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.