Jan 29, 2009

New Books from Maine Writers

I write about Lewis Robinson's Water Dogs in this week's Phoenix. Read this book! And if you get a chance to hear Lew read, take it. He'll be at Longfellow Books in Portland about 90 minutes from right...now.

Another Portland writer, Jan Watson, has a freshly minted first novel from Tin House: Asta in the Wings. Things are happening around here.

Winchester Journal at NYCC

I'll be signing copies of the book at some point over at the HarperCollins booth, but it might not be an organized event. If you're going to be at the con and want your brand-new spiffy copy of John's journal signed, you'll be able to find me at the DK booth on Saturday from 12-1, and at the SF/Fantasy writers roundtable right after that at 1:30.

Oh, and I just saw this sad news: Kim Manners died Sunday. RIP.

Writers Have Always Known This...Or Claimed to, Anyway

Apparently reading really is an active process.

Next, research will emerge suggesting the television is passive, and that the interiors of darkened movie theaters replicate a dream state.

Yeah, It's a Crime, but Still...

Jan 28, 2009

New Version of BUYOUT Cover

Amazon still has an older version, but this is the final. I dig it.

The cover of Supernatural: John Winchester's Journal (which comes out Tuesday) is also a little different than it was on the original galley I got; but as with Buyout, the changes are for the good.

UMaine New Writing Series Schedule, Spring '09

An interesting lineup this spring, if you ignore the guy going on April 16th.


Follow the link for details about rooms and times.

How Many of These Have You Read?

Man, the people at the Guardian are getting serious about their lists. 1000 novels I must read? Must I? And hey, Guardian staffers and editorial types: how come you use all those movie stills in a list that is (one assumes) at least in part designed to get people reading? Some great pulp book covers would have been better.

Anyway, here are their picks for the SF/fantasy/horror you and I have to read. My score is 64 (out of a whole lot), which means I have some reading to do.

How many have you read?

Jan 27, 2009

"Listen, It's More Important Than That"

...quoth Liverpool legend Bill Shankly when it was suggested that soccer was life and death to him. I was thinking of this because of a goofy story about the Mexican national team (with the help of Radio Shack) resorting to voodoo in an effort to break their decade-long losing streak on American soil. We'll find out if it worked on February 11.

Me at NYCC

For those of you planning to be at the New York Comic-Con the weekend of Feb. 6-8, here's my schedule:

Saturday, 12-1, I'll be signing the Vertigo Encyclopedia at the DK booth, #1802.

Right after that, at 1:30, I'll be yammering about various topics on the SF/Fantasy Writers Roundtable, in room 1A21, with:

Jeff Somers
John Birmingham
Kim Harrison
Peter V. Brett
S.C. Butler
Tamora Pierce
Vicki Pettersson

Stop on by...

A Thriller Musical?

I can't wait.

Jan 23, 2009

Ooh, Space Elevators

Maybe they won't always just be imagined. Going up...! (Too bad the accompanying illustration is a dead link.)

Pop Flotsam, Cultural Jetsam

The guys over at Barrelhouse have a cool site and blog, not to mention a cool magazine. You should check it out.

You should also look for my story "The Truth About Ninjas" in #7, which is due any second now...


Time's Lev Grossman wonders if a radical transformation is really here for the publishing industry and what it might mean for the novel as a form. Interesting thoughts, particularly about self-publishing and what it means for the idea of traditional publishing as an act of cultural gatekeeping. We need gatekeepers, but who should they be, and where should the gates be built? (Why do we need gatekeepers? Because without them, it's a rush to the bottom, and also because without them, there would be so much noise that it would overwhelm our ability to distinguish what a culture thinks is valuable at any given moment.)

Jan 20, 2009

Buyout Excerpt on Amazon

From acclaimed author Alexander C. Irvine comes a gritty near-future thriller in the paranoid, prophetic vein of Philip K. Dick and Richard K. Morgan...

Thirty-five years from now, with Americans hooked into an Internet far more expansive and intrusive than today’s, the world has become a seamless market-driven experience. In this culture of capitalism run amok, entrepreneurs and politicians faced with rampant overcrowding in the nation’s penal system turn to a controversial new method of cutting costs: life-term buyouts. In theory, buyouts offer convicted murderers the chance to atone for their crimes by voluntarily allowing themselves to be put to death by the state in exchange for a one-time cash payment, shared among their heirs and victims, based on a percentage of what it would have cost taxpayers to house and feed them for the rest of their natural lives. It’s a win-win situation.

At least that’s what Martin Kindred believes. And Martin is a man who desperately needs something to believe in, especially with his marriage coming apart and the murder of his brother, an L.A. cop brutally gunned down in the line of duty, unsolved.

As the public face of the buyout program, Martin is a lightning rod for verbal and physical abuse–but he embraces every challenge, knowing his motives are pure. But when evidence comes to light that a felon in line for a buyout may have been involved with his brother’s death, Martin’s professional detachment threatens to turn into a personal vendetta that will jeopardize everything–and everyone–he holds dear. Inspired by today’s politics, Buyout is an unforgettable look at an all-too-believable future . . . and one man’s struggle to do the right thing.

Read the excerpt (it's short).

W: The Harper's Index Version

Not to be missed.

Jan 19, 2009

Daredevil Noir #1 Solicit

Pencils & Cover by TOM COKER
Variant Cover by DENNIS CALERO
The latest addition to Marvel’s red-hot Noir line offers a unique spin on the Man Without Fear! Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen is Kingpin territory, and until now, his only problem has been the masked vigilante known as Daredevil. When gangster Orville Halloran arrives on the scene, fresh from a stretch in Sing Sing and eager to stretch his wings, Hell’s about to get hotter. For P.I. Foggy Nelson and his loyal assistant Matt Murdock, it all starts when a desperate woman comes to their office with an irresistible story about her and Halloran. To Foggy, she's a client -- to Murdock, she's enough to make Halloran Daredevil's next target. But Murdock is about to find out that half-truths are poison truths, and that the Kitchen is full of history that will put him on a collision course with both the old Kingpin and the man who wants to replace him.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$3.99

Jan 16, 2009


That was the year my grandmother Mabel Irvine, who died yesterday, was born. I got curious about what the world was like in 1908, and this is what I found.

    Simone de Beauvoir, Tex Avery, Edward Teller, Louis L'Amour, Bette Davis, Lionel Hampton, Mel Blanc, Jimmy Stewart, Ian Fleming, Milton Berle, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Wright, John Kenneth Galbraith, Claude Levi-Strauss, Adam Clayton Powell, and Simon Wiesenthal were born.

    Rimsky-Korsakov and Joel Chandler Harris died. (Also Butch and Sundance were (probably) killed in Bolivia.)

    The Model T was first produced, and General Motors was founded.
    Mother's Day was observed for the first time.
    Robert Peary headed for the North Pole.
    The New Year's ball dropped in Times Square for the first time.
    The first tunnel under the Hudson River opened.
    The first cross-country road trip, by Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Murdock.
    First passenger airline flight...and first fatality due to a plane crash.
    Wireless radio was patented.
    The Tunguska Event.
    The first Gideon Bible was put in a hotel room.
    The Chicago Cubs won the World Series (beating the Tigers).
    Leopold II sold the Congo to Belgium.
    The FBI and the Boy Scouts of America were founded.
    Converse Shoes were first made.

If I make it to 100, I wonder what the world will look like in 2069.

Jan 15, 2009

People Who Are More Misanthropic Than You

The Buffalo Beast presents its 2008 list of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America. Sometimes I think I hate everyone, but then I read stuff like this and realize that when it comes to hate, I have a lot to learn.

Jan 14, 2009

Borders: A Slightly Premature Elegy

So I used to work at Borders. Two stints, in fact. One at the old mothership on State Street in Ann Arbor, and a second nine years later at the Framingham, MA, store. Both are now gone, and by the looks of things, Borders itself might not last too much longer. I'm thinking of this because of an article in the NYT today, noting the appointment of a hedge fund manager as company chairman.
The appointment of the executive, Richard McGuire, to replace Larry Pollock as chairman would occur a week after Borders named Ron Marshall, a private equity executive with corporate turnaround experience, as its chief executive.

I think it's worth noting that in 1991, when Borders sold books and was run by people who knew books (you had to take a test to get hired), the company was healthy. It was also a great place to work (so of course I lipped off to the wrong guy and was considerately allowed to leave without anyone saying I was getting fired). Now, when you can hardly see the books in a Borders because they're buried under piles of stuffed animals and crinkly packages of chocolate, and when the company is run by "private equity executives" and hedge fund managers, it's about to die. (Well, maybe.) It's also a very different place to work. I hope the company survives, because more bookstores is a good thing and also because I still have a sentimental attachment.

What must Joe Gable think about all of this?

First Article I Ever Published

Like I said before, I know I'm supposed to hate Google Books, but I've never seen this article nor held a copy of the book in my hands (thanks to the author-copy policies of Greenwood Press, which I'm sure have their own perfectly valid reasons for existing). I wrote this in 1998 for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, which I have subsequently directed certain of my grad students to attend. The organization is great about, as Bill Senior said some years ago, "caring for its young." If you're a budding scholar of the fantastic, you really should go. Plus it's in Florida in March. How can you afford not to?

Anyway, thanks to Google Books, I get a chance to see what the piece looks like on the page. I think I like it, still.

Jan 12, 2009


Somebody using the handle Will_Ferrell is now following me on Twitter. Wonder what the odds are that it's the genuine article, and what sort of sanctions are in place for creating celebrity doppelgangers.

You Mean All Is Not Lost?

According to the NYT...well, according to the NEA, as quoted and written about in the NYT, more people are reading literature (defined for these purposes as fiction/poetry/drama) for the first time in 26 years. Quoth NEA chair Dana Gioia: "Cultural decline is not inevitable."

Is there an actual turn back in the direction of reading? If there is, what does it mean? Has the Harry Potter generation reached an age at which they can be sampled as part of the 18-24 demographic, and if so, might this mean that a single reading phenomenon can have a measurable impact on the reading practices of an entire demographic cohort?

Or maybe everybody's just reading more books. Which I think is great, especially if they add mine to their lists.

Jan 9, 2009

Skeptical Toward Theory

Paul Kincaid begins his latest Science Fiction Skeptic column at Bookslut with the following:

I am, as Adam Roberts would delight in pointing out to me, an amateur of science fiction. That is, in terms of this criticism lark, I am not an academic. This does, however, have its advantages. It means, for example, that I do not have to accept the various shades of critical theory as monolithic belief systems. I can, rather, take them as toolboxes into which I might dip as the fancy takes me to find whichever device happens to work in terms of any particular text. Now I know that this mix and match approach would have Leavis and Frye and Derrida spinning in their graves, but it can bring some interesting results.

As a working academic, I would like to contest a couple of presuppositions that lie behind Kincaid's introduction.

One: Using various theories as toolboxes from which individual devices might be applied as they are found useful is the standard way that theory has been taught in every single class I have ever been a part of, either as student or teacher. I have no idea where the idea comes from that an individual must pledge him- or herself to a particular theory. Individual scholars may believe that certain theories have more relevance than others, but I've never heard of anyone who insists that literary texts must only be read through a single theoretical lens.

Two: Although Leavis was certainly a demagogue for a particular mode of reading, he was also not a theoretician. His positions were in fact fundamentally anti-theoretical, which makes him a strange namecheck. Ditto Frye and Derrida, although for different reasons, since both were great (and self-proclaimed) synthesizers of previous scholars all the way back to Aristotle and Plato. Both of them believed they had hit upon important insights having to do with the nature of narrative (Frye) and language (Derrida), but neither of them (especially Derrida) would have insisted that theirs was the only way to read.

Whatever these quibbles, I enjoy the column, and I'm glad Bookslut keeps devoting space to genre literatures and comics.

Jan 8, 2009

Man, There Are Some Good Stories in Here

And I'm not even talking about mine. Because of a shipping snafu, I just got my copy, and it was worth the wait:

2pm: The Real Estate Agent Arrives by Steve Rasnic Tem
Even the Pawn by Joel Lane
Last Man by Mick Scully
Unlucky by Lisa Morton
Appearances by Murray Shelmerdine
101 Ways to Leave Paris by Simon Avery (novella)
People in Hell Want Ice & Water by Nicholas Stephen Proctor
Black Lagoon by Alex Irvine
Your Place is in the Shadows by Charlie Williams
Saudade by Darren Speegle
The Montgolfier Assignment by Kay Sexton
The Opening by Daniel Kaysen

Phoenix Article Up

Ah, bylined in the Phoenix again. This is a cool project; it'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

In other news: a drop-dead date for finding out whether we'll ever see Watchmen?

Jan 7, 2009

Other Alex Irvines

A fascinating array of namesakes, gathered during a heroic bout of procrastination:

The Fighting Parson
The Lairds
The Botanist
The Lord Chancellor
The Designer
The Photographer
The Other Photographer
The Ceramic Artist
The Ophthalmologist
The Wrestler
The Bulb Grower

Pavel Datsyuk is All Kinds of Awesome

Excerpts! Get Your Excerpts!

I retooled the sidebar so a couple of long-dead links now live again. Also, there are now links to excerpts from A Scattering of Jades, The Narrows, and One King. The Jades link is to Google Books, which has a 55-page selection from the book. I know that as a writer and staunch defender of intellectual property rights I should be up in arms about this, but actually I think it's pretty cool. I wish the excerpt from The Narrows was the actual beginning instead of Chapter 1, but there you go.

Does anyone know where stories that used to be up on SciFi.com live now? For a while I thought someone was hosting them, but the last couple of times I've tried to go there, the page wouldn't load.

Jan 6, 2009

News from F&SF

According to the magazine's blog, they're going bimonthly. As a longtime fan of and contributor to F&SF, this makes me a little sad even though the page count isn't going to differ significantly after this year. Whatever Gordon needs to do--and he seems bullish on the move in the blog post--the field needs him and it needs F&SF. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned. A post on io9 today speculates about whether the profusion of anthologies has shifted SF's center of short-fictional gravity in that direction, and away from the magazines. I hope not. I like getting magazines, and I'd like to continue to be able to get them (in the mailbox or at the store).

Also, I wonder if the relative number of anthologies has affected magazine circulations before, or affected the quality of stories the magazines were able to acquire. When was the last big anthology boom? Seems like it might have been the 70s, but I'm no historian of SF.

In any case, subscribe!

Since You Asked...

Here's what I'm going to be teaching in my contemporary American fiction class this spring. I ended up going only with books published in the last 20 years (cheating by a year to add Beloved). If I had to do this list over again tomorrow, it would be different: more small-press stuff, more genre stuff, etc. But this time around, it's going to be:

Alexie, Indian Killer
Chabon, Kavalier and Clay
Diaz, Oscar Wao
Dunn, Geek Love
Eugenides, Middlesex
McCarthy, The Road
Morrison, Beloved
O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Ozick, Heir to the Glimmering World
Robinson, Gilead
Stephenson, Snow Crash
Whitehead, The Intuitionist

plus the Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories.

Comments welcome.

Jan 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

...he said on the 3rd, which is maybe a signal of what kind of year this is going to be.

Christmas was outstanding, as were the two Hanukkah feasts we attended/hosted. The kids now have telescopes, easels, Bakugan, cameras...

Also we made a bunch of fudge and cookies to send to these two soldiers we adopted through MySoldier.com -- threw in books and sock puppets, too.

In writing news, a longish story called "Seventh Fall" will appear in Subterranean one of these days. The timing is interesting in light of this particular story.

And, if you haven't seen this NYT piece about Jack Spicer, you should.