You Can Go Home Again

This weekend was like returning home for me. I attended Arcana in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Arcana Con, for those in the know, is the Midwest equivalent of NECon. Currently located at the Bandana Square Best Western Plus in St. Paul, MN, Arcana 46 was held October 21-23, 2016. It’s a fantasy convention that appeals to collectors and lovers of dark fantasy and horror.

Bandana Square once housed the Northern Pacific Railroad’s Steam Locomotive repair shops. The hotel abuts where the locomotives were painted. The building has rails embedded in the floor and the doors look big enough to admit a steam locomotive.  Freight trains still pass by within a half-block of the hotel.


Minneapolis/St. Paul was once home to some of the biggest names in pulp fiction. William Fawcett started Fawcett Publications there with Capt. Billy’s Whiz-bang. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei started Arkham House within a stone’s throw of the Twin Cities. Science Fiction greats like Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson came from Minneapolis. Weird Tales cover artist Jon Arfstrom made his life-long home in St. Paul. Fedogan and Bremer was founded in Minneapolis. Literary agent extraordinaire Kirby McCauley got his start in Minneapolis after graduating from the University of Minnesota. John Sandford still lives and works there.


Jon Arfstrom’s painting on the cover of The Strange Company’s edition of The Devil Made Me Do It, 1985.


Jon Arfstrom’s portrait of me, 1986.

I began attending gatherings of Lovecraftians in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1982 after meeting Jack Koblas and Eric Carlson at a World Fantasy Convention. Jack and Eric were editors of Etchings and Odysseys, a professionally printed small press fanzine devoted to Weird Tales-style pulp fiction. I, of course, had read most of HPL and Henry Kuttner by that time, and after Jack, Eric, and I carried on long knowledgeable conversations during the WFC, we became life-long friends (both Jack and Eric passed away much too soon, and I miss them a lot).

Jack and Eric invited me to submit an article for the special Henry Kuttner tribute issue of E&O, and they also invited me to attend MinnCon (the forerunner of ArcanaCon) the following October. I agreed to write the Kuttner article and to appear on panels at MinnCon. I also received an invitation from The Strange Company publisher R. Alain (Randy) Everts to attend MadCon in Madison, Wisconsin the following May when E&O #4 would be released with my Kuttner article in it. Randy invited me to submit original fiction to The Arkham Sampler, and he bought several of my stories (he actually paid me cash money and bought me meals at expensive restaurants). He (The Strange Company) also published The Devil Made Me do It, a collection of 20 of my early stories, and a chapbook of Love Till the End of Time. I also sold him a couple of my early down-and-dirty novels that other packagers didn’t want. Randy supposedly published them under pseudonyms. I cranked out two 65,000 word novels on a manual typewriter every month for four years, and some of them were pretty bad (downright, god-awful bad) but they helped me learn my craft.

Then I married Gretta, took a regular 9 to 5 job with a medical publisher and later with Mutual Fund Sourcebook publisher Morningstar, and my fiction output dwindled.

Gretta and I attended MadCons and MinnCons every year from 1983 until 1990. I appeared on Lovecraft and Horror panels, and Gretta appeared with other small press editors on editing and publishing panels at several of the first ArcanaCons after MadCons and MinnCons ceased and Arcana became a full-fledged annual convention instead of just a gathering of friends and Lovecraft scholars.

We stopped attending sf and fantasy conventions entirely in favor of attending professional psychology educational conferences (APA, APS, Illinois Counseling Society, NGH, and alternative healing and wellness conferences).

This year I returned to Bandana Square for ArcanaCon 46.



Most of the people I knew from MinnCon and earlier AracanaCons have passed away or moved out of state. Koblas and Carlson died. Jon Arfstrom died just last year. Bob Weinberg died just last month. Randy Everts is reputed to be living in Hawaii. R. Dixon Smith is now in California. David Pudelwitz was last seen in New Mexico. Roger Gerberding no longer lives in the twin cities, but he is still alive and still painting. Audrey Parente is busy with PulpAdventureCon in New Jersey and Florida. Roger Dale Trexler was unable to make this con but promises to make next year’s ArcanaCon when the GOH will be William F. Nolan. I did spend quality time in conversation with Scott Wyatt, Eric Heideman, Dwayne Olson, and Greg Ketter of DreamHaven Books. I also got to meet the delightful Kathe Koja, this year’s ArcanaCon GOH.

What I like about ArcanaCon is the attendees are all readers and book collectors. The con is small and intimate enough to get to know everyone and talk with everyone.

Once upon a time, attendance at MinnCon was by invitation only. When it became ArcanaCon, it was opened to the public but never widely advertised. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in fandom.

To me, it’s like home.

Yes, Virginia. You really can go home again.

I’m Paul Dale Anderson, and I Kill People for a Living


SF writers love to astound people. Suspense writers love to leave people hanging, oftentimes from cliffs and sometimes from ropes. Thriller writers love to take people on fast  death-defying roller coaster rides. Mystery writers love to lead people on a merry chase, often with hounds nosing up the wrong trees while the fox hides in plain sight.

We horror writers love to shock people.

I read aloud from my works recently at a public library. I was the last writer to read that afternoon. I shocked people awake by saying, “I’m Paul Dale Anderson, and I kill people for a living.”

The nine mostly-mainstream writers who preceded me identified themselves as fiction writers or biographers or historians or journalists who celebrate the lives of either real or fictional people in books.

I write about death and dying. I celebrate murder.

I identify with serial killers. I identify with trained assassins. I kill people for fun and profit. I love to get into the minds of my villains as much as, or perhaps more so than, the minds of my protagonists. I want to show why, as well as how, people do what they do.

Like I said, we horror writers love to shock people. I write shock suspense stories that cross genres, but all of my stories and novels turn into cautionary tales. I am the executioner who holds an axe over your head, and I love to watch the hairs on the back of your neck bristle.

Make one false move, and feel the bite of my Instruments of Death.



Be Careful What You Wish

I write cautionary tales. Some of my stories seem like horror stories, and they are. Some are prophetic science fictional looks at the near future or the re-imagined past. All of my stories are intended to make readers think, to ask the all-important what if questions: what if there really are real monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed? What if there is an insane axe murderer waiting for you or me down in the dark basement or up in the attic or out in the garage? What if global warming becomes a reality and temperatures reach 200 degrees, or the cities flood from all the rain caused by melting glaciers and icebergs, or all the trees and crops burn up and there is no more oxygen to breathe and nothing to eat?

What then do we do?

My stories are cautionary tales that, like your own parents should have done, warn you not to cross the street without first looking both ways, not to stick a screwdriver into a live electrical socket, not to put your hand into the flame.

And, if all hell does break loose, my stories teach you how best to act and react in order to survive.

I can be a lioness when I want. Hear me roar.

frontcover of spilled milk from Amazon


As I work on The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, I’m acutely aware I’m a male writing from a female’s point of view. I have been both lauded and criticized for attempting to understand the female mind and portray a female POV in my novels. “How can a man possibly understand what it’s like to be a woman?” I’ve been asked. Here is my answer.

I love women. I’ve been married to three different women during this lifetime and I’m in an ongoing intimate relationship with another. I’ve lived with women all of my life. My mother was a woman. My grandmothers were women. My aunts were women. More than half of my cousins were women.

My daughter is a woman.

Most of my teachers have been women. Many of the writers I read regularly are women. Many of the students in classes I teach are women.

I am a trained observer of women. I learned to be an objective observer first in journalism classes and then in graduate-level psychotherapy classes at several universities. More than half of the faculty on my thesis and dissertation committees were women. Most of my therapy clients were woman when I was in active practice. I have had access to women’s innermost thoughts and feelings during hypnosis sessions.

I am a good listener. Women tell me they love to talk with me because I listen to them and show I’m actively listening to them by my responses to their statements.

And, lastly but not least, I am a human being. All human beings inherently have both male and female traits. I was likely a woman in at least one of my past lives. I was a female in the womb before testosterone kicked in and defined my anatomy and restructured my brain. Carl Gustav Jung said I have an anima as well as an animus. I believe Jung was right.

Yes, Virginia, I CAN write from a woman’s POV. And women CAN write from a man’s POV. Whether I write accurately or not is up to readers to decide.

Let us go then, you and I


paul%20anderson%20web%20banner_1-rplI’m supposed to be on my way to New Orleans, but I had to cancel my scheduled appearances at Bouchercon in New Orleans this week because of pending deadlines. I need to finish another novel before I attend the World Fantasy Convention in October. I also have planned signings at Rockford Public Library and Ida Public library between now and WFC. And I have a 6,000 word story due at another anthology before the end of October.

I guess there’s no rest for the wicked, is there? Heh heh.

Instead of driving south to meet and greet so many of my good friends who write mystery and suspense, I’m spending the day at home with fictitious friends from Spilled Milk and Darkness. They tell me their continuing stories and I dutifully record their utterances in words on paper. Like the newspaperman I once trained to be, I try to listen and observe without intruding myself into their lives unnecessarily. From time to time, I do ask pertinent questions. But the stories I write are their stories and not mine. I’m merely an interested bystander.

I can’t help but be reminded of the opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats


Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….


Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

Telling stories is like that for me. Let us be the silent observers who visit humanity in the best of times and the worst of times. Will you come with? I promise to show you things you have never seen before. Or, if you have, to offer you a new perspective.

Pain and Suffering: A True Story

When I tried to get out of bed this morning, I discovered I could not straighten my back.

Don’t worry, this morning wasn’t the first time this has happened. Slightly more than thirty years ago, I was hit by a moving car while walking across the street. The car’s grill struck my left hip, propelling me up onto the hood and into the windshield. When the car slowed, I rolled off the hood and fell to the ground beneath the still-moving car. I heard Gretta scream before I lost consciousness.

I came to in a Fire Department ambulance on the way to a hospital emergency room. My neck and back were strapped to separate braces that kept me immobile. I was wheeled into x-ray where they took a full set of 8 x 10 glossies.

My head had cracked open where it had collided with the windshield (Gretta told me later that she saw my hard head actually shatter the shatter-proof glass in that windshield). I received a half-dozen stitches and a shot for the pain. Three doctors examined me and let Gretta drive me home with a brace around my neck, stitches and bandages on my head, and a handful of pills that included prescription muscle relaxants and pain killers.

Long story short: I was lucky to be alive.

When I went to see a doctor again the next day for follow-up, she told me I had hairline fractures in my cheek, jaw, and left hip. She said they would eventually mend. The muscle in my left hip was severely swollen and badly distended. She said she doubted it would ever heal properly.

It didn’t.

I had no medical insurance at the time because I was a free-lance writer barely eking out a meager living selling an occasional short story, a work-for-hire novel, or a magazine article. I managed to pay the rent, purchase pipe tobacco, feed the cats, and put food in my own stomach, but I sure as hell couldn’t afford medical insurance. Fortunately, the driver of that car had insurance. The driver felt terrible about hitting a pedestrian, the insurance adjuster said. I agreed to sign a waver forfeiting the right to sue for future pain and suffering if the insurance company paid for my current medical bills and the cost of replacing the three-piece suit I had worn that was ruined by blood and rips in both the pants and the jacket.

I wish now that I had sued. My hip never did heal. That muscle is still distended and if I turn over the wrong way in my sleep I awake in terrible pain and can’t straighten my back.

I also walk lopsided, like the way an automobile drives when the frame is knocked out of kilter by a collision.

But I consider myself lucky to be alive. Not only did my head shatter that windshield instead of the windshield shattering my head, when I rolled off the hood one of the front wheels missed pancaking my head by less than an inch. That, according to Gretta, was what made her scream. She was certain I was road kill.

It’s now 8 PM, thirty-some years after the accident, and I haven’t been able to straighten my back since yesterday. I have to walk hunched over like Igor or Lon Chaney. I’m in pain as I write this. As I said, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I should be back to normal in a week or so.

Until the next time I strain my back and this happens again.

It’s always nice to know that I have friends who worry about me. When I don’t post for a while on various social media sites like Facebook or one of my multiple blogsites, I get e-mails or phone calls wondering why. If I don’t appear at a con where I’m normally a fixture, plenty of people wonder why. If I haven’t been my usual prolific self with new stories and novels and book reviews appearing in print, you probably wonder why yourself.

Here’s why:

1. I am carefully crafting a breakthrough novel that’s dynamite. My agent asked to have the novel polished for submission by the end of August. It’s now whittled down from 140,000 words to 95,000 fast-paced words and almost ready to fly.

2. I’ve been invited to submit to four anthologies, one of which is a shared-world, and those deadlines are also approaching.

3. After neglecting personal self-care for five years, natural aging finally caught up with me. My eyes, knees, and teeth cried out for attention. I may not yet be the Six Million Dollar Man, but I’m getting real close.

4. Lizza and I are coordinating our fall convention wardrobes during cook-outs and dinners in area restaurants.

5. Daily deluges turned my front and back yards into virtual rainforests that require constant cutting, chopping, and decluttering before my humble abode completely disappears and I turn into the Swamp Thing.

6. You already know about my hip and the pain I’m in.

Stephen King, like many of the characters in his stories and novels, is the kid next door. We all knew him when he ran around the neighborhood with poopy diapers and a silly shit-eating grin on his face.

We watched him grow up, go away to the nearly-local state university, fall in love, get married, have a handful of kids, and bury a beloved, but possessed, dog or two. We watched him struggle to make a success of himself. We watched him fall down once or twice and pick himself up. He was a lot like us, we figured. He looked familiar. He sounded familiar. He had similar addictions. When he was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very bad.

We could easily identify with all that

He loved books and he loved to read or hear a good story as much he loved to tell one. He still does. Everyone I know can certainly identify with that.

Steve, too, was a pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. Not everyone can identify with that. But, on days like today, I certainly can.

A Complicated Mystery

all these perfect strangers cover


All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford (Alibi, July 2016) is a mystery within a mystery. The characters are complex, fully-developed, because Pen Sheppard is a keen observer and notices details most people don’t. Frank, Pen’s psychiatrist, even comments on Pen’s keen skills of observation as she relates her story.

Pen is a first-year University law student, away from home for the first time. Her classmates play a game they call “The Murder Game”. The object of the game is to mock-kill each your classmates when they least expect it. Pen’s friend Rachel boasts she has more kills than anyone else. Rachel loves to stab or shoot people in the back.

Then students start dying for real, allegedly attacked by “The Screwdriver Man”. Is there a serial killer stalking campus? When Rachel dies from drowning and other students die from drug overdoses, Pen becomes a prime suspect.

None of the people in this novel are nice, nor is anyone who she or he pretends to be. Everyone seems to be hiding something. Whether or not they are all guilty of murder is irrelevant. No one is completely innocent.

All These Perfect Strangers is a complicated story of relationships gone wrong. Recommended for readers who like to sort through all the chaff to find overlooked grains of truth. Worth a read.