Dec 18, 2008

A Little Writing News

Couple more short stories have made safe landings at magazines. "The Dream Curator," which some of you might have seen me read at KGB a while back, will appear in Postscripts sometime next year, and "Dragon's Teeth," involving some of the same characters from "Wizard's Six," is coming from F&SF. This is the first time I've ever written a second story using the same characters. It felt strange, but I'd been thinking about this one for a long time, and ran out of reasons not to do it. Now I've got two more in mind, at the end of which there might be something like a long novella or short novel. Seems odd to think of it.

Also I just finished drafting a chapter on urban fantasy for Modern Literary Fantasy, a Cambridge UP book edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn. Not sure when it's coming out, but I hadn't written a scholarly piece in a long time, and once I shook the rust off it felt good. I might just do it again. In fact, I started thinking about expanding the article into a book, which would let me talk about a whole lot of books that I couldn't get to in a 5000-word article.

Dec 17, 2008

So Long, Freep

The Detroit Free Press, at 177 one of the venerable urban newspapers in the US, is ending weekday home delivery and curtailing the content of its print edition. Their particular method is interesting in that it doesn't involve a massacre in the newsroom, unlike those that have occurred at other papers. So perhaps we're seeing a realization on the part of the newspaper industry that actual journalism doesn't have to be sacrificed in the name of cost control. But what does? I'm going to miss daily newspapers. I still have the front page from the day the Tigers won the '84 World Series, and from the Red Wings' 1997 Stanley Cup win.

Dec 16, 2008

The Periodic Table of Awesoments

From Dapperstache. What does one say? Awesome.

Happy 80th, PKD

In this blog named for a quote of Phil Dick's, I would be remiss in not noting what would have been his 80th birthday. In honor of the occasion, Total Dick-Head did a two-hour radio tribute that is more than worth a listen. You can also find the BBC Arena documentary on PKD courtesy of YouTube, and everyone should check out R. Crumb's take on the (in)famous VALIS experience of 2-3/74.

What would an 80-year-old Phil Dick have been like?

Dec 15, 2008

Couple of Supernatural Tidbits

Word from Harper is that the monster book is going into its fifth printing. And last week I got an ARC of John's Journal, which looks very cool. Too bad it's not coming out in time for Christmas, but it'll be a treat in February.

Dec 12, 2008

Terminal Degree

If you're one of those people who think there are too many MFAs in the world, this Craigslist posting is going to make your day.

Dec 9, 2008

Nothing Says Christmas... the Vertigo Encyclopedia, of course!

So saith USA Today, the Newark Star-Ledger, the Toronto Globe & Mail, and How can you resist?

Me and the Phoenix, Together Again

Starting in January, I'll be contributing pieces on books and comics (and the creators thereof) to the Portland Phoenix. If you are one of the aforementioned creators--especially if you live in Maine or have any connection at all to our heavily forested state--get in touch with me: alexirvine at alexanderirvine dot net. Pass the word around, eh?

Say It Isn't So!

No more Polaroid film?

Save Polaroid!

Dec 3, 2008

This Is Probably What I Should Call It

I'm writing an Iron Man novel. It's supposed to come out next fall, I think. I had a title all figured out, but then I noticed this Amazon listing, in which the book is called Iron Man Original Novel #1. Suddenly I am smitten with the possibilities inherent in that being the title.

The Day in Artistic Plagiarism

"Emily the Strange is a rip off of a 1978 book character." So saith BoingBoing, picking up on a story at You Thought We Wouldn't Notice. You be the judge:

In the land of (one hopes) non-plagiarized creativity, the NYT has chosen its ten best books of the year.

Dec 2, 2008

Now I'm No Economist, But...

$8 trillion in bailout commitments, divided by 155 million tax returns filed this year, equals approximately $51,600 for each and every individual or family taxpayer in this country. Think that stimulus would do more than giving banks money because they realized that all of their fake money was fake? Seriously.

Also I want to know if anyone in Congress gave the bankers a hard time about their transportation arrangements, the way auto chiefs are taking heat for flying out to DC last time. Somehow I doubt it. I also doubt whether the bankers' travel arrangements were any less extravagant.

Go Wings

On pace for 123 points, and they've got this guy on their side. What must the Black Hawks be thinking?

(image from the AP)

Nov 19, 2008

Bugs and Homer in a Dead Heat

...and Colin Powell edges out God, in the write-in results from Duval County, Florida. Read on (all mistakes in original):

Among those getting a single vote: Abstain, Against All, Alfred E. Newman, Bill Clinton, Bill O'Riely, Bill Richardson, Bobby Bowden, Bugs Bunny, May the best man win, Me, Morgan Freeman, Mr. Bill, Newt Gingwrich, None (Anarchy), Oprah, Pat Buchannan, Ralph Nader, Hilary Bush, Homer Simpson, Jay Plotkin, Jimmy Carter, Joe the Plumber, John Doe, Lieberman, Theodore Roosevelt, They Both Suck '08, Tiger Woods, Tommy Chong, Truman, Weird Al Yancovic, William Crosby and Willie Nelson.

(from WJXT in Jacksonville, via Ben Smith's Politico blog)

Web 2.0 SF Magazines?

A discussion is beginning at SF Signal on this topic. The original idea, from Jay Garmon, is here. Interesting ideas being batted around. Clearly something has to happen to the magazines. Now I'm wondering if I could pitch stories on my own site, or this blog, and start collecting moolah? Hmmmm. If only. The subscription model wasn't unusual in the 19th century; I know Tom Sawyer was sold on that basis at first, at least in the US, and I think Dickens went that route as well (?).

Nov 18, 2008

Apotheosis of the Headline Writer

This Newsweek article about urban chicken farming (there's a phrase you don't see every day) must have been the best thing that ever happened to whoever came up with the title "The New Coop de Ville."

In other news, Baghdad is building a subway and SF magazines are (still) having a hard time. (Subscribe! Subscribe!)

100 Sentences About the City of the Future: A Jeremiad

That's the name of a story I just sold to the perspicacious editorial tandem behind Postscripts, Pete Crowther and Nick Gevers. Feels good to be writing short stories again.

Nov 16, 2008

Breaking: SF Not Dying, Again

Or so the New Scientist would have us believe. Interesting comments at the end from "leading science fiction authors," among whom is listed Margaret Atwood. Maybe now the fen who still have a grudge about her saying thirty years ago that she wasn't a science fiction writer will let it go. Stan Robinson's comments are particularly worth noticing, especially in light of Charlie Stross's recent polemic about near-future SF.

Nov 14, 2008

Barack Obama, Nerd

At least judging by this list of fifty facts, from the Telegraph. I mean, Conan comics? Awesome.

But Do They Have Fiber-Optic Sea Sponges?

Hubble does it again: First direct image of extrasolar planets. I know you've seen this already, but I can't help myself:

And this one is equally awesome:


Forbidden Planet International Interview (and Don't Forget the Contest!)

A Q&A I did with FPI's estimable Joe Gordon is now up on their website: "Alex Irvine Talks Us Through Our Case of Vertigo." It ranges over a number of topics, including the Vertigopedia and Daredevil Noir. And remember to enter the contest, linked below:

Nov 12, 2008

PW reviews the Vertigopedia

Peter Sanderson takes a look:

Here I must engage in full disclosure: I have done freelance work on several of DK’s books about comics, as well as comics encyclopedias for other publishers. So I know how monumental a task researching such books can be, and salute The Vertigo Encyclopedia’s author Alex Irvine, who, oddly, is credited on the cover but not on the book’s title page.

At least in the past, DK’s guides to comics characters like Batman and the X-Men were officially part of its Children’s Books division. The Vertigo Encyclopedia is most definitely not for kids: leafing through the book, I came across not only the F-word, but also an example of full frontal nudity and a reference to “pansexuality.” Irvine also takes a more sophisticated approach to the material, listing the credits of Vertigo creators, outlining major storylines, and even pointing out literary themes.

There's more, and Sanderson also reviews Robert Greenberger's Essential Batman Encyclopedia (which I have, and think is excellent).

Today's Dose of Nerdgasm

A flying car! Really!

But What If You're a Novelist *and* an Academic?

It's hard enough to offer a useful explanation of a book someone else wrote. Now, according to the Telegraph, I can't even explain myself, since apparently academic research doesn't measure up to fiction when it comes to addressing the intractable issues of the world. What am I to do? A provocative quote, from one Tom Clougherty of the Adam Smith Institute:

"There's a problem. Fiction works by appealing to people's emotions, not their intellect or rationality."

Hm. I had no idea this was true. I always thought the best fiction could appeal to both emotion and intellect. Many thanks to Clougherty for the clarification.

Nov 11, 2008

Literary Map of Maine, Sort of: A Rant

The Portland Press Herald's Literary Map of Maine is a pretty cool place to spend a few minutes. Sure would be nice if it included some contemporary writers who don't write autobiographical stuff about how hard it is to grow up in Maine. Also would be nice if it included writers who live in Maine but don't necessarily write about it. Not just me, either;* the woods up here are crawling with writers, but there seems to be some idea (at least on the Press Herald's part, or the part of the people who consulted on the construction of the map) that if you're not writing about lobstering or the history of Aroostook County, you're not Maine enough to be in Maine. Perhaps I am in Maine but not of Maine.

Also, how does Edwin Arlington Robinson not make the list? Winner of the first Pulitzer Prize in poetry, the Bard of Gardiner doesn't get on the map but...never mind. To name names would be churlish.

And what about Janwillem van de Wetering, who also set a few of his later books in Maine? But the list includes...never mind. Churlish.

Elaine Ford? Richard Ford? Heidi Julavits? Lew Robinson? John Crowley? Annie Proulx? Bern Porter? Nicholson Baker? Gerry Boyle? Betsy Sholl? et al.

You might look at the Waterboro Public Library's Maine Writers Index for a real sense of just how rich literary culture is up here Down East. (But they don't have me in their index, either. So the joke's on me in the end...even so, I have ranted, and feel better.)

*The Press Herald hates me because I used to write for the Phoenix and would mention it when they did things that were embarrassing to themselves and the profession of journalism.**

**I am half-joking.

This I Gotta See

If it ever happens, that is. A movie version of Midnight's Children? With Rushdie involved? Deepa Mehta (here talking to Vulture about this and other projects), don't let me down.

Nov 10, 2008

Flights of Martians Sing Thee to Thy Rest

Phoenix has keeled over due to lack of sunlight in the Martian arctic. Bummer. By spring, it will apparently be encased in a block of dry ice. Vale, most excellent lander!

Nov 4, 2008

Dixville Notch!

One of my favorite quirks of American politics is that this little burg gets its results in first. After a long stretch of backing the Republican (at least since the '80s), the Notch comes in for Obamanaia: 15-6, Our Savior* over McNasty.**

* This term used with what I hope will be recognizably maximal irony.

** The nickname borrowed not for purposes of the campaign, but from McCain's fellow students at the Naval Academy. Look it up.

Nov 3, 2008

Things That Make You Go 'Huh'

Why White Supremacists Support Barack Obama, from Esquire.

Whatever happens in this election, a whole lot of people are going to end up having had conversations they never thought they'd have.

Oct 31, 2008


You may notice things changing. This will continue for a little while, as the new web site takes shape. Then all will be stable again, and much better-looking.

Oct 23, 2008

In Praise of the Bar-Tailed Godwit, Plus Swedes!

Off to see Lydia Millet, author of (among other things) the swell Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, read in a short while. If you haven't read it, you should.

But the title of this post has to do with a wonder of the natural world (mostly). 7000 miles at a stretch? Amazing.

Also amazing, in a different kind of way, is this report from a Swedish hockey game.

Oct 21, 2008

What He Said

Richard K. Morgan on SF's tendency toward autocannibalism and on various other (but related, mostly) topics.

Much anticipation around here for his next book.

Supernatural Update: Winchester Journal

I just got finished going through the layouts, and this book looks cool. Real cool. I have to mention here (again) that the people who bring you Supernatural are terrific. Also I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great job by editor Chris Cerasi at DC, as well as Kate Nintzel and the designers at HarperCollins, and there are killer illustrations by Dan Panosian. (I did a few too--the ones that were supposed to not look like art.) Now the manuscript heads back to New York for a little fine-tuning, and then it's off to the printer. I think the February 3 on-sale date is still good (emphasis on I think).

And by the way, Supernatural fans, given how much you love the Weird America vibe of the show, I can just about guarantee that you'll dig these two novels of mine:

Give them a try...

Tip of the Cap

To whoever has taken the time to edit 145 Wikipedia entries using the Vertigopedia as a source: egad, sir or madam. I commend your industry.

Oct 18, 2008

Rumblings in the Heartland

A provocative anecdote from Nate Silver's number-crunching electoral-poll-nerd extravaganza

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

No sourcing (although I can understand why the canvasser in question wouldn't want to become a public figure), but if this is true, it's telling in all kinds of ways.

Oct 17, 2008

Italian-Style Buyout

My next novel, Buyout, concerns the consequences of a charter program under which prison inmates serving life sentences are able to take buyouts. The insurance company calculates the reserve amount they're going to have to have on hand to feed/clothe/house/treat/litigate and offers the inmate X percent. In return, the inmate takes the Golden Needle.

In some conversations about the book, people have said they thought that it would never work because very few prisoners--despite their bellyaching--would actually want to go out that way, whatever the financial incentive. But (belatedly) I ran across* the following news item:

Hundreds of prisoners serving life sentences in Italy have called on President Giorgio Napolitano to bring back the death penalty.

Italy has approximately 1300 inmates serving life terms. 310 of them signed that letter. Of the tens of thousands of inmates serving life terms in US prisons, how many would follow suit?

*Actually I read it in the August 2007 Harper's, and then looked it up online.

Late-Blooming Creativity

If you always wanted to be a literary wunderkind but the world has yet to recognize your genius even though you're already eligible to be elected President, this New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell might make you feel a little better. I know it did me...

The age that I'm not looking forward to? When there is not a single major-league baseball player older than me. Hang in there, Jamie Moyer.

Oct 7, 2008


While Phoenix keeps doing its thing (most recently observing falling snow!), comes news that AMC is doing a movie of Stan Robinson's landmark Red Mars. I love that book. It's SF done right, in every way. (...although, if this is true, who knows when we'll ever get to the Moon again, let alone Mars?)

Also, Bookgasm writes about the Vertigopedia here.

Also also: even for Fox News, this is low.

Oct 3, 2008

SF Site Interview on the Vertigopedia

...can be found here, along with all sorts of other genre tidbits, among which is the surprising and lamentable decision to publish another Hitchhiker's Guide novel. No! Don't do it! Well, I guess it's not surprising. But it is lamentable, despite the involvement of Eoin Colfer.

Oct 2, 2008

Prescience Among the Postmoderns

David Harvey, writing in 1989:

The biggest physical export from New York City is now waste paper. The city's economy in fact rests on the production of fictitious capital to lend to the real estate agents who cut deals for the highly paid professionals who manufacture fictitious capital. (The Condition of Postmodernity, 331-32)

Who says theoryhead scholars don't pay attention to real life?

And speaking of prescience, Charlie Stross laments the newfound impossibility of writing near-future SF that won't be wrong by the time it's published. To which I can't help but wonder if it's ever been possible to write near-future SF that had any predictive value. Count me in the camp of those who think that prediction was never, and should never be, the point of even near-future SF.

And speaking of near-future SF, hooray for Stan Robinson, named one of Time magazine's 2008 Heroes of the Environment.

Sep 30, 2008

Interview on Amazon

I talked with Jeff VanderMeer, who is a swell writer and also an indefatigable blogger etc., a few days ago for Amazon's Omnivoracious books blog, and now the results are up for all to see...

Snack and Yack

If you happen to be in Orono tomorrow at 3pm, stop by the Foster Student Innovation Center on the UMaine campus, where I'll be part of a roundtable discussion on the question of how to get published.

If You Haven't Already...

Read a banned book this week. Preferably in church. Or if that's too confrontational for you, consult this list of Banned Books Week events to find one near you.

Sep 26, 2008

A Question for John McCain

Senator: Is there anything Barack Obama *does* understand?


To the Stars!

A fascinating bit in Wired about what's either a massive boondoggle and con-job or (much less probably) a tremendous technological leap forward. Mars in 41 days? Can tourist jaunts to Olympus Mons be far behind?

(Also recently in Wired, this terrific piece about one of my favorite 80's artifacts, Weird Al Yankovic.)

Vertigopedia Review

Comics Worth Reading takes a look at the book, and likes it.

Sep 25, 2008

Uh Oh

One more SFnal apocalypse scenario takes a step toward reality, as researchers in eastern Siberia discover a whole lot of methane escaping from the seabed. An isolated incident? Maybe. Let's hope so, anyway.

Sep 24, 2008

On the Radio

Just finished taping this week's "Back to Business," with Deb Neuman on WVOM 103.9, the Voice of Maine. The topic: the business of writing, about which I'm not sure how much I know, but that didn't seem to deter Deb. Also participating in the discussion were Hank Garfield and Janet Chapman, as well as a representative of the Bangor Book Festival. You can listen to the show this Sunday at 2, and with any luck the show will be uploaded to Deb's web site sometime next week.

Sep 23, 2008


Comes news that Universal has hired the director of Wanted and the screenwriters who gave us the Olsen twin masterpiece New York Minute--to write and direct Moby-Dick. At first this didn't seem too apocalyptic for people who might care about the book, but then the Variety article cheerfully imparts the following information.

The writers revere Melville’s original text, but their graphic novel-style version will change the structure. Gone is the first-person narration by the young seaman Ishmael, who observes how Ahab’s obsession with killing the great white whale overwhelms his good judgment as captain.

Ah, Hollywood-style "reverence." The first thing we do to the text we revere is destroy the narrative framing that allows the rest of the story to unfold, and gives us the distance to really understand what makes Ahab tick, and what makes Starbuck keep trying to save him, and...and Ahab doesn't just lose his good judgment; he strips away his own humanity, bit by bit, eventually refusing a fellow captain's request for help finding his son because to do so would slow down his pursuit of the whale. And he knows it's happening to him while he does it, and he knows why, and he still can't stop it. That's what makes Ahab great. Which brings us to:

This change will allow them to depict the whale’s decimation of other ships prior to its encounter with Ahab’s Pequod, and Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive.

In other words, Ahab is going to become Aragorn with a peg leg, and the whale is a cetacean Sauron, who wreaks his havoc until Ahabagorn shows up to Put Things Right, Put Nature in Its Place...but the whole point of the story is the way in which a brooding obsessive--who knows himself to be a brooding obsessive and has decided that he's not going to let self-awareness stand in the way of his obsession--can exert power over the people under his command and let his obsession destroy them too. It's a story about how man must eternally strive against things that are larger than him, whether that struggle is just or not, whether it is doomed or not. That story's not good enough for you, Mr. Bekmambetov? This is a version of what happened to the character of Quint in the transition from Peter Benchley's Jaws to Spielberg's version. The literary Quint, particularly at the moment of his death, is explicitly an Ahab figure; not much of that survives in the film version. But it gets much worse, as we see in the following selection:

"Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

Your grandfather's Moby-Dick? You mean the one that is explicitly not an action-adventure revenge story? The one that's about what happens when a group of men realizes that their destinies are no longer in their control? The one that's about the human mind's endless ability to turn in on itself, and maybe destroy itself in the process? You'd rather have a car chase across the high seas, with a whale as a villain? A whale? Even Ahab (at least in Melville's version of Moby-Dick) knows that it's not the whale's fault...but he blames the whale anyway, and in the end it's this ability to seize his own prerogative, consequences and crews and everyone else be damned, that makes Ahab a great character.

And about using a whale as a villain...what is with this iea that we need to turn Moby-Dick into a villain? How the fuck can an animal be a villain? By eliminating the voice of Ishmael, who recognizes how crazy Ahab is and who views the whale as a quarry and adversary worthy of respect, the filmmakers are saying that they're going to give us a car chase across the high seas...all so they can make use of advances in visual effects. Are we going to get a Whale-Cam? When Ahab is pinned to Moby-Dick, are we going to get an Ahab-Cam, as the dying whale dives for the briny deeps with...oh no. He's not going to be pinned to Moby-Dick, is he? He's going to get his revenge on the whale, and that's going to be the real crime against the story.

Ahab can't win! That's the point of Ahab, is doom! Doom for him, doom for everyone on the Pequod except Ishmael, who for all we know might be one of the other sailors who survived and is adopting another persona to tell the story. Doom! That's the point! If you make a Moby-Dick with a happy ending, you are going to hell.

People can make whatever movies they want, obviously, but don't stand up in front of a microphone and pretend reverence for a literary landmark that you're in the process of turning into Hollywood dog food.

Here endeth the rant.

There Once Was a Man from Wiscasset...

I call your attention to the Maine Limerick Project, ably overseen by Hank Garfield. Filth and humor equally encouraged.

And your List of the Day is from the Telegraph: The 50 Greatest Villains in Literature.

Sep 21, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

After a 1-0 thriller at Yankee Stadium yesterday, and then a tour of Astoria last night, it's a calm and lovely day ahead, with only the specter of the demise of book publishing to instill a sense of dread. But even if book publishing is on its last legs, at least there's still George Saunders writing about Sarah Palin to make it all bearable. And Esquire has put up the latest literary list that I had to click all the way through even though it's a slideshow full of ads.

Sep 20, 2008

I Mean, Really

How many games have the Tigers' relievers blown this year? Especially after the 8th? I repeat: this has got to be one of the most disappointing teams, based on preseason expectations, in the history of modern sport. It must be because I went to a spring training game this year.

Sep 19, 2008

Star Wars!

Lucasfilm has announced an extension of their deal with Del Rey until 2013, and yours truly is going to be writing a novel set just before the Knights of the Old Republic storyline. Since I am one of those guys who saw the movie (you know, The Movie; you know the one I mean) a dozen times the summer it came out, this is kind of a dream come true. Viva la Geek! Plus, there are some interesting open spaces in the continuity from that period, which give me a lot of room to work. A detailed announcement of the new books until 2011 or so is on here; my book comes out in the fall of 2010. Mark your calendars...

Sep 18, 2008

Roundup of New and Forthcoming Stuff

Any second now: "Black Lagoon," in Crimewave 10, and "Shad's Mess," in Postscripts 15
Sometime around the end of this year: Mystery Hill, from PS Publishing, and "The Truth About Ninjas," in Barrelhouse #7
January: Daredevil Noir #1, from Marvel
Feburary: John Winchester's Journal, from HarperCollins
March: Buyout, from Del Rey


Urban Fantasy--Your Thoughts?

I'm writing a chapter on urban fantasy for a forthcoming Cambridge University Press book called Modern Literary Fantasy, edited by Farah Mendlesohn. The mandate is to cover a lot of ground in not very much room, and while I have my own ideas about which specific texts to deal with, I'm also curious: if you were writing this article, and could only deal with five books, what would they be?

In other news, hospitals are trying to study near-death experiences scientifically. O brave new can of worms! And crows are smarter than chimpanzees.

Sep 14, 2008


This was a terrifically fun day. Gibran Graham deserves congratulations for putting it together so quickly and so well. I thought attendance was great, and everyone seemed thrilled with the idea that there was a convention in Bangor. So Gibran now has the responsibility to do this again and again and again...

One of the fine things about the event for me was meeting a number of writers and artists who live in Maine: Joe Hill, Mark Ricketts, Chris Mills...a good time was had by all. I think. We should all go out for beers!

And, as a bonus, the kids got to turn into clones and bounty hunters:

Sep 12, 2008

Wizard Universe Q&A: Daredevil Noir

Steve Sunu and I chat about the book here.

Writing Stuff

The UMaine New Writing Series lineup for this fall will look like this:


08 OCT TOM PICKARD • 8PM • Minsky Recital Hall
16 OCT TOM RAWORTH • Hill Auditorium
23 OCT LYDIA MILLET • Neville 100


Good stuff. You shouldn't miss it. In other writing-related news, Greg Frost confronts the computer-generated death spiral that is the lot of an increasing number of writers. The store orders five copies of a book; they sell three. Next book, because you only sold three, maybe they order two. Then nobody can find the book, they don't sell any, and next time they don't order any. Unless, of course, your publisher pays for table space out front so you can be an Original Voice or a Discovery. I was working at a Borders store (the now-defunct Framingham #25) when the great influx of non-book crapity crap began, and it's only gotten worse.

On a more positive note, I got author copies of the Vertigopedia in the mail today. It's a good-looking book, and I can say that without immodesty because I had nothing to do with the design.

BangPop! Schedule

If you're in the Bangor area--or anywhere in Maine--on Saturday, you should head up to BangPop! Here's my schedule:

10:00 Special Guest Signing w/ Mark Ricketts & Christopher Mills
1:00 Special Guest Signing w/ Joe Hill & Kristen Britain
3:00 Writing for Genre panel w/ Hill, Britain, Mark Sehestedt, Walter H. Hunt, & Mark LaFlamme
4:00 Writing for Genre panel signing

Sep 11, 2008

Signs and Wonders

I know I just said this last post, but these are strange times indeed, when a NASCAR Trucks series driver is a) caught using testosterone, and b) has to apologize for it.

My head spins trying to keep up with all of the ways in which the wrongness of this is wrong.

Who'da Thunk It?

A Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by the editor of the National Enquirer? The strangest thing is that it's funny and right on point while also being completely unfair and gratuitously acerbic...just like the best tabloid journalism. Strange days we live in.

Sep 10, 2008

Maurice Sendak, Misanthrope

Or so it appears from this NYT profile. But he comes across as endearingly irascible, and he likes dogs, who as we all know are better than people. Anyway, misanthropy is forgivable when it's coming from the guy who gave us In the Night Kitchen.

Sep 9, 2008

Marvel Announces Daredevil Noir

So now I can too! Here's Axel Alonso talking about it. All of the images in this piece are teasing other books in the forthcoming Noir line, but wait'll you see the job Tomm Coker did. More to come...

Sep 7, 2008


From Stu Ostro's blog at, this image, taken just before Gustav hit Cuba:

PW Piece on the Vertigopedia

From a few weeks ago, this short article previews the book...somehow without mentioning the name of the guy who wrote it.

Sometimes I think PW has it in for me. All writers have that feeling, I guess, but they spelled my name wrong in their review of A Scattering of Jades (apparently some guy named Irving wrote it) and now this.

Any of you seen it yet? What did you think?

Sep 6, 2008


One week from today, I'll be at the Spectacular Events Center in Bangor, doing a little of this and a little of that at

You'll also run into Joe Hill, Kristen Britain, and a whole lot of other Maine-based writers and artists. I'm not sure yet about scheduling details, but will pass them on as I find out...

Sep 3, 2008

New Semester, New Book, New List

Started teaching yesterday...summer's over. And coincident with the beginning of the semester is the arrival of the Vertigopedia, which is In Stores Now!

Over at the Times Online, source of so many interesting and idiosyncratic literary lists, Philip Pullman initiates us into the mysteries of his personal canon.

Aug 22, 2008

If This Gets Out, I Won't Have a Job

The semester starts in ten days, and I'll be back in the classroom teaching Writing Fiction and a great-books-style class called Homer to the Renaissance. As always, the project of the creative writing class is a little curious to me, and here's Katharine Anne Porter, musing on one of the central problems:

“Writing, in any sense that matters, cannot be taught. It can only be learned, and learned by each separate one of us in his own way, by the use of his own powers of imagination and perception, the ability to learn the lessons he has set for himself… The good artist is first a good workman…”

Maybe. I think what can be taught is how to read like a writer. In the end, maybe that's what the workshop is for.

(quote noticed over at Maud Newton's blog)

Aug 18, 2008

More Kafka

So a trove (maybe) of Kafka's papers are currently being held by the 74-year-old cat-lady daughter of Max Brod in Tel Aviv. She holds onto them while everyone argues about how Jewish Kafka was and how this affects where his papers should go. I mean, of course. Nothing related to Kafka's legacy can be normal, right? Hava Hoffe, give up the papers!

For Me, It's All About Lynda Carter

But there's also a comic, and Topless Robot has a loving, exasperated list of 10 Reasons No One Cares About Wonder Woman.

Me, I care.

Aug 13, 2008

A Question for the Technologically Savvy

Can anyone tell me why this blog looks so weird in IE and so normal in every other browser?

Not Your Grandfather's Kafka

Apparently the time has come for Franz Kafka to be posthumously reinvented as an erotically supercharged bon vivant instead of the monastic depressive we all assumed we knew. What with this Times piece about scholarly interest in his pornography collection, and this (very fine) Telegraph-by-way-of-NYRB essay by Zadie Smith about what really happens if you pay attention when you read Kafka, a new picture is emerging. I like this new guy better than the old one; it's nice to know that you don't have to be utterly oppressed and dysfunctional to be a great writer.

Aug 9, 2008

Winchester Journal Cover

I just got a cover treatment in the mail, and it looks mighty cool. Soon as it's final, I'll post it here. The book is going through a last round of revisions after comments from Eric and some of the show's writers, and then it's off to the printer. It's been a lot of fun to work on...and the illustrations are going to be great, too.

Aug 2, 2008

Jul 31, 2008

Sample Comic-Con Travel Itinerary

All Times Local

7/23, 2pm: Say bye to wife and kids at Portland, Maine, airport.
7/23, 3:30pm: Learn that flight from Portland will miss connection in Philadelphia. Ask about options. Discover that the only way to get to San Diego is to drive to Boston and take flight connecting through Las Vegas. Receive assurances from US Airways personnel that Logan Airport is free of delays.
7/23, 4:30pm: Leave Portland.
7/23, 6:30pm: Arrive Logan Airport. Discover that flight from Boston to Las Vegas, scheduled for 7:45 departure, is now departing 9:15.
7/23, 9:15pm: Take off from Logan. Nap in between bouts of annoyance at possibility that connection in Las Vegas will be missed. Receive assurances from US Airways personnel that connection in Las Vegas will no way, no how be missed.
7/23, 11:40pm: On final approach to Las Vegas, experience a Murphy's Law moment as a passenger flips out on the plane. Note with interest that flight attendants really do ask at moments such as these whether there are doctors on the plane.
7/23, 11:59pm: Sit on plane as EMTs treat passenger for unspecified illness. Miss connecting flight to Las Vegas as a result of treatment.
7/24, 1:30am: Speak to US Airways personnel. Learn that there are no more flights to San Diego, and that all flights to San Diego the next day are full. Briefly indulge antisocial fantasies.
7/24, 2:00am: Rent car, hit I-15. Drive across the desert in the middle of the night.
7/24, 4:00am: Pass through Barstow. Develop strong opinion that everyone should drive through Barstow at 4am at least once.
7/24, 5:30am: See light in the sky over the San Bernardino Mountains as traffic begins to thicken through Orange County. Note that 85mph doesn't seem as fast when everyone else is doing it, too.
7/24, 6:30am: Drop car at San Diego airport. Take cab to hotel. Inform mom and wife of night's activities. Experience puzzlement when they do not understand or endorse choices made ca. 2:00am. Look around. It's morning in San Diego.

Jul 20, 2008

A New Web Site

Is in the works. It is

Currently there is a placeholder there, but great things are in the works. Update links etc. accordingly, and thanks to t. for the design.

Jul 15, 2008


My next novel, Buyout, the last sentences of which I am drafting more or less now, is already listed on Amazon even though it doesn't come out until March. Preorder it now, and then when you've forgotten all about it, the book will show up and pleasantly surprise you.

The book is a near-future noir with murders, skullduggery, and some thoughts about what an information society and an overtaxed ecosystem mean for the value (monetary and otherwise) of human life. I'm still formulating the perfect one-sentence encapsulation.

Edit: here's the cover!

Jul 10, 2008

If You Happen to Be in Bangor on Friday...

...make sure you check out River City Cinema's Perils of Peroxide festival.

First up, tomorrow night, is The Scarlet Empress. Oh, Marlene.

Jul 9, 2008

RIP Tom Disch and Tiger Stadium

Of all the obituaries coming out in the wake of Tom Disch's suicide, the New York Times version seems the most interesting, with a laudatory and evenhanded assessment of Disch's achievements in all of the various genres he tackled. It's not often you see an obit with quotes from David Pringle and Dana Gioia. When I was in grad school, a professor of mine suggested that we're more comfortable with heroes and geniuses when they're dead and we can offer our praise without worrying about what the subject of our adoration might have to say about it. Disch seems to be one more sad instance of that comfort. He was a writer's writer, that's for sure. I remember the way 334 and On Wings of Song blew me away when I was a teenager.

Another death to report, of no literary merit but deep personal relevance, is the passing of Tiger Stadium.

Actually, I guess there's a little literary relevance too, since I can't be the only person who has set scenes (in "Agent Provocateur" and The Narrows) in the old ballpark.

What Indiana Jones Should Have Been Searching For

Lost footage of Metropolis? Holy smokes.

Jun 26, 2008

Headed for Comic-Con

Just nailing down the arrangements to go to San Diego for the first time since 2004, when I was out there on a little tour ahead of the release of One King, One Soldier. I'll be on the following panel:

July 24th, 2008 5 – 6PM The Making of the Vertigo Encyclopedia (Karen Berger, Alastair Dougall, and Alex Irvine): Dig into the wealth of information DC Comics, VERTIGO, and DK Publishing have and find out how a comic book imprint’s encyclopedia is created. From getting the material, to organizing it and putting it out on the shelves. Get the down and dirty info from Karen Berger, Alastair Dougall, and Alex Irvine and watch the world premiere of the documentary The Making of the Vertigo Encyclopedia. Room 2!>>

Also I have set up a highly ambitious schedule of sipping beverages by the water and stuffing myself at the Brazilian meat restaurant.

Jun 16, 2008

Bloomsday, RIP Stan Winston

In honor of Bloomsday, I was all set to post a chipper set of links to stuff like audio of James Joyce reading, and then I heard that Stan Winston, makeup/creature/animatronic effects artist without peer, has died. (Notes from AICN, Slashfilm, and Bloody Disgusting). Not too many people did more to shape the look of our favorite monsters of the last couple of decades than him.

In other, more pleasant news: Psst! Supernatural fans! Look here!

The Tigers have won six in a row since losing Jeremy Bonderman for the season, and they're getting Rodney and Zumaya back this week. This thing isn't over yet.

Back to Bloomsday, one of my favorite Joyce-related pictures:

Jun 12, 2008

Continuing Memoir Backlash, Plus Acme!

Entertainment Weekly has a genuinely stupefying rundown of the metastasizing memoir industry over the past ten years or so. Why don't people just exorcise their personal demons and indulge their narcissism through autobiographical fiction, the way they used to?

And if you are a fan of Warner Brothers cartoons, which if you aren't you should be, this site is like a tour of the happiest laughs of your childhood. It also inspired me to go find Ian Frazier's hilarious story "Coyote Vs. Acme," which I can't recommend highly enough.

Oh yeah, and hooray for the rule of law.

Jun 9, 2008

More Mars Porn

...only of Earth this time, photographed by HiRISE from Mars. Click for a full-size version at NASA.

Jun 7, 2008

Vertigopedia, Hanif Kureishi, and Flannery O'Connor

Bully was at BEA, and took this picture of a spread from the Vertigopedia. Newsarama's blog noted it, and also pointed to Brian Wood, of (among other things) DMZ and Northlanders fame, saying nice things about the book.

And in another note: Hey, Hanif Kureishi, in this article you really come across like an asshole. And I say that as someone who loved The Buddha of Suburbia.

One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, it's always a writing student.

Wha? Exactly how often have students gone mad with machine guns on campuses? And why on earth would someone who purports to value teaching take a dump all over his students this way? One cannot help but be reminded of Flannery O'Connor's much cleverer take on the role of creative writing classes. "Everywhere I go," she said, "I'm asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."

Jun 6, 2008

1997, 1998, 2002, 2008...

I nearly died in the final seconds.

BoingBoing linked a little while ago to this page, which is chock-full of links to classic SF TV shows, and a few movies. Some awesome stuff, including Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.

And here is a little note from ICv2 about the Vertigopedia.

May 30, 2008

Twilight of the Gods

The Film Music Society (since picked up everywhere else) notes the passing of Alexander Courage, who composed the Star Trek theme.

This in addition to Harvey Korman and Sydney Pollack over the past few days. It's time for a memorial viewing of Blazing Saddles.

May 29, 2008

More Mars

io9 has images from the HiRISE camera, which followed the descent of the Phoenix lander and then snapped some pics of the lander on the surface. Here's one (click on it for full-size image):

As If Things Were Not Bad Enough for the Tigers...

Now this.

By Gad, Sir! You're a Man Worth Knowing!

After a night on which the Wings and Pistons both lost, at least I can comfort myself with this headline, from the New York Times: Monkeys Control a Robot Arm with Their Thoughts.

Another solace was that last night we watched The Maltese Falcon, which is one of those movies that holds up to infinite viewings. Used to be I thought that the real knockout performances were from Lorre and Greenstreet, but the more I watch the movie, the more I appreciate Humphrey Bogart. L was quick to point out that nowhere in the movie does Mary Astor wear the dress from the movie poster.

May 28, 2008

Vertigo Encyclopedia Cover and Copy

Delve into the dark comic universe that produced Constantine and V for Vendetta . Get up close and personal with every major Vertigo character and title ever published in this unique one volume encyclopedia. From The Sandman to the Preacher you'll find out all about your favourite Vertigo titles, including information on its history, creators and impact. Plus key characters and storylines from leading comics are revealed in a comprehensive A-Z section. Over 500 colour illustrations taken from the original comic books and graphic novels, featuring the spectacular cutting-edge work of Vertigo's finest artists through the decades, bring this extraordinary journey to life.

May 27, 2008

Vote Bodary!

My dad, Michael Bodary, is running for City Council in Ypsilanti, Michigan (my home town). Drop him a few bucks, and if you live in Ypsi, vote for him!

Just for grins, here's a precinct map of the city. Bodary for Ward 2!

May 26, 2008

The Martian Arctic

From the New York Times, with this accompanying story. More images at NASA. Yowza.

The Listing Never Stops

From The Art of Manliness, The Essential Man's Library.

Summer has at last arrived here in the savage wilds of South Portland. Oh joy!

In writing news, look for stories in Postscripts 15, the Super Worldcon Special Edition, and in an upcoming issue of Barrelhouse.

May 24, 2008

Wings! Pistons! What Is One to Do?

Tonight, Monday, and Wednesday, the Pistons and Wings will be playing at the same time. This is a damnable injustice...
but at least their success is easing the sting of the Tigers being such a disappointment. I mean, really. Who thought the Tigers would be 20-28 at this point? At least there are 114 games left. All they need to do is go 75-39 to win 95 games and have a shot at the playoffs.

In book-related news, the British have outdone themselves in the area of literary lists. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die? Ay yi yi.

May 23, 2008

Things of Interest Over the Past Few Days

Phoenix is about to land on Mars, where it's going to look for evidence of life.

New York Magazine's Vulture blog takes an interest in Philip K. Dick's late-50s literary novels.

And the following list of Favorite Obscure Books, courtesy of the Village Voice. I've only read two of them: Fup and Gob's Grief. Both are excellent.

On a gloomier note, the depressing influence of Time Warner over the post office, and its effect on small literary magazines, is briefly post-mortemed (is that a word?) here.

May 15, 2008

What My Students Get Up To, Pt. 2

My Advanced Creative Writing students recorded their flash stories and got them up on this website, for your listening enjoyment. Check it out...

Ahhhh, end of the semester. Life takes on a different shape for the next almost-four months.

Apr 29, 2008


The guy who made and then lost an excellent robotic head of Phil Dick has had his lawsuit dismissed. The judge's dismissal is excerpted at Total Dick-Head, and it is marvelous.

Wonder where the head has gotten to by now...

Apr 26, 2008


Guillermo del Toro, in 2006:

I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don't like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits -- I've never been into that at all. I don't like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff."

Guillermo del Toro, in 2008:

"Contributing to the 'Lord of the Rings' legacy is an absolute dream come true."

Oh, man, I hope this isn't a disaster. Especially the 'sequel.'

Apr 23, 2008

Baseball and Technical Difficulties

It may already be apparent to some of you that is undergoing a time of travail. I'm not sure why, but with any luck it will all be sorted out soon. One of the downsides of the online merchant-customer dynamic is the difficulty of actually finding a human being who will admit to being authorized and equipped to deal with a problem. So there is a moment of Luddism here. If you've been looking for and found it vanished, my apologies. Things will be restored to their normal hiatus soon.

If, on the other hand, you have arrived at this space looking for random bits of possibly literary news, oh boy. It seems that Nabokov the Younger has decided to contravene his father's wishes and publish the scanty relics of the Elder's final work, despite express wishes to the contrary. And it all came about as the result of a vision, which, well, of course. And in completely unrelated news, Massive Attack doing Blade Runner? Man, I wish I was going to be in England sometime soon.

The Tigers, since an 0-7 start, are 9-6. And Curtis Granderson is back. I try to envision a summerlong brutalizing of any and all opposition, but with their starting pitching in its current desperate situation, optimism is hard to come by. Can they win every game 10-7? Here's hoping.

Apr 18, 2008

To the Barricades!

Elements of the French intelligentsia are agitating for the abolition of the semicolon. Barbarians.

And speaking of barricades, on Sunday we (by which I mean L and myself) went to the Public Theater's Public Lab for a play called Paris Commune. Improbably, it was a musical. Even more improbably, it was a pretty good show.

Apr 16, 2008

Man, I Hope This Is True

Although their work from adapted sources sometimes doesn't measure up to their inspired best, the Coen brothers are still among my favorite filmmakers, and who better to take on Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union?

The Tigers have won three in a row! The last a 13-2 annihilation of the Cleveland Indians. It's hard to complain about anything after a game like that, but how would you like to be Pudge Rodriguez, who (while his teammates were racking up 17 hits and wearing themselves out running around the bases) went 0 for 6 hitting leadoff, and left 10 guys on base? Eek.

Surprising baseball stat of the day: Tonight's grand slam by Edgar Renteria was the fifth of his career.

Belated Notice

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Julia Elliott read at the University of Maine's New Writing Series. Her story, from the Georgia Review, knocked my socks off. It's reprinted in Best American Fantasy despite being devoid of fantastic content; perhaps it is a bit associational, but whatever. A terrific story. Worth buying the book all by itself (and as a bonus, the rest of the stories are swell, too).

Here's a story of hers at the Mississippi Review: "Jaws"

And while we're on the topic of good online fiction...if you're looking for a place to start finding stories, this list from StorySouth (also this one and this one...) would be a good place to start.

Apr 15, 2008

Great Moments in Science Journalism

The New York Times this morning takes up the question of whether CERN's new Large Hadron Collider will destroy the Earth. There are some interesting bits about how scientists calculate risk (or fail to consider it), but the real highlight of the piece is this:

Besides, the random nature of quantum physics means that there is always a minuscule, but nonzero, chance of anything occurring, including that the new collider could spit out man-eating dragons.

Now that would be worth the $8 billion it cost to build the thing. Imagine the spike in public interest in science!

In other news, the Tigers staged a dramatic late-inning rally to beat the Twins 11-9. But they still gave up nine runs.

In other other news, Guardian blogger Peter Wright thinks SF fans are okay.

Apr 12, 2008

Puzzled and in Need of Clarity

If anyone can tell me what the connection is between the previous post and the weird string of Youtube videos that appeared in the comments, I'll send an inscribed copy of Unintended Consequences, as well as my eternal thanks. Cleverly invented scenarios are every bit as welcome as factual connections.

Can things get any weirder for the Tigers? At least they won last night, but Dontrelle Willis fell off the mound and hurt himself without recording an out, so the bullpen--which has, not to put too fine a point on it, stunk so far--came out and got 27 outs. They're 2-8, which is lousy but which also, somebody pointed out, was the same record the Phillies had last year before winning their division. To which I might be inclined to respond that the Tigers can't count on their rivals collapsing as spectacularly as the Mets did last year. In other Tigers-related news, Denny McLain has been arrested again.

We recorded our first visitor from Afghanistan yesterday.

Apr 10, 2008

Who Knew Pseudo-Science Was So Dangerous?

Rupert Sheldrake has been stabbed, nonfatally, at a lecture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to his own theories, this just might mean that he is more likely to be stabbed again now, so he'd better watch out. Morphic resonance is a harsh mistress.

In completely unrelated news, the Tigers won a game! Never has a team that started 0-7 made baseball's postseason, so now the next five and a half months are going to be agony. Either they will make history as the first 0-7 team to get to the playoffs, or as the greatest team ever to start 0-7 and therefore miss the playoffs.

Apr 7, 2008

April, Cruelest Month, Etc.

The Tigers are 0-6, and people are already saying their season is doomed. Me, I'm an eternal optimist. So what if they hit into five double plays last night, or have left a thousand guys on base already? There's always tomorrow.

For your reading enjoyment, I direct you to this fascinating discussion of my shortcomings as a writer in these comments to a previous post.

Reading: Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Apr 3, 2008

It Is My Pleasure to Announce...

...the impending (well, in August) publication of The Vertigo Encyclopedia, a detailed and visually rich compendium of the various titles issued by that groundbreaking imprint, from the early days of Swamp Thing and Animal Man to the most recent series such as Northlanders, The Un-Men and Madame X. The book is listed now at Amazon etc., but the details are still forthcoming. There's a terrific Dave McKean cover, and all sorts of goodies for the discriminating reader.

Apr 2, 2008

Although It Is Too Early to Be Suicidal...

...the fact that the Tigers are 0-2 and have managed to strike out 19 times in those two losses--to the Royals!--galls me.

In happier news, here's the ToC for The Best SF and Fantasy of the Year v.2, edited by the excellent Jonathan Strahan, and available from Night Shade books any second now:

Introduction - Jonathan Strahan
"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" - Ted Chiang
"The Last and Only, or Mr. Moskowitz Becomes French" - Peter S. Beagle
"Trunk and Disorderly" - Charles Stross
"Glory" - Greg Egan
"Dead Horse Point" - Daryl Gregory
"The Dreaming Wind" - Jeffrey Ford
"The Coat of Stars" - Holly Black
"The Prophet of Flores" - Ted Kosmatka
"Wizard's Six" - Alex Irvine
"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" - Daniel Abraham
"By Fools Like Me" - Nancy Kress
"Kiosk" - Bruce Sterling
"Singing of Mount Abora" - Theodora Goss
"The Witch's Headstone" - Neil Gaiman
"Last Contact" - Stephen Baxter
"Jesus Christ, Reanimator" - Ken MacLeod
"Sorrel's Heart" - Susan Palwick
"Urdumheim" - Michael Swanwick
"Holiday" - M. Rickert
"The Valley of the Gardens" - Tony Daniel
"Winter's Wife" - Elizabeth Hand
"The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small" - Chris Roberson
"Orm the Beautiful" - Elizabeth Bear
"The Constable of Abal" - Kelly Link

I wouldn't miss it, if I were you.

Mar 26, 2008

So It's Been Three Months...

...during which I finished a book (as research for which I had to read something like 20 linear feet of graphic novels), started another one, went to Michigan, wrote some comic scripts and a couple of short stories, took unsuccessful pictures of a most excellent lunar eclipse, attended the 29th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, turned 39, and went to a Tigers spring-training game. Which I have wanted to do for about 30 years. The Tigers got killed, but this diminished my enjoyment of the game only a tiny bit.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to maintain a steadier online presence, but so far it hasn't worked out so well. Good thing I've got more than eight months left in the new year.

It appears that I'll be doing some more Supernatural-related stuff. Possibilities everywhere, but not much definite. Spring in northern Maine is a cruel joke.

Reading: student work, Le Carre's The Tailor of Panama