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‘Uncanny Encounters’ at Woodland Pattern

Literary costume party for Halloween weekend

Oct. 25, 2016
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It wasn’t love at first glance. When Paul McComas and Stephen D. Sullivan first met on a panel at the 2010 South East Wisconsin Book Festival, they sparred over the boundaries of genre fiction. “My favorite genre work comes from authors from the outside, for whom the genre work is not their bread and butter,” McComas says. “He said that ‘genre tourists’ are not as able to handle the material.”

Somehow their spirited argument led to a genre collaboration, a book called Uncanny Encounters—LIVE!: Dark Drama, Sci-Fi Screams & Horrific Humor, a collection of short plays in the often-overlapping genres of horror and science fiction. Given the season, it seemed only natural to launch Uncanny Encounters as a literary Halloween costume party, the “Hal-Lit-Ween” show, with attendees encouraged to dress as their favorite author or fictional character. McComas, the evening’s MC, will come as Rod Serling.

Many of the short plays in Uncanny Encounters are infused with dark, shall we say mordant humor, as they address important subjects. “Horror and science fiction can become ways of exploring serious issues, timeless questions as well as contemporary social-political problems. Our writing is the opposite of escapism. We use the lens of those genres to take a fresh look at the real world.”

The format of Uncanny Encounters brought Sullivan out of his usual work habits. “As someone who normally writes novels, I thought it would be fun to stretch my literary wings and try a play,” he explains. Sullivan transformed his short story “Corona Encounters” for the stage. “It has a nice ‘Twilight Zone’ feel.” His “The Alien in the Closet” had been “a title in my notebooks for years, and when I sat down to write, it just sprang from my head nearly full grown as a comedy satire on Hollywood, religion and relationships.”

Never content to simply read his words in front of an audience, McComas, along with Sullivan and Chicago musician Maya Kuper, will give excerpts from Uncanny Encounters “a dramatic reading, which is less than a theatrical performance but more than an author reading,” McComas says.

“Hal-Lit-Ween” begins at 7 p.m., Oct. 29 at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St. Suggested donation is $5. 

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