, he gathered himself and his flows in his heart chakra, felt the probing, questing essence of Marie’s life force from her hand, felt it interweaving with his own flow. His eyes were closed but he knew when she felt the connection too when he felt the gentle shudder of surprise trickle down her fingertips.
Evan opened his eyes and smiled and drew Marie close; she spoke no word of restraint, made no move of resistance. She pulled the shirt from him and cast it to the floor. Evan brushed his lips gently against hers, his mouth open, exhaling gently across her lips before drawing her into a warm kiss. As their lips met and Marie’s hands began to rove across the warm flesh of his naked, muscled chest, she reached down to unbuckle his belt. Evan kicked off his shoes and let his pants and underwear fall to the floor. He began to disrobe her, helping her out of her dress. Evan knelt before her and removed the dress and allowed her to slip out of her shoes, one at a time, placing them together besides the dress. He then stood as she turned around and he began to unlace her corset, his fingers working quickly and nimbly as it too then fell to the floor. Marie lifted her hair with both hands as he undid the drawstring on her chemise and lifted it over her head. The garment removed, she shook her head, letting her long, luxurious hair fall gracefully about her neck and shoulders. Finally, he turned her around and reaching for the drawstring on her waist, undid and slid down her bloomers, his fingers sliding gracefully down the curving flesh of her backside, and pulled her bloomers to the floor as she stepped out of them.
The resplendent form of her nude body before him, her pert, shapely breasts and erect nipples, her generous and supple curves revealed before him clad only in her soft, immaculate mocha skin, Evan felt his manhood stirring and taking her hand in his, he led her to the bed and wordlessly bid her to lay down, which she did.
He placed his palm flat over her sex not in contact with her skin but an inch or so away from her.
“Close your eyes. Move your pelvis forward slightly in time with your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, draw full and complete breaths from your diaphragm, ” he drew a fingertip across the curve of her stomach. “Let your belly and your pelvis rise and fall as you breathe, that’s it, now imagine as you do so, that your drawing your breath through your flower, inhaling and exhaling prana, or life force. In, out, in, out.”
Evan straddled the edge of the bed and leaned down and kissed her gently across the lips, keeping a hand on her rising and falling belly.
He kissed her on her throat and opened his mouth slightly to exhale across her skin as he drew his lips gracefully down the curve of her slender neck. Marie trembled.
Evan kissed and suckled at Marie’s breasts, cupping her breast delicately with his right hand and drawing his thumb across her erect nipple. He drew two deep breaths in time with hers, exhaling across the nipple of one breast while fondling the other with his right hand.
“In and out. In and out.”
He began to plant gentle kisses down the warm curve of her belly and then drew his thumb across the soft sable fur of her womanhood once, twice.
“In, and out.” Evan exhaled across her pearl in time with her inhalation before placing his mouth to her flower. He licked, delicately, up and down the curve of her petals before kissing her on her feminine bud. He flicked his tongue in sensuous curving patterns across her bud while pushing two fingers into her warm, wet and inviting womanhood.
Evan moved his tongue in swirling patterns across her delicate, delectable flesh, drawing across the petals of her feminine flower, kissing her on the inner thigh, before returning to tease and entice her pearl. Marie rolled her hips gently from side to side in a rocking motion and moaned with pleasure.
He turned her over and worked two fingers of his left hand slowly into her sex, which was wet and pliant. Marie moaned louder as he pushed deeper into her and deeper. With his right hand, he drew his fingertips up along her backbone from the base of her spine towards her head, lifting his fingers from her to start again at the base of the spine tracing upwards.
“The kundalini, the primary motive force of the body, resides in the base of the spine. All these techniques are eventually aimed at liberating that force, freeing it to flow unchecked upwards through the chakras of the body towards the top of the head, the crown. The goal is expansion of consciousness through the union of the body’s vital flows. One with body and mind, one with the universe.”
The echoing sound of mighty drums rolled outwards from the peristyle as the evening’s ritual began. As the servants of the lwa, clad in white, danced their way around the circle in celebration of spirits ancient, African and powerful, Marie and Evan made love in time with the pulsating, pounding beat roiling from the temple.
Evan removed his fingers from her flower and anointed his shaft with her juices. Evan lifted her buttocks until she was up on her knees and he moved in behind her. Rubbing himself from the tip of his shaft to its base, he placed his other hand on her beautiful, curvy behind. Then, wordlessly, he spread her buttocks apart with his hands and gripping her tightly, pulled her into him, thrusting forward into her. Marie let out a sudden cry of surprise and then whimpered, shuddering, as he thrust deeper inside.
Evan pulled her hips into his in time with the drumming, the deep chocolate tones of his own skin against the lighter mocha of her soft, curvaceous derrière. He thrust into her over and over plumbing the deep recesses of her full, supple buttocks, again and again and again.
When Marie came, it was with the force of a thunderbolt and every muscle in Evan’s body went rigid as he climaxed and he felt the two of them speared through, transfixed, by the black current of the void flowing through them both.
That indescribably long moment passed, both their bodies went limp and the two of them collapsed together in a heap of spent, sweating flesh.
Evan rolled off of Marie and still panting for breath, looked her deep in the eyes and smiled.
Marie smiled back at him. “Well, that was something.”
Hearing the ongoing ritual in the peristyle behind Marie’s salon, the two dressed quickly, Marie handing Evan a shirt and trousers both made of white cotton as was the custom for worshippers to wear within the confines of the peristyle. Clad for ritual, the two joined the other celebrants, taking their place in the circle and dancing to celebrate the ancestral spirits of their common homeland.
Sweat pouring down their faces, drummers strummed their hands across their doumbeks attaining trance weaving a staccato lattice of sound as men and women partook of the long-standing communion of the Cosmic Dance, each one unique dancing as their hearts and spirits directed yet at one with the circle of rhythm and life all around them.
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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Thursday at 6 pm CST on FOX Sports 1280 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.
All content copyright © Brandon Black
(Note: This isn’t an open letter to the writing circle I left. I did not and do not expect that the gentleman that has so graciously been willing to take over as moderator of the group act as he thought I would in his stead. And if he and those persons who have elected to remain with that group find the recent change in the group’s operations to their liking, then more power to them. While much of what I have been posting to this blog is in response to my leaving the circle, this is about my gathering and organizing my thoughts and making myself, my aesthetics and my literary theories understood to those interested who might wish to work with me in the future. And by all means, if you disagree with me, please leave a comment, so long as your comment includes an argument and not just an ‘I disagree’ statement.)
The New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Circle recently moved from an open conversation critique format to a round-robin, each person gives their criticism in turn, format. I’ve seen other groups where this style of conversation has been employed. I think it should be avoided in a writing workshop. It throttles the conversation. It prevents the worst and the best discussions from occurring. The each person speaking in turn style allows each person to speak so that no one is ignored or shouted down, no one keeps quiet for fear of some louder person shouting down their comments. But it also eliminates a terribly vital conversation, that best conversation that can occur in a writers’ circle.
There’s a rare moment, where one person makes an observation regarding the story in question and a light bulb goes on over another critic’s head and they see new possibilities. There can be this amazing occurrence where the light bulb goes on over several heads all at once and a vital and vibrant conversation occurs about the possibilities inherent in the story being reviewed. The members of the circle dive deeply into the tale, dissecting it to its component pieces, analysing on the fly how its parts function and hypothesizing how those pieces might be modified, replaced or re-purposed to function better. Put simply, it is a joy to behold. It is also the writers’ circle functioning at its best and finest.
Comments from my fellow writers in the circle caused me to completely throw aside every single word I’d written of my flash fiction story “Xaija” and start all over, retelling the tale as “Cold” and the second version of this story was much better received by my fellows, one of my comrades remarking on how she was amazed to see that I hadn’t even tried to salvage any of the existing text. Several times we’ve had energizing discussions where we’ve taken a fantastic core idea from one of the authors in the circle and turned it this way and that, suggesting this or that alteration or this or that expansion. And I believe that most people find that sort of thing incredibly useful. To be told that your work resonated with your fellow writers, to be told that they loved the core idea so much that they think you should run with it and turn what you meant to be a single short story into a series of stories or even a novel, is an amazing and rewarding feeling.
However, some people aren’t interested in that.
I feel honour bound to say, at this point, I do honestly think if you have a problem with this sort of conversation, you shouldn’t be in a writing circle. We’ve had some people even go so far as to say, “This is what I’m looking for in terms of criticism. Please confine yourself to discussing these points.” That’s not workshop criticism. We aren’t here to discuss just the particular problem you yourself think you’re having with the piece. We can especially look at that but it’s just plain asking too much that we should confine ourselves to it.
If you’re so certain about what you’ve got on the page, that hearing people discuss alternatives and other ways you might have taken the story is completely uninteresting to you, you really shouldn’t be in a writers’ circle. You’re always free to ignore any criticism made. But as I’ve said before, you do the group a great disservice when you try to shut down that conversation. You’re doing a disservice to yourself especially. If you’ve decided that, no matter what, you’re not going to start your story earlier or provide needed background for your main characters that the members of the circle are telling it’s vital for them to have to feel sympathetic towards your character and/or continue wanting to read your story, you aren’t doing yourself any favours by silencing them. Sticking your fingers in your ears to block out complaints won’t make you a better writer and again, I have to ask, what is the point of your being in the circle if you don’t want to hear criticism?
I think this is why it’s important for the writer being critiqued to keep quiet. I never enforced that as an absolute during my tenure and I regret it now. You aren’t there to defend your work. If ten people all have the same criticism of your story, take note of it and move on, even if you decide not to change one word because of it. But you should hear them out, otherwise you’re literally just wasting everyone’s time.
Turning over story elements and story ideas, looking at them from this angle or that, discussing to what use they could have been put to instead of just how they were, that is a vital part of writers becoming better at their craft. To cut short that glorious possibility, by having each person required to just rattle off the critique they came up with on their own and not address the greater tide of ideas that can flow when people interact with each other and build off of each other, seems like a terrible disservice to everyone involved. I firmly believe that it is in that interaction, in that build off of each other, that the foundation for greatness is laid.
I can see the utility of this style of conversation. The circle only meets for two hours once every two weeks. The basic reason I left the circle was that it seemed that in a room of fifteen people no one shared my passion or my aesthetics and that the points I felt compelled to argue to my last breath were of little or no interest to anyone else in the room. That’s when it’s time to go. It’s just that simple. I was not going to selfishly consume the group’s time by sparring with the same adversaries over the same fundamental disagreements over and over again.
I think another crucial mistake I made was in assuming everyone was there for the same reason. I assumed everyone was in the circle to work towards being published professionally and I was rudely awakened when one of the most fastidious and hard working members of the circle told me that wasn’t her goal. She simply wished to write. It was not a goal of hers to be published professionally.
This is a key point.
Not everyone in the group sees professional publication as their goal. Some have entered the circle as hobbyists, people who like to write and enjoy the company of those who do. I should have stated clearly that the group was being formed for the purposes of moving people’s work towards professional publication and for no other goal. I should have made that clear each and every time a new person came into the circle. But I didn’t, I assumed. And from the perspective of someone who is treating writing as a hobby, I totally see their perspective. They’re free to say, “I want to tell the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it,” and that’s that. And so it doesn’t sound ridiculous to them when they say it or when they get upset that the conversation has strayed into other ways the story might have gone or other ways the core concept might have been used.
The round robin style might be of use of them. Each person can just say whether they liked the story or not and why and move on. There’s a great deal of utility in that. We’ve had nights where we’ve had five stories to cover and someone went on about some point that they themselves admitted was nitpicking and minor. That fault should be laid at my door as well. I should have quickly stated, “If you feel your point is minor, then just put your comment on the page. We’ve only got two hours and five stories to get through.” Again, when some people treat the circle as more of a social event than a means to a professional end, they want to talk just because they enjoy talking. This style of criticism may be useful in organizing a group to insure everyone gets a chance to speak up, but I think it comes at the expense of killing off the more useful things a writing circle has to say.
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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.
All content copyright © Brandon Black
Thanks so much to everyone who attended our book signing and everyone who wished to attend but couldn’t make it! Thanks to Chris Smith and the East Bank Jefferson Parish Library Writers’ Circle. Thanks to our editors and readers! And thanks to you, the community that came out to support our effort and meet our authors and poets. Thank you all so very much!
Our upcoming projects are: Cairo By Gaslight, a steampunk anthology set in Cairo, Egypt and The Other World, an anthology of poems and stories about the fey. You can find out about both at: http://www.brandonblackonline.com.
Additionally — our authors will be giving two panels at CONtraflow this weekend: one on Friday at 1 pm and the other on Saturday at 3 pm. Copies of the anthology will be on sale and our authors will be glad to sign them for you!