Master of Rods and Strings launches & interview!

Here’s a recording of the reading from tonight!

And interview by Paul Semel:

Master Of Rods And Strings sounds like it might be scary. But is it just a horror story?

The earliest draft work was during the MFA program for creative writing at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and my creative thesis advisor Dr. Lawrence Coates remarked that the narrative was a Künstleroman, which is a story that focuses on the development of the artist, so the novella has that in common with works like William Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic The Prelude and James Joyce’s Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.

Master Of Rods And Strings is also an example of a literary fairy tale or künstmärchen.

In some regards, Elias like Faust is experiencing forbidden knowledge, but his fate is not bound to punitive dualistic metaphysics. He is able to explore and grow, though his growth is not narrowly good, moralistic, or heroic. This is a tale of weird horror, after all, but it is also a tale of expanding consciousness and meaning.

Master Of Rods And Strings is your first published book of fiction, though you’ve written tons of short stories and radio plays, as well as the non-fiction book Folklore And The Fantastic In Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Master Of Rods And Strings but not on anything else you’ve written?

Thomas Ligotti’s “The Clown Puppet” had me pondering the idea of other forces beyond mysterious puppets and mannequins.

I think the fairy tale “The King Of The Golden Mountain” helped shape part of the self-righteousness of Elias’s vengeful mindset and the use of magical power to perform that vengeance. In terms of folkloric influences, use the motif found most famously in The Odyssey with the Polyphemus encounter: the trick of using the phrase “no one” or “no man” for a name; there’s an echo of that when Elias confronts Desmond, the tormenter from the school later after he has surpassed the skills of his tormenter.

I thought of Stendhal’s Julien in The Red And The Black. Both stories take place in France and engage with ambition versus class oppression. I think the bloodthirsty vendettas of Jacobean Revenge tragedies, such as The Revenger’s Tragedie and The Duchess Of Malfi, influenced the plot’s momentum. A few people pointed out comparisons with Perfume, which I had more than a decade before starting Master, so I’m sure there’s influence: an ambitious amoral protagonist perfecting a scent which dangerous consequences vs. perfecting the craft of puppetry with dangerous consequences. Master also has some of the unnerving education manifested in the rapport between the Judge and the Kid in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian: Elias is horrified by the behavior of Uncle Pavan, but he learns from him as well.

More here:

Book Launch! Master of Rods and Strings July 6th, 2021

Malvern Books is hosting a reading for Master of Rods and Strings. This is a Zoom event that takes place 7 PM CDT on July 6th 2021–the same day the book launches.

Goodreads is also doing a contest for a free book giveaway right now through July 6:

I’m pleased to announce that Gizmodo has included Master of Rods and Strings for its featured July 2021 releases.

Meanwhile, preorders remain available for both Print and Kindle.

Barnes and Noble and Amazon and Bookshop and Indiebound are all carrying the book, as well as other sites (Target, Walmart, and independent locations such as Powells, Penguin Bookshop, and Elliot Bay Book Company.

Print preorders available for Master of Rods and Strings

Master of Rods and Strings isn’t out till July 6th but print preorders are now available:
Also, there are now four blurbs for the book–Order Soon:

“Jason Marc Harris’s Master of Rods and Strings is a masterful work the likes of which I have not read in many years. Among its other admirable qualities, it is an adept exemplar of the novella, a literary form peculiarly suited to tales of dark and mysterious themes. [. . .] In captivating and expert prose, Master of Rods and Strings brings to life a world where the enchantment of puppetry inexorably descends into a magical perdition.” –Thomas Ligotti

“A magically unnerving tale of loyalty, artistic passion, and revenge that digs into your skin and pulls you through the back alleys of period France. Harris assuredly directs his characters with the precision of a puppeteer through this fever dream of a novella.”  –Sequoia Nagamatsu, author ofWhere We Go When All We Were Is Gone

“Strange and compelling, Master of Rods and Strings is a fantastic foray into the realm of occult puppetry. Like Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, this book is memorable for its vivid sensory detail and portrayal of an obsessive protagonist exploring an arcane world.” Susan Hubbard, author of the Ethical Vampire Series

“Boundlessly unique and charmingly strange, Jason Marc Harris’ Master of Rods and Strings is a breakneck tale of occult puppetry and the toll of seeking revenge. What a cracklingly compelling book. I can’t get it out of my head.”  —Robert James Russell, author of Mesilla and Sea of Trees

“Master of Rods and Strings” to be published by Vernacular Books 2021

My novella regarding the young French puppeteer who seeks to become a master of occult puppetry will be published around July 2021 by Vernacular Books.

I’ll be doing a reading with other Vernacular Books writers October 29th at 7:30 CST on Zoom. Details here:
Zoom link:
More on reading event from Vernacular Books:

In addition, I will also be reading from “Master of Rods and Strings” on the previous night (Wednesday October 28th) at 4:30 PM CDT – 6:30 PM CDT via Texas A&M University’s Big LAAH reading series--Facebook Live:
See here for the publishing announcement:

Two New Book Reviews of Master of Rods and Strings!

  1. Generous review here to read after you’ve read the book! Excerpt: “It’s a rare pleasure – especially nowadays – to find a new author whose horror fiction is truly compelling. But this year, Jason Marc Harris is that author, and Master of Rods and Strings is a morbidly fascinating little book.” Alex Skopic, Signal Horizon Magazine (August 2021)
  2. A dual review here with Zin E. Rocklyn’s Flowers from the Sea: “There’s little more chilling than being menaced by a literally inhuman monster, from antique dolls to futuristic robots, a killer with no compassion, no remorse, no desire other than extermination. I know the movies best, but there are countless literary equivalents, and Master of Rods and Strings is a chilling new addition to that body of work.” Terence Taylor, Nightmare Magazine (October 2021)

Sorrow, Joys, and Writing

The sorrow is that my father died last April. His work remains available:

The joys are my children: Amaya has joined Isaac in the baby brigade.

New writing has emerged in several recent publications:

1. My short story “What You Know and What You Don’t” was an honorable mention in The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest for 2020: the story is available in The Saturday Evening Post’s annual anthology of top entries.

2. Another short story “The Nowhere Place” was published in the anthology Horror USA: California published by Soteira Press in late 2019.

3. A third story “Men of Integrity” was also published the end of 2019–in Pennsylvania Literary Journal. vol. 11. issue 3.

4. Earlier in Fall 2019 Writing Texas published a satirical tale I wrote called “Succulent Ribs.”