Dec 21, 2007

Dec 20, 2007

Latest Supernatural Interviews

Talked a few days ago with Jim Beaver (aka Bobby Singer) and visual FX supervisor Ivan Hayden. Look for the results in issue #3, I think. Or maybe #4.

Also, we note in passing the 10,000th hit on this blog. Thanks, everybody!

The Nightshift Code

From PlayFirst Games, purveyors of such popular titles as Diner Dash and Mystery Case Files, comes The Nightshift Code, "a mysterious and sometimes dangerous journey from an ancient history museum in Chicago all the way to a secret location in the Greek Isles."

This is my first foray into casual gaming, and it comes thanks to Matt Schlanger and the fine folks at Black Hammer Productions. If you've done a lot of casual gaming, however, TNC will play differently because we tried to build in more story to go along with the puzzles. It's part comic book, part puzzle game, and lots of fun. You can play the Mac demo here and the PC demo here.

Edit: I think this is probably the first thing I ever wrote that has a Forbes press release associated with it...

Dec 19, 2007

Mark Your Calendars

If you happen to be in or near Bangor, Maine, on Tuesday, January 22 at 6:30pm, stop by the Bangor Public Library. I'll be giving a talk about Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair as part of the Library's Penobscot Reads series of programs. Hope to see you all there...

Dec 18, 2007

Logorrhea Podcast and Promotion

John Klima, esteemed editor of this swell anthology, has cooked up a most ingenious and engaging bit of publicity. The way it works is that each writer in the book reprints the bit of Jeff VanderMeer's story that deals with his or her word (Jeff having written a story, "Appogiatura," that uses all of the words in VanderFashion). Ideally, this piques your interest enough to go check out a podcast of the whole book, broken out into twenty parts, one for each story. That podcast is here, and well worth checking out (as Mediabistro notes). Also I'm supposed to say a little bit about how I decided which word to use, which I will do forthwith.

I was originally going to use two words for my Logorrhea story, sacrilegious and semaphore. Those were the two words that bracketed the four-year hiatus the national spelling bee went on during World War II. As I worked on the story, the sacrilegious bits didn't seem to work as well, so I pared it down to semaphore. I stuck with the war theme, though, and although I never really meant to, I got sort of self-reflexive in writing a story about the spelling bee hiatus and its effect on a particular family.

And here's Jeff's own VanderSemaphore:


When Truewill Mashburn turned eighteen, he left the US with forged documents and passed himself off as a thirty-something ESE teacher at a Costa Rican university. He’d always looked older than his age and at six-four with sandy blond hair and a Viking’s eyes and chin, people usually believed what he said. By the time he left Latin America at the age of twenty-two and headed for Europe, he’d hitchhiked through twelve countries, been a missionary, a doctor’s aide, and a bank teller.

Now twenty-five, Mashburn found himself living in an abandoned semaphore tower on the banks of a Central Asian river that eventually wound its way down to the ruins of old Smaragdine and the tired modern city that surrounded it.

He’d read about the semaphore towers while hanging out in a Tashkent library. They’d once been vital in Smaragdine’s epic battles against the dreaded Turk. Now they were just free apartments ripe for the taking, in Mashburn’s eyes.

Mashburn took the book—The Myth of the Green Tablet—and headed south. By the time he found the towers, he was ready to settle down awhile anyway, having been hassled at half a dozen borders. He could fish in the river, exchange some of his limited cash for food in the nearby village, read the book he’d stolen, or just hang out with the locals smoking dope. A few times a week, the village women walked past, giggling and talking about him. He couldn’t understand them, but he knew what they were saying.

It should have been perfect, but an odd sense of responsibility began to grow inside him with each day he lived there. He felt it in his chest every time he walked up the three stories of crumbling stone steps to stare at the tower a half-mile downriver that doubled his own.

The book was to blame, even though the author seemed contemptuous of the subject. On some level, the more Mashburn read about the fascinating history of Smaragdine, the more he couldn’t help but feel an obligation to continue its ancient fight against the Turk. It didn’t make sense, and yet it did.

Mashburn decided to become the true keeper of the tower. He removed the weeds inside and along the circular fringe. He did his best with his limited knowledge of drywall to repair the worst areas. He began to wear his tattered army surplus jacket all the time. He bought a pair of old binoculars from a villager. He even assigned himself guard duty, more often at dusk than during the day.

At night, the tower looked less ruined and it was easier to imagine he was back in Time and that he might need to use the tower’s windmill-like semaphore spokes to warn of some danger.

Then, too, Mashburn saw many strange things the longer he stood watch at night. Fish that bellowed at him from the water. Debris and bodies from some battle that had taken place many countries upriver. A man in a motorboat who looked vaguely American in a leather jacket and dark shades, a gun holster on his exposed ankle. Something was happening, Mashburn was certain. He just didn’t know what.

One moonlit night just before dawn, he saw the most curious thing of all: a river cruise ship with several smaller boats pursuing it. When they caught up, what looked like a band of circus performers jumped on board: a couple of women dressed like caliphs, a snake charmer, a mime, and a fire-eater, among others. The battle raged as Mashburn looked on with mouth open.

By the time the conflict had subsided, far to the south of his position, he couldn’t tell who had won, only that the boats remained empty and most of the river cruise crew was walking around on deck again.

Sometimes Mashburn felt prematurely old from all of his travels, but in that moment, he felt both dumbfounded and oddly blessed.

By midmorning, he had the semaphore spokes turning for the first time in two centuries and he was sending his message out across the water. He didn’t care if the next station was manned or not. That wasn’t the point.

Nov 27, 2007

News, Sort of

So there's a new story, "Mystery Hill," out in the January F&SF, and I've just finished a little something for Marvel, and am currently buried in a much bigger something for DC, but the real reason I had to post was:

Nerdgasm! Man, I can't wait.

Nov 3, 2007

You Have Time for This

That's the title of a spiffy new flash-fiction anthology from Ooligan Press. I mention it, of course, because it happens to include a story of mine, as well as contributions from Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Robert Boswell, Bruce Holland Rogers, and a whole pile of other interesting writers.

Ooligan is a cool endeavor on the part of Portland State University, a small press housed at a university but publishing a list completely unlike your typical university-press list. Check out their other stuff, too.

Nov 1, 2007

They Write Letters

Fan letters are great, but in some ways a really outraged letter is even better. A correspondent unimpressed by my treatment of the Dark Knight writes:

Here's an idea for your next Batman book - try writing about Batman. I'm on page 214 and stopped caring about Enfer ages ago. I thought the purpose of a Batman novelization is to give some deeper insights into said character. If your script [sic] was used for a comic book there'd be, at best, 2 pictures of Batman and we're already past the fold. Instead I get novel James Gordon spending countless hours trying to determine what comic book James Gordon would have known instantly, and I get some bullshit new villian [sic] that could have been an existing villian [sic] (Firefly) that would have made the book way more interesting.

Anyway, your book sucks but I'll finish it out of respect for the Batman. Something you obviously lied about in your dedication.

Note for those of you intending to write vitriolic responses to writers in the future: It is not enough to hate the book. Your letter will be incomplete without a completely unfounded personal attack on the author.

Sep 26, 2007

More SPN

Just off the phone with Lauren Cohan, who is every bit as funny and charming in person as her character Bela is amoral and dangerous on camera. The article should show up in #2 of the Supernatural magazine.

Also, it appears that my previous entry about Other Earths was a bit of premature eblogulation. There are now other plans for that story, and it looks like the anthology is going to be very cool.

Sep 19, 2007

This Book Is Too Filthy for You. So I Will Keep It.

So saith a woman in Lewiston, Maine, who was so outraged by the pornographic filth of It's Perfectly Normal that she is keeping not one, but two copies she checked out of local libraries. Because, you know, when something is that evil, you need to keep it close. Just, you know, to keep an eye on it. In case it does something.

Sep 18, 2007

An Article at Article on PKD

By PKD blogger/scholar David Gill, including a brief interview with Jonathan Lethem. Good stuff.

edit: And this piece at the LA Times, about his daughters and their recent efforts to get some control over film adaptations of his stuff, is interesting too.

Sep 15, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

So you know how Amazon does these "buy this book with that book and get a discount on both!" promotions. Right now, my very own Batman: Inferno is paired with...Isabel Allende's Of Love and Shadows. Cuz nothing says Batman like a vaguely magic-realist novel about Latin American dictatorship.

Sep 14, 2007

Supernatural Interviews #2

For the next issue, looks like I'll be interviewing Lauren Cohan and Bob Singer.

New Story for Other Earths

Just finished a weird little story called "Act of Oblivion," for a forthcoming alternate history anthology edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake. It's called Other Earths, and it'll appear on this Earth sometime next year. The historical turning point in "Act of Oblivion" is the execution of John Milton in 1660 for his support of Cromwell and justification of regicide (this nearly happened in real history, and apparently only the strenuous intervention of Andrew Marvell prevented it). The story also involves William Blake. A feast for literary nerds!

Also, I got the go-ahead to start scripting a new project for Marvel. Oh boy...!

Sep 4, 2007

Supernatural and Ultimates Books Are Out

It's tie-in heaven around here. Not only has The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Demons, Spirits, and Ghouls come out today, but The Ultimates: Against All Enemies appeared about a week ago. These are my ninth and tenth books, which seems bizarre to me considering how recently I was complaining about how hard it was to catch a break in publishing.

Neither book is likely to get a lot of review attention in the regular outlets, but here's one enthusiastic reaction to the Supernatural book from a Livejournal community devoted to the show. I don't yet know what anyone thinks of the Ultimates book, but it sure was fun to write it both of them.

Aug 14, 2007

Supernatural Interviews

Getting married Saturday and preparations proceed apace! Send money, gifts, good will! But, a few moments were stolen for cool and illuminating interviews with Supernatural special effects coordinator Randy Shymkiw and executive producer Kim Manners. Look for them in the debut issue of the Supernatural magazine, which will appear...sometime.

PKD in the NYer

Adam Gopnik has a terrific piece on Philip K. Dick in the current New Yorker. I could quibble until the world falls into gubbish, but Gopnik is one of the few literati I've seen write about Dick and really get him in the way that I, in my solipsistically infinite wisdom, would wish Dick to be gotten.

And I'll be honest, my primary reason for digging Gopnik's article is that he loves VALIS. Here's the money quote, which I agree with in every particular:

There are many books with unreliable narrators under the control of sane authors; this is the only one I know where a sane, reliable narrator (on the book’s own terms) is under the control of a clearly crazy author. What makes it heartbreaking is the author’s consciousness, expressed sporadically through the fictional narrator Dick, that he (that is, the real Dick, embodied in the pathetic Fat) has undoubtedly gone nuts—but that, just as undoubtedly, he is in possession of the truth about the cosmos. His account of his vision is braided with the details of cancer treatments and the mordantly rendered specifics of time spent in a ward for the insane—a man who knows he’s broken but believes that the breaking has poured forth a flowing truth.

Exactly. What a brave and wonderful book that is.

Jul 27, 2007

RIP Weekly World News

This makes me sad, in the same way that I get sad because America's proud tradition of hucksterism is increasingly subsumed within politics and televangelism. (Where have you gone, PT Barnum? Getting ripped off by the spinny-dart-machine guy at Coney Island just isn't the same.)

The last WWN I bought offered the untold story of brave American GI's facing down vampires in Afghanistan. Now we will never hear the horrific followup, as one of them ("It's just a scratch, Sarge; he never got me") brings the worst vampire cooties of the Caucasus back to these very shores...

Edit: And here's a New York Times followup, mostly talking about Ed Anger. I'm really going to miss Ed Anger.

Jul 25, 2007

Another Story Online

I don't know why I didn't notice this before, but the first story I ever published, "Rossetti Song," is online at the Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet web site, which also features terrific fiction from Kelly Link, Christopher Rowe, Carol Emshwiller, Ray Vukcevich...the list goes on. Also some cool nonfiction pieces. You can't go wrong.

Jul 23, 2007

Books Vs. Trees

So books are made from trees, and there are those who think that book readers need to make environmental amends for reading. Along comes Eco-Libris, a well-meaning outfit that will take your money and put it towards planting trees. Here's my question, though. Eco-Libris helps to fund tree-planting efforts in developing nations. Do American publishers get their pulpwood from developing nations, or does it come from domestic forests? If the pulpwood is coming from right here in the U.S., then the efforts of Eco-Libris don't actually do anything to offset the publishing industry's use of wood.

Which is not to say that reforestation efforts in the developing world aren't laudable, but (if American publishers do in fact use American trees) it's not quite accurate to say that a check sent to Eco-Libris will balance out the environmental cost of your books.

A quibble for a cantankerous evening...

Jul 14, 2007

Did Anyone Ever Know?

Over at Bookslut, Paul Kincaid has an interesting column about award processes (he either was or still is administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke award), and he takes the time to ask the question, "Does Anyone Even Know What Science Fiction Is Anymore?" A sample:

...we have lost our sense of what science fiction is. The genre is notoriously hard to define and most of us, whether we admit it or not, probably fall back on some form of Damon Knight’s ostensive definition: we know it when we see it. But now it’s not so easy to see. Look at the science fiction shelves in most bookshops and they contain a preponderance of fantasy, while a lot of what most of us would consider science fiction has migrated onto the general fiction shelves. Mind you, it’s easy to understand why this is happening when writers like China MiĆ©ville deliberately blur the line between SF and fantasy, when others like Jon Courtenay Grimwood blur the line between SF and crime, when fantasy authors like J.K. Rowling win the top SF award, and when an increasing number of supposedly mainstream writers use SF devices as if they are an unexceptional part of their literary arsenal.

I taught a graduate seminar in SF this past spring, and one of the things that I and my students wrestled with was the problem of defining SF. Me, I don't think the enterprise is worth the energy that's been devoted to it, but it sure provokes illuminating discussions when you get ten smart people (I'm talking about my students) in a room and kick-start a discussion in which they all end up coming up with exceptions to everyone else's definitions. It was a good class. In the end, I think that SF has always been plastic enough that while there's a lot of stuff that you can point to and say, "That's SF," there is no single workable definition. Which is as it should be.

Another interesting tidbit from the bookish corners of the internet is this Guardian list (courtesy of Sebastian Beaumont) of 10 great books about psychological journeys. Three cheers for the inclusion of Jeff Noon's Vurt, which is a terrific book. So is his Automated Alice.

Jul 10, 2007

Who Knew?

So I'm glancing through a copy of Best American Mystery Stories 2005, edited by the most distinguished Joyce Carol Oates, and my thumb kind of slips as I'm riffling through the pages...and there, listed in the back matter, where anthologies of this kind list the stuff the editor liked a lot but didn't decide to include, is my story "Peter Skilling," from (where it was retitled "Retroactive Anti-Terror") and F&SF (where the Esteemed Editor left the title alone). Apparently it was one of the "other distinguished stories" of that year. Neat.

Perspicacious reader, that Joyce Carol Oates.

Catching Up

Summer comes, and I go outside, and the bloggery suffers. Here's a grab-bag of what's been going on...

I ran across this review of Logorrhea from a newspaper in Baton Rouge, and thought I'd excerpt the bit about my story:

Alex Irvine's "Semaphore," is more of a conventional story with hints at the supernatural. In Irvine's tale, a Jewish boy in New Jersey whose brother is killed in World War II takes up spelling to deal with his loss. "At breakfast I started spelling words out loud. My sisters got into it. They collected newspapers and hit me with whatever they could find, and then it turned into a game they played among themselves. Each of them focused on words that began with the same letter as their first names: Miriam, Eva, Ruth, Deborah. After a month of this, I was convinced that I knew every word in the language that began with those four letters. Mnemonic, elegiac, rotisserie, diverticulitis. Malevolent, esoterica, rubicon, demesne."

The boy suffers visitations from his brother's ghost who gives him cryptic messages that the boy can't unravel until he has a sudden epiphany that is as good as any you're likely to find in a short story. Even in a book with stories made of words and about words, Irvine's story stands out. This is a story that a logophile — a lover of words — will cherish.

A couple of short story sales to note, both in the UK (they'll be my first magazine appearances there): "Black Lagoon," a noirish Detroit story to Crimewave, and "Shad's Mess," a comic SF novelette to Postscripts.

There's new Supernatural-related interview up here.

Also, things are brewing again on the Marvel front...

May 1, 2007

Sequential Tart Interview

The rabblerousing proprietors of Sequential Tart, as part of their ongoing Culture Vulture feature, asked me a few questions about writing superhero-related and otherwise.

Apr 27, 2007

New Interview

On the Supernatural fan site Morgan's Maniacs, dedicated to actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who will also be familiar to the Grey's Anatomy viewers among you).

In other news, belated Happy Birthday wishes to Cheetah, of Tarzan fame. He turned 75 this week. Really.

Apr 22, 2007

New Story Online

"Europe." Scroll down about two-thirds of the way.

Also make sure to check out the rest of the creative writing on the site...and if you're into phenomenology or continental philosophy, you'll need to spend the day there.

Apr 20, 2007

The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Demons, Spirits, and Ghouls

And a cover for the upcoming Supernatural book, which will take the form of a guided tour, courtesy of Sam and Dean, through their dad's journal, and also through the myriad legends related to the creatures they've tangled with on the show. Also, the Winchester boys talk about some of the other folklore they've investigated during the course of their initiation into the family business. Look for detailed sections on revenants, demonology, herb lore...all kinds of stuff. Ever wondered what Oil of Abramelin is? Look no further. I've just done a couple of interviews about the book and related topics, and will of course put up links to those when they're available.

Apr 18, 2007

Ultimates: Against All Enemies

Here's the cover of the Ultimates book. Looks pretty fine, I think. Far as the story goes, here's a selection from the flap copy:

The alien shapeshifters called the Chitauri were defeated in a decisive battle, but suspicious activity leads the Ultimates to believe that not all of the aliens were destroyed in that cataclysmic attack. Stark Industries has developed a means of quickly and easily detecting Chitauri DNA, but the federal government refuses to adopt the technology, claiming that if the tech is widely available, the Chitauri will find a way to fool it.

Frustrated by the government's actions, Captain America takes matters into his own hands, leaking the technology so it can be manufactured and distributed throughout the country. His radical actions sow discord among the Ultimates and within the highest levels of government, raising a troubling question: Could this disunity and chaos be playing into the Chitauri's hands?

Look for it at the end of summer.

Apr 17, 2007

Clash of the Myopias

So The Road has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congrats to Cormac McCarthy. And now, cue two parallel processes: literary critics will break the spines of their thesauri, and their sentences, trying to describe the book without using the phrase "science fiction" -- and science fiction fandom will spontaneously combust from a combination of anger that nobody calls the book SF and geekier-than-thou validation that an obviously SFnal text won such a swanky prize. Everybody ties themselves in knots. It's great. Few things are more fun to observe than the collision of myopias.

Unleash the Kraken!

(And yeah, I know that some critics have mentioned the book in the context of SF. Don't curdle my generalized glee with the pedantic application of specificities.)

Apr 12, 2007

'God Damn It, You've Got to Be Kind'

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. And because one of the things we do when people die is remember our interactions with them, I'll offer this brief story of failure of nerve. In 1995, or maybe early '96, Vonnegut came all the way to Orono to give a speech at the Maine Center for the Arts. Afterward, a few of us English grad students were going to meet him for a while, maybe have a drink. I went to the speech, which was very funny, as well as very crabby and predicated on the idea that every kid needed to be in a gang...and then afterward, I met the man himself and shook his hand. Then there was going to be this little get-together, with glasses of wine and no doubt Pall Malls (mmmmm, Pall Malls) but I never found out where because I lost my nerve. I got shook. I think what I wanted more than anything else was to talk to the guy without a bunch of other people around, or maybe I was just more afraid of saying something stupid than excited about hearing him say something wonderful; but either way, I shook his hand and made some kind of excuse to the faculty member organizing the group, and then I kited out of there to Pat's Pizza and wrote for a while.

Don't know why I did that.

Apr 10, 2007

The Greatest Movie Review in the History of the World

Well, maybe not, but it's the dearest to my heart, now that I've read it (two years after its publication, and now only because Paolo Bacigalupi happened to mention it). When I walked out of the theater after seeing the last Star Wars movie, I had this tremendous feeling of liberation, because at last--after almost thirty years--George Lucas no longer had any hold on me. Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker, puts it more eloquently than I ever could.

Apr 3, 2007

New Stuff

In addition to "Wizard's Six," appearing in the June issue of F&SF, my story "Semaphore" will be one of the multitude of attractions in the anthology Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, out any second now from Bantam...

Also, "Snapdragons," from the Vestal Review a few years back, was recently republished in a Chinese anthology I almost certainly will never see, and will appear in a flash anthology coming from Ooligan Press sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Retro Pulp Tales Wins Stoker

The Subterranean Press anthology Retro Pulp Tales won the Bram Stoker Award for best anthology this past weekend. It's a swell collection of pulpy goodness, with a contribution--called "New Game in Town"--from yours truly. If you haven't checked it out already, the added luster of a Stoker is certainly reason enough, don't you think?

Mar 23, 2007

Back from Florida; Or, An Execration upon USAir

Until you deal with an airline in the midst of a crisis, it's easy to labor under the impression that when you pay for a service, you are somehow entitled to delivery of that service. But thanks to USAir, I no longer suffer from that delusion.

Knowing that there were weather-related problems, we showed up at the Ft. Lauderdale airport in plenty of time to make our Sunday morning flight. USAir personnel pulled us out of the line so everyone on our flight could check in...and then they closed the flight and let it go while maybe 40 of us were still in the line...and then they told us that the next flight out of Ft. Lauderdale would be Tuesday.

Hotel voucher? Please. Any kind of gesture to make it seem as if they recognized that they had bumped us off a flight that we'd already paid for and for which we had seat assignments? Come on.

They did say they might be able to fly us out of Charlotte on Monday night. So what the heck, we thought. We'll have a little road trip to Charlotte.

Monday comes, and we're in North Carolina, on the way to Charlotte...and they tell us that the Monday night flight probably isn't going to make it out. Will they pay for the rental car if we drive to New York? we ask.

Sure, they say. No problem. And they're going to refund us the unused portion of the ticket.

So we drive to New York...and then find out that the USAir personnel who told us that the car would be reimbursed and the flight refunded didn't have the authority to tell us that.

Long story short, USAir bumped us with no compensation, then told us that they would make arrangements that they then failed to make, as a result of which we spent an extra thousand bucks or so.

And I still didn't get to work on Tuesday.

The upside was a road trip: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York. I think the best place name noted along the way was Yee Haw Junction, Florida. A convenience store employee outside Jacksonville informed us that Florida was warm, and we met the most happily adjusted hotel clerk in the world at the Best Western in Brunswick, Georgia, and if you're ever in York, Pennsylvania, you absolutely must have a drink at Kro's Tavern. But under no circumstances should you stay at the Days Inn in York, which maybe you already knew.

Anyway, ICFA was great. I hadn't been since 2003, and this was the last year in Ft. Lauderdale before the conference relocates to Orlando next year. So long, Rustic Inn. So long, Tokyo Boat. So long, unnervingly friendly Hilton hotel employees. Caught up with all kinds of people that I hadn't seen in a while, and Lindsay gave her first conference paper with admirable brio in the face of a strange rental-car hootenanny in the next room. The weather was fine, I caught a skink, and all was right with the world. Except for USAir.

Mar 13, 2007

Off to Florida

For the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I'm reading Thursday morning, if any of you happen to be in Fort Lauderdale. Then I'll be drinking by the pool for the rest of the weekend.

Feb 27, 2007

Feb 26, 2007

Bullpen Bulletins Podcast Interview

The latest Bullpen Bulletins podcast features an extended interview with yours truly on Hellstorm, the Ultimates novel, and The Narrows, among other things. You can also hear about Civil War, the latest Wolverine, and more. Listen to it here, or wherever fine podcasts are hosted.

Feb 21, 2007

Feb 19, 2007

Best Amazon Review I Will Ever Get

From one K. Inouye, in regards to Batman: Inferno...

I purchased this when I did a search under Batman TPBs/ Graphic Novels. I ordered this and it did come immediately. However, it was an actual Paperback Novel. It has no elements of a comic book what so ever. It is definately misrepresented on the Amazon website. It's a FREAKEN BOOK!

Consider yourselves warned. It's a freaken book.

Feb 15, 2007

Because We All Need Pandemonium in Our Lives

Pandemonium Books and Games, once the pride of Harvard Square and now even sweller in Central Square, is in trouble. The ongoing chain-store annihilation of independents has hit specialty shops harder, if anything; now Pandemonium looks to be in dire straits.

Help out if you can.

Feb 6, 2007

Voices from the Street

Here's a Los Angeles Times review of Philip K. Dick's Voices from the Street, which I encountered briefly while doing dissertation research on PKD at Cal State-Fullerton. Sadly, I had to focus on other things (there's a couple of chapters of a never-pursued sequel to The Man in the High Castle there, by the way), so I never read the entire manuscript, and I'm dying to do it now that the book finally exists. If it weren't for this damn teaching and writing, I'd sit down and read it right now.

Dick's literary novels are really a treat. Those of you who only know him for his science fiction should take the time to explore the rest of his work. Mary and the Giant is terrific, as well as The Broken Bubble of Thisbe Holt (published, I think, as The Broken Bubble; the titular event includes, among other things, a really chilling depiction of what 50s accountant types might get up to at professional conventions) and Puttering About in a Small Land.

Now if only someone could discover/reconstruct The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike, the PKD corpus would be complete...or have I just missed it?

Vandermeer on Aylett

The estimable Jeff VanderMeer has written about the estimable Steve Aylett, whose work you should all be reading (Jeff's too). Let us all join the Aylett Literary Parade.

Feb 4, 2007

Of Zombie Brides and Silver Bullets

Saw the Serpenteens last night at Trash Bar. Man, are they a blast. Any of you who are into monsters or music (which is all of you, right?) should check them out.

Afterward came karaoke...

Feb 3, 2007

"Days of Glory"?

So L and I went to see this French movie the other night at the Alliance Francaise somewhere in the wilds of the not-quite-upper West Side (or whatever you call 59th and Madison). Indigenes, by Rachid Bouchareb, tells the story of Algerian and other African soldiers fighting in the French Army in World War II. The Nazis are their biggest problem, but the film's real subject matter is the different ways the four Algerians at the center of the film react as they come to realize that the ideal of "liberte, egalite, fraternite" that they're fighting for doesn't really apply to them.

Some American reviews have compared it to Glory, the 1989 black-soldiers-in-the-Civil-War film that was pretty okay, but Indigenes has the kind of complexity that would have just bogged down Glory's headling rush to the slaughter of its heroes. Except for two scenes in which the polemic gets ahead of the characterization, and a last scene that's a little too Private Ryan-ish, Indigenes is striking in the way Bouchareb delivers the cultural conflict almost entirely through the kind of nuanced characterization that seems not to interest most Hollywood filmmakers. Maybe the most interesting character is Sergeant Martinez, a pied noir (read: French white guy who grew up in Africa) who on the one hand tries to keep the lid on his men and his own prejudices, and on the other tries to stand up for them against the bureaucracy of the French Army. Another neat little flourish is the naming of Corporal Abdelkader, the most Frenchified Algerian soldier--evoluee is the French term--after one of the leaders of the Algerian resistance movement before the war; the most educated of his compatriots, Abdelkader is the one who stirs up the most trouble, and at the same time the one who believes in France the most. A. O. Scott's NYT review does a pretty good job of unpacking how it all works (although the economy and precision he sees in the filming of the battle scenes comes across more like by-the-numbers scene-painting to me; Bouchareb is a much better director of character than of action).

Anyway, I can't help but wonder if some bright bulb at the Weinstein Company said in a meeting, "Hey, Africans fighting in the army of a country that oppresses them! That's kind of like Glory!"...and that's why a movie called Natives (and using a term that in French is patronizing if not pejorative) somehow becomes Days of Glory. Given what happens in the film, it's about as ironic a title as you could come up with.

Feb 1, 2007

Art and Aphorism

Maurizio Manzieri notes in his blog that his cover illustration for my 2003 F&SF story "Pictures from an Expedition" (also, as you've probably figured out, the title story in my recent collection) has enjoyed a productive life after its birth as an F&SF cover.

Maurizio also lets the cat out of the bag regarding a follow-up story that I've been working on (slaving, Gordon! slaving!)...speaking of which, I once saw the blind leading the blind and a guy letting a cat out of a bag within five minutes of each other.

Jan 31, 2007

The Other Beautiful Game

Pitchers and catchers report February 15th. I get palpitations just thinking about it. Who's going to get me tickets when the Tigers come to Fenway on May 14-17?

The Beautiful Game

With everyone so aflutter about the Beckham signing, I want to be on record as saying that I think Red Bull NY's signings of Claudio Reyna and Ronald Waterreus will be more influential on the field. Beckham does a couple of things astonishingly well: he delivers crosses and he takes free kicks. So he'll be good for a few highlight-reel goals, and he'll put people in the seats for a while. All of which is to the good.

Reyna and Waterreus, on the other hand, will solidify two of the most important positions on the field--goalkeeper and midfield general--for MLS' most important team. I'm going to love Beckham's occasional flashy goal, but I'm going to love RBNY's improved team play even more.

What got me started on this was a Slate article on soccer, which can be found here.

Ultimates etc.

I've just finished tinkering with the revisions on a novel about the Marvel group The Ultimates. It's called AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, and it should appear at the end of August. Chitauri! government conspiracies! Cap and Janet! Plus Thor and Loki...

One thing I wanted to do was write a book about the dragon Nidhogg showing up on Earth pissed as hell about how Thor set off the last Chitauri bomb in his back yard, but I guess that's a little too decisive about the "is Thor really a god?" question. All of us will have to wait until the series concludes to have that question answered definitively. I can't wait! Seriously, if Thor isn't a god I'm going to auto-immolate. AGAINST ALL ENEMIES was another angle on the Ultimates story that I had been wanting to explore, and that's what will show up in bookstores. Here's a sneak peek at John Van Fleet's cover art (don't tell anyone I put this up):

As far as the "etc." goes, I guess I was just kidding. Oh, wait. I'm writing a book tentatively called THE SUPERNATURAL GUIDE TO THE SUPERNATURAL, which is a collection of folklore taking the form of the journals of John Winchester, who will be a familiar figure to viewers of the CW (formerly WB) show SUPERNATURAL.

Jan 18, 2007

STUN! podcast interview

You can hear the dulcet tones of Chicago DJ and comic-book guy James Van Osdol as he interviews me about Hellstorm and other topics at:



Podcast Alley

There's also a cool archive of earlier interivews with comics-industry luminaries, although I probably shouldn't have mentioned that because now you'll just go listen to them instead of me.

Jan 10, 2007

More Satany Goodness

Scarcely two weeks after #3 appeared, now behold #4! which Daimon's labors are rewarded, least for a minute.

Jan 9, 2007

Ann Arbor News article

After oh-so-many years, the hometown paper writes me up. (Sadly there is no longer an Ypsilanti Press, but that's another story.)

Also, IF magazine, a website about independent filmmaking and related endeavors, has Son of Satan in its top 10 for the year.