Jul 21 2008 8:29pm

Raffle for the KGB

No, not that KGB, this one. The KGB Bar is a small, out-of-the-way bar in New York's East Village that hosts all manner of literary readings and events. It's been doing so since 1993. Pertinent to our discussions here, the bar has been hosting a Fantastic Fiction reading the third Wednesday of the month since the late 1990s.

What type of people do they get to read there? This is just a sampling:

Joyce Carol Oates, Lucius Shepard, Jeffrey Ford, Scott Westerfeld, Kelly Link, China Miéville, Nancy Kress, Jack McDevitt, Stewart O’Nan, James Patrick Kelly, Barry N. Marlzberg, Samuel (Chip) Delany, Holly Black, Michael Swanwick, Kit Reed, Peter Straub, Andy Duncan, Richard Bowes, Catherynne Valente, Ellen Kushner, Jeff VanderMeer, Naomi Novik, Elizabeth Bear, and many more.

If you live on the east coast, you should make the trip to New York on the third Wednesday of the month to attend a reading. I was in Philadelphia this past January, and I made sure to add a few more days to my trip so I could go to a reading. I even helped set up who was going to read by soliciting authors from the Electric Velocipede backlist.

Readings start at 7, get there early if you want a seat. It's worth the effort. When I lived out east, I tried to make it every month. I missed more than I went, (once I learned the reading series even existed) but I was ALWAYS glad I went. It's one of the things I really miss from out East.

Now, if you don't live (like I no longer do) on the East Coast--heck many of you don't even live in the States--I'm probably just irritating you by talking about how awesome this is. But there's a reason for bringing this up.

Right now, the KGB Fantastic Fiction series is holding a raffle with a bunch of awesome prizes. Many of them relevant to my area of expertise: short fiction. Here are some of the short fiction related prizes:

Peter Straub Short Story "Mallon the Guru"
Ellen Datlow Short Story Critique
Jeffrey Ford Will Tuckerize* You
SYBIL'S GARAGE** Four-Issue Subscription
Elizabeth Hand Will Tuckerize You
Mary Robinette Kowal Will Record Your Short Story
Delia Sherman Short Story Critique
Michael Swanwick Story in a Bottle
Gardner Dozois Short Story Critique
Lucuis Shepard Will Tuckerize You
Nancy Kress Will Crit Novel Intro or Short Story
Wheatland Press's POLYPHONY Series and Tote Bag
Shawna McCarthy Short Story Critique
ELECTRIC VELOCIPEDE Subscription and Assortment

Other prizes include a lettered edition of Ray Bradbury's CAT'S PAJAMAS, an original Gahan Wilson drawing of the animal of your choice, a Wormhole from Physicist Michio Kaku, and more. You can see the whole list here. The raffle runs until July 28, 2008. The money from the tickets will help the reading series keep going, and you get the chance to win some cool prizes.

In my mind, this is worth checking out, even if you can't enjoy the reading series. My hope is that this inspires other places around the country to start their own reading series. There are a lot of areas that have a decent density of publishing folk (San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Austin leap to mind immediately) that could support a series. I think that would be really cool.

I just hope I win the Bradbury lettered edition.

*Tuckerizing is the practice of using real people's names for character names in fiction. So in this example, if I won this item, Jeffrey Ford would create a character named John Klima in his next piece of fiction. Knowing Jeff, and Jeff knowing me, I would be killed off early and horribly.

**SYBIL'S GARAGE is an exciting speculative literature zine similar to Electric Velocipede or Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. The editor, Matthew Kressel, is one of the hosts for the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series.

[Photo by Flickr user anosmia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.  Some rights reserved.]

1. carbonel
Just checked up how the folks who run the bar got their name (here:

Assuming that the wiki is correct (if not, my sincere apologies for the slander)--

Let 'em die.

And good riddance.

What's next, a "save the Khmer Rouge cafe" scheme?
Bruce Arthurs
2. bruce-arthurs
carbonel, if you'd clicked Wikipedia's link to the KGB home website, you'd have found a fairly lengthy history of the bar's background.

Previously, the building belonged to the Ukrainian Labor Home, a social club for Ukrainian immigrants in NYC. (And yes, some of them were Communists or Communist sympathizers.)

Years passed, the membership got too old to continue many of their activities, and a fellow named Kraine (who, as a boy, had visited the ULH frequently with his father) leased the main hall as an art gallery, the Kraine Gallery. The remaining members of the ULH kept the second floor bar as their remaining social space.

More time passed, the ULH members continued to grow older and pass away, and young Mr. Kraine offered to take on the place and run it as a public bar.

But what new name to give the bar? From the history page:
But what do you call a place that’s almost impossible to find without special knowledge or a guide, a place with a history of left wing radicalism, which I intended to establish as a legitimate counter-culture venue? KGB seemed my obvious choice. I called the Department of State in Albany and told them I wanted to register a new corporation. “KGB!” the clerk on the line replied. “You can’t call a corporation KGB, not in New York State. Not KGB, FBI, CIA, or even GAY. You can’t just pick a name out of a hat. You have to justify, give a good reason for whatever name you choose.” He was wrong as a matter of law but you don’t argue with clerks at the Department of State. “Okay,” I said. “I want to call it Kraine Gallery Bar, after my gallery of the same name.” “That you can do,” he replied reluctantly. And so Kraine Gallery Bar, d/b/a KGB Bar, was legally born.

And for that, and for want of a mouseclick, you say "Let 'em die"? Sheesh.

Too much carbonel, not enough irony.

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