Mar 29, 2009

Podcast of Fictional Frontiers Interview

If you found yourself unable to catch Fictional Frontiers Sunday morning, here's a direct link to the podcast. You'll hear from (in order) me, Joe Schreiber, Jamal Igle, and Patrick Gleason.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 34

On extinction, the life of Leon Trotsky, and the films of Carl Marks. Read on...

Also, you might want to check out this Denver Post review of Buyout.

Maine Festival of the Book Schedule

Lots of cool stuff planned for this coming weekend. For a detailed schedule, go here. (I'm reading from Buyout at 12:30 on Saturday.)

Mar 28, 2009

Fictional Frontiers Radio Interview About Buyout

Tomorrow morning at 11, on Philadelphia's WNJC 1360, I'll be appearing with on Fictional Frontiers with Sohaib Awan. This interview is from NYCC, where Sohaib and I had a wide-ranging conversation about Buyout and its motivating ethical and philosophical questions. Tune in...other guests are Joe Schreiber (Death Troopers), Patrick Gleason (Green Lantern Corps), and Jamal Igle (Supergirl).

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 33

On murder, idealism, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Read on...

AC/DC's Effect on European Political Discourse

Apparently they rock so righteously that the memory of "Highway to Hell" momentarily overtook Czech President Mirek Topolanek when he was giving a speech at the European Parliament. What other secret influence does AC/DC wield? I feel as if I am trembling on the brink of a great revelation. We welcome our Australian rock overlords.

Mar 27, 2009

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 32

On baseball, cynicism, and dandelions. Read on...

Ebert on Withnail & I

Only 22 years after it came out.

Congress to Do Something About Prison Reform?

Well, at least Virginia Senator Jim Webb is introducing a bill to create a commission. Maybe, in some distant and optimized future, that will lead to meaningful action. The numbers cited on Sen. Webb's page announcing the legislation are pretty eye-popping. If you want to get an idea of how truly screwed up things are, read some of the articles linked at the bottom of the page. Here's hoping Webb can generate some meaningful reform that would make Buyout impossible instead of just sort of improbable.

Mar 26, 2009

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 31

He's gloomy today, as a gadfly sometimes must be. Read on...

Irvine and Maleev Strip!...I Mean, *on* Strip!

Here's a link to (among other things) the stream of the show, which you can hear live at 1pm Eastern at resonancefm.com.

Alex Fitch, multitasking wonder that he is, has also posted links to the mp3 files of the show: Part 1 and Part 2.

Mar 25, 2009

M. John Harrison Is Wicked Smart, and Annoyed

I just wrote an article on urban fantasy, and wrestled with what I might say about the devolution of the term to encompass an entire range of books that don't have anything to do with the term's original meaning, or with the kind of torquing-the-tropes-of-the-fantastic aesthetic that many urban fantasy texts shared when the term still meant what it used to mean. Now comes MJH with this perspective:
Urban fantasy: the domestication of a few images & behavioural tics which were barely unacceptable in the first place. It was a frisson obtained not so much by glamourising or romanticising the disordered (though it did both) as by denying or correcting the trait paradigms of some common dysfunctional behaviours. It cleaned up what it claimed to be representing & always drew its conclusions from a safe space outside dysfunctionality. A normative manouevre, defining a “good” dysfunctionality (he’s an anorexic self-harming killer elf but he’s our anorexic self-harming killer elf), urban fantasy was often described as having an edge. As a result, by the late 80s, “edgy” had become the publishing synonym for “young adult”. Later, even in publishing, it came to have the same meaning as “bland”.

A bit overbroad, as polemics often are, and probably should be. There's plenty of good urban fantasy out there, however you define the term. But Harrison is getting at an interesting idea here. Wish I'd had this to think about before I wrote the article...

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 30

Oooh, a manhunt. Read on...

Things That Make Me Happy to Be in This World

Me on the Radio. In London

Note: this is London time, which means 1pm Eastern. Or you can get the podcast. More information here.

When: Thu, March 26, 5:00pm – 5:30pm
Strip! - Daredevil by Alex Maleev and Alex Irvine

Classic heroes month continues on Strip! with a look at the red-suited vigilante Daredevil - blind lawyer by day and superhero by night. Trying to break the record for the number of people with the same first name in any one episode of the show, Alex Fitch talks to the Bulgarian artist Alex Maleev who with writer Brian Bendis brought the periodical back to the forefront of Marvel Comics' line in an award winning four year run on the title in the mid 2000s. Alex also talks to novelist Alex Irvine whose anachronistic reimagining of the comic - Dardevil Noir - starts next month and combines the Chandleresque storytelling of Frank Miller's iconic run on the title with the look and feel of classic Film Noir, relocating the adventures of Matt Murdock to Hell's Kitchen in the 1930s... The UK's only weekly radio show about comic books, illustration and sequential art. Featuring: one to one interviews with the world's finest comic book creators and experts, recordings of panels from comic book conventions and more experimental episodes that include monologues and performances by practitioners of the ninth art.

Mar 20, 2009

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 25

He's got Othello on his mind. Read on...

Video of Me Talking About Buyout

From Suvudu, taken at NYCC.



This is part of a sequence of videos, all of which are now on YouTube, that range over all kinds of topics: everything from literary influence to why I like Portland, Maine.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 24

On the selling of souls, delayed by March Madness (what can I say?). Read on...

Mar 17, 2009

Mar 16, 2009

Daredevil Noir #1 Preview at Marvel Noise

Check it out:

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 21

It's his birthday today. Stop by and wish him well. Read on...

Media Pick Over Detroit's Bones, Again

These are the two most interesting shots, I think, from a Time photoessay called "Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline."





Never have an American city's misfortunes been so ghoulishly chronicled by the mass media.

Meanwhile, the people who actually live there are trying to do all kinds of interesting things, like build a long-awaited regional transit network. EDIT: And this.

SciFi to be Syfy: Who You Calling Human?

Rebranding contortions are often funny. This one especially because it's such a bald-faced attempt to run away from a label that very few people really care about...and because Dave Howe took a not-so-subtle backhanded swipe at the ScFi channel's (presumed) current audience. You really have to read the whole thing to get the flavor, but here's the funniest part:

“What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds,” Mr. Howe said. “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

So who was watching in 2008? Weren't those humans? And if Syfy is going to be more human-friendly, where will all of that other audience go? This might be a real chance for the Nonhuman Network to get off the ground.

Mar 15, 2009

Me on ComiXology

Here's me talking about various comic- and teaching-relating things on the most recent It Came Out on Wednesday podcast, recorded at NYCC this year.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 20

On the disappointment of the future becoming the present. Read more...

A Know-Nothing Warns Us About Soccer

If you needed further proof that people can publish columns in leading professional journals on topics about which they know absolutely nothing and against which they display a demonstrable bias: search no more! I give you "How Soccer Is Ruining America: A Jeremiad." Therein you will find more cultural stereotypes than I would have thought possible in an article of such brevity.

The bit about the feet is funny, though. Sort of reminded me of "Harrison Bergeron."

Punk: Made in Detroit

Like every other kind of music. A picture of Death, circa 1973. Love the T-shirt on the left.

Mar 14, 2009

Economist Article on ARGs

Everyone's probably seen this already, but if you were looking for the exact moment at which you could decide that ARGs have gotten a permanent foothold in the mainstream tech- and culturescape, this is probably it.

I haven't worked on an ARG in a long time. They were fun, and I loved the sense that we were doing something really new back in the Old Days of 2000 or so. I must work on an ARG again!

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 19

On troubles in the desert Southwest. Read on...

Mar 13, 2009

Roman Joke Book Discovered

Per the Guardian, but I saw it at Bookninja. The funniest thing in the article, actually, is the strenuously overthought commentary by the classics scholar who found the book:

But she queried whether we are finding the same things funny as the Romans would have done. Telling a joke to one of her graduate classes, in which an absent-minded professor is asked by a friend to bring back two 15-year-old slave boys from his trip abroad, and replies "fine, and if I can't find two 15-year-olds I will bring you one 30-year-old," she found they "chortled no end".

"They thought it was a sex joke, equivalent to someone being asked for two 30-year-old women, and being told okay, I'll bring you one 60-year-old. But I suspect it's a joke about numbers – are numbers real? If so two 15-year-olds should be like one 30-year-old – it's about the strange unnaturalness of the number system."

Professor Beard, I'm going to say it's probably a sex joke. We are talking about Romans here.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 18

On the etymology of the word priceless. Sort of. Read more...

Check Out My Spiffy New Book Widget

In the sidebar, there, just below all the stuff about me.

Mar 11, 2009

Help Design My Graphic Novel Course

Next fall, I'll be teaching a topics course called The Graphic Novel at the University of Maine (it's ENG 429, if you're going to be in Orono come September). I have my own ideas about what I'd like to include on the syllabus, but I'm going to throw this question out to the world as well: If you were teaching this course, what would be the 12 or 15 books you would absolutely have to teach?

What He Said

Jonathan Lethem on his work-in-progress, from the February Locus:

My goal is to have it explode category by its breadth, not because of some opposition to the genre methods but by its engulfment of them. Finally, you can't say 'It's this or this'; you have to say 'It's this, and, and, and, and....'

Read the rest of the extended excerpt here.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 16

Today, his topics are skulljacking and Bangladesh. Read more...

And Austin Will Be a UN Protectorate

Chuck Norris raises the specter of Texas seceding from the Union. Delicious.

(Warning: you have to go to WorldNetDaily's kookville to see this.)

This Is Not Really About Twilight

I read with interest this article in Sunday's Washington Post, in which various academics lament the fact that today's undergrads don't seem to have much of a stake in the previous generation's ideas about literary merit. I would go a step further and note that in every creative writing class I have ever taught, something like half of the students have said they did not read for pleasure. And if the would-be writers (many of whom end up in publishing and thus determine what the coming generations of readers will read) aren't reading, who's going to? And what effect does this have on the literature we produce? No wonder we get best-seller lists comprising ten titles by two or three authors. We have very nearly succeeded in turning reading--that most active of cultural activities--into a passive extension of mass media.

Another interesting thing in the article is the complaint on the part of middle-aged professors that today's students aren't reading the transgressive, subversive, polemical kind of stuff that middle-aged professors cut their teeth on and still love. There's nothing like a nostalgic hippie. Guess what, fellas? The reading tastes of English professors have never had much to do with those of the public, or even those of college students...or even those of English majors. Most people on your campus in your post-adolescence weren't reading that kind of stuff, either. They were reading Harold Robbins and Arthur Hailey and Mario Puzo, like everyone else. Even the English majors.

Mar 10, 2009

Can't Stop Writing Superhero Novels

Because they are fun, that's why. The latest one, just finished today, is Iron Man: Virus. I had a good time working with Tony in the Ultimates book I wrote a couple of years back, so it was good to get reacquainted with him (although his non-Ultimate self is markedly different in some ways). Plus how can you not love a chance to involve HYDRA and a certain body-hopping villain named after a French novelist? It comes out at the end of January, 2010, in case you want to plan ahead.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 15

Three weeks until Buyout! Read on...

Mar 9, 2009

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 14

Read on...

Portrait of Shakespeare Authenticated? Sort of?


According to the newest Time magazine, no less an authority than Stanley Wells thinks that the Cobbe portrait is the real deal. The discovery (if that's what it is) also adds a lot of possible backstory to the steamy bits in sonnets 18-20...

I'm not sure whether I want this to be true or not. Sometimes I think the fewer facts attached to Shakespeare, the better.

Mar 8, 2009

Mar 6, 2009

Mystery Hill Cover Art and Copy

Wish I had a bigger image, because I think this looks mighty cool. If you read this story in F&SF last year, this version--out soon from PS--is significantly expanded; if you didn't, you won't know the difference and you can just enjoy it for itself.

From the astonishing imagination of Alex Irvine: Mystery Hill, a gonzo SF novella in the tradition of Henry Kuttner and Paul Di Filippo...

In his three decades of running Mystery Hill, a roadside attraction where water famously flows upwards, Vietnam veteran Ken Kassarjian believes he's seen it all: conspiracy theorists who think he's a shape-shifting alien, crusading debunkers who think he's a fraud, stoned local teenagers who plague his minigolf course after hours. And as if the business of operating a tourist trap isn't weird enough, there are the strange critters running around in the woods, and the malevolent doings of the neighbors, the Boswells, Boozy by name and decidedly boozy by nature. Their latest moonshine: alien tea, anyone?

Whatever precarious equilibrium Ken might have found in his oasis of gravitational eccentricity goes out the window with the appearance of Fara Oussemitski, a physics professor with her own ideas about what makes Mystery Hill tick. When she turns up one morning with a van full of instruments, Ken starts to discover that not only is Mystery Hill stranger than he had imagined, it's stranger than he could have imagined.

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 11

Read on...

Mar 3, 2009

Walt Dangerfield Speaks, Day 8

Read more...

Breaking: Memoirist Actually a Novelist. Again.

So, one more "memoir" is revealed to be full of errors and outright lies. Why is anybody surprised by this (if anybody is)? There's no such thing as a memoir. There are autobiographical novels that admit they are autobiographical novels--by changing names and circumstances and showing up on fiction shelves in bookstores--and there are autobiographical novels that try to take advantage of our talk-show and reality-TV-inspired hunger for oversharing and self-mythologizing by staking a (transparently disingenuous) claim to literal truth. These are what we call memoirs. Anybody who reads a memoir expecting it to be true is a willing dupe.

Maybe if publishers weren't so concerned about authors having a "platform" as a way to drive sales (a strategy with dubious results), this wouldn't happen. "Dear Mr. Pynchon, we find your novel interesting and colorful, but these kinds of World War II stories don't sell particularly well unless the author has a platform..."

Here endeth the rant.