Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Spook Day!

Shouldn't be any surprise that I love Halloween. I'm probably not doing anything special for it this year, save for dressing up in my psycho killer outfit, working on my horror short story and handing out candy. But I do offer some things somewhat Halloween related for this post:

Gargoyle, easily the best mag in D.C. and arguably one of the better in the country, has a lauch party coming up for their new issue. It's at Chapters Books in D.C., November 23 at 7:00 p.m. If you're not aware of Gargoyle, no, it's not a horror zine. It's a lit zine, but does sometimes include work with fantastical elements.

2nd, I offer up to you the Federal Vampire and Zombie Administration. I heard the supposed Director on the radio last night, and he's either the biggest crackpot since David Icke or he's done one hell of a job putting together a joke internet site. Either way, it's good fun imagining civil war soldiers banding together to kill vampires, or Fidel Castro sending a boatload of Zombies to Miami to get revenge on the U.S.A. It all sounds not too unlike a Harry Stephen Keeler novel come to life.

3rd Lady Litblitz has a good question about horror lit today. Go check it out and post if you have thoughts.

4th and finally, Art Bell, the great enabler of crackpots everywhere, is hosting his annual Ghost-to-Ghost call in show tonight. It usually offers up a nice balance between creepy stories and callers pretending to be the ghost of Elvis. It's a late night show, but worth it. The page has a list of stations that carry the show.


Saturday, October 30, 2004


Yesterday I made the 10 minute walk to the Hirshhorn Museum from work to see the Ana Mendieta exhibit. Although I have seen a small handful of her photographs over the years, this was the first time I've seen a large amount of her work in one place.

The first gallery focuses on her Body Tracks series. Composed of several paintings, Mendieta created a mixture of red paint and animal blood, coated her hands, and then dragged her fingers down the canvas creating simple, bold arcs running top to bottom. Not that revolutionary, but what was interesting was the video accompanying the paintings. A short, continuous loop shows Mendieta standing in front of a canvas creating one of the very works in the room. I stood watching it for several minutes as she created the work, again and again.

The exhibit continues for several galleries, guiding you through a selection of photographs, drawings, paintings, sculpture and video. Her own body is a constant thread through all the work, be it the photographs of her gluing facial hair onto her own cheeks or digging a hole in the ground in the shape of her own body. Sculptures also evoked the female body in a general way, many re-using the idea of the labyrinth within the image. Videos showed the form with running water or on fire. Much of it seemed to be about the link we associate with the female form to nature, and it all felt strangely peaceful.

After the exhibit you immediately slip into a room filled with color field pantings by Clifford Still. I normally enjoy his work, but after coming out of the Mendieta show they seemed oppressive, overpowering and lacking the undefinable subtlety Mendieta seemed to create so easily.

Friday, October 29, 2004

NBA Finalists

Here are the nominees for the National Book Award:

Young People's Lit:

Deb Caletti Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
Pete Hautman Godless
Sheila P. Moses The Legend of Buddy Bush
Julie Anne Peters Luna: A Novel


Kevin Boyle Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
David Hackett Fischer Washington's Crossing
Jennifer Gonnerman Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett
Stephen Greenblatt Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became ShakespeareThe 9/11 Commission The 9/11 Commission Report


William Heyen Shoah Train
Donald Justice Collected Poems
Carl Phillips The Rest of Love
Cole Swensen Goest
Jean Valentine Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems


Sarah Shun-lien Bynum Madeleine is Sleeping
Christine Schutt Florida
Joan Silber Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories
Lily Tuck The News from Paraguay
Kate Walbert Our Kind: A Novel in Stories

I have to say I haven't read any of these, and have only even heard of a couple. Feel free to comment if you've read any of them.


Laughs Between the Lines

Last night I went to the pub party/reading for Grace and Gravity, an anthology that collects fiction by women writers from the Washigton, D.C. area.

Hosted by the D.C. Chapter of the Women's National Book Association, the event was held at the Sewell House, a historic house owned and run by the National Women's Party. The actual reading took place in a garden area behind the house. I swallowed my shyness at a couple points and said hello to a couple people I didn't know, and I also ran into a couple people from grad school classes.

The format for the reading was interesting. There were about 15 readers there, so they were asked to keep things to a few sentences. It worked real well for some, and not as much for others. Although I didn't buy a copy, there seemed to be quite a range. Pieces ranged from typical family writings to sex scenes with the Pink Panther and pontifications on homosexual life on the Andy Griffith Show. It confirmd a lot of my ideas of readings. Unless your stuff just kicks ass or you have a great voice its best to go with something funny. If you don't have funny, go with a strong visual or physical section.

The actual reading was followed up by a Q&A session moderated by author and anthology contributor C.M. Mayo. Editor Richard Peabody answered questions on how the book came together. Essentially, he's been keeping track of the D.C. lit scene since the late 70's with the intention of a historical book, but lost much of his material in a recent flood in his basement. He thought about putting a website together, but chose to do this instead when he realized so many of his favorite D.C. writers are women. When asked about future projects, he stated to have another volume of Gravity in the works and has no interest in doing an anthology for men.

Authors were asked questions like writing non-political stories in the political city of D.C., motivation to write, balancing writing with family, and more. All in all, a nice event, even for a worknight.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Halloween weirdness

There's something in the air this week that I'm just going to blame on Halloween. First the Ministry show Monday night in D.C. (yeah, I missed it but they have that song "Halloween Everyday"). Last night we had a damn fine lunar eclipse followed by the Red Sox breaking their curse and the discovery of little people (thanks to Anon L for the article). And now today I get my first invite in about four years to the Vampyre Ball.

For those of you who don't know, Vampyre culture is a weird little offshoot of Goth. Mostly its people dressing up goth and wearing fangs, pretending to "hunt" each other and "feed" off each other. Mostly a lot of play acting backed by a goth-industrial soundtrack. There are those oddballs who think they're psychic vamps, meaning they think they suck the lifeforce from people around them, and there are a small handful of people who actually get into the bloodletting thing as a fetish. There you get into the culture of feeders (those who get their jollies by giving blood) and hunters.

Anyway, several years ago I fell into this little culture for a short time. I was on the periphery mostly. It was fun and interesting, until a I met some way-too-serious people in the last category. D.C./Baltimore has always had a pretty strong underground for this sort of thing if you know where to look, and this invite is for the annual blowout in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, Maryland. I had actually thought it died out, but then I've been out of touch with that side of things for a good while now. Not sure why I'm broadcasting this to the world, but the invite's bringing up a whole host of memories, both good and bad. It's served me well, though. A character in my novel is a crazy girl who thinks she's a vamp.

If I were more superstitious I might think it was a sign of something on All Hollow's Eve. Fortunately, I'm not. I'll still be able to sleep at night. Unless, that is, something else happens.


Turn up that stereotype and dance, dance, dance!

After tonight's eclipse I rented Kill Bill Volumes I and II and watched them back to back. Although not as funny as Tarantino's others, it was a fun movie. For anyone who grew up watching Kung Fu movies on rainy Saturday afternoons it's a fun ride.

More than anything I liked how the movie played around with the stereotypes of the female warrior. The first one is a pure revenge fantasy for Beatrix (Uma Thurman), but the 2nd spins it a little bit by introducing a daughter. Even the main villain is slightly humanized and given a touch of depth through the daughter.

Strangely, it's the 2nd thing this week to make me think about stereotype characters and how the use them. The first was Desperate Houswives, the fairly new show on ABC on Sunday nights. All the main characters are essentially types. You've got the pissed off divorced mother, the hyper-sexual neighbor, the exmodel having an affair with young man, and on and on. But somehow despite the soap opera setup they're able to play with the tropes to give the characters just enough depth and quirks to make them believable, interesting and damn fun to watch.

For a more literary example, I remember reading an interview with Alice McDermott shortly after her novel Charming Billy won the National Book Award. She was asked about where the idea for the book came from, and she said she was obsessed for years with the idea of an Irish drunk for a character but she avoiding writing it because it was such a steretype. She finally realized she could write it so long as she gave the character reason and motivation to become that drunk, and that became the focus for the novel.

What's the point? I'm not sure. It's just got me thinking about character a little differently. Using these steretypes in new ways plays with people's expectations and can really surprise a reader. Sounds like an interesting techinique to play with.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Ministry of Sleep

Last night I went home after work, cooked and ate dinner, played bass for an hour and barely worked on my short story. Essentially I typed up all the little sections I have handwritten so I can start editing.

I feel a little guilty, that I should have done more. At the very least written the ending, which is already in my head, or gone to the Ministry/Hanzel und Gretyl show at the 9:30 club last night. But I was so damn tired last night; I even drifted off on the metro ride home from work. Something I almost never do. I guess I can blame it on working 7 days in a row, but ten years ago, hell even five years ago, I would have gone to the show, come home and wrote for an hour afterward. Now it's hard for me to do either one. Either I'm getting old or I need to make some adjustments in my life. Or maybe I just need some new vitamins.


Not sure which I feel worse about, missing the concert (both are good live bands) or not writing. But right now I just feel, well, Bleh.

Well, the sun is shining and hopefully after all the meetings I have to attend today in place of my sick boss I'll have time for a lunch break. A cup of coffee on a bench at Freedom Plaza with my writing pad in my lap sounds pretty good about now. But duty calls.


End of an Era

John Peel has just passed away.

If you are unawares, John Peel was a radio broadcaster for the BBC, and showcased new and innovative bands for the last 30 years or so. Punk, new wave, grunge, industrial, on and on, were often first heard on a large scale on his program and helped jumpstart many musical careers. There really is no equivalent in the U.S.

Placed alongside the recent Ashlee Simpson/SNL "scandal" (like it was a big shock that she lip synchs) it's a sad marker for the state of the music industry.

I'll post something writerly later; just felt this was big enough to share. John Peel will be missed.


Monday, October 25, 2004


Washington Post's Bookworld reviewed the new Updike yesterday. I took a class on him in undergrad, and our teacher told us the following story about him.

Updike was working on his first novel, The Centaur. He got up in the morning, ate some breakfast with his wife, and locked himself in his office for several hours to work. Eventually, his wife knocked on the door, telling him lunch was ready.

Updike comes to the kitchen and quietly eats, his head still obviously focused on his work more than anything else.

"Well," his wife said, "You've been working all morning. How's the book coming?"

"Pretty good," Updike said. "I took out a comma."

After lunch Updike went back to his office, locked the door and got back to work. A few more hours later his wife knocked on the door again, this time telling him dinner was ready.

"Well," his wife said, "How's the book coming?"

"Pretty good," Updike said. "I put the comma back in."

I've never seen the story anywhere else, so I take no responsibility for its validity. Still a fun writerly kind of story, especially with Novel Writing Month coming. Watch those commas!


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Man of 1000 names

The short-story I'm working on now is a basic dark fantasy/horror piece. I haven't written anything like this since probably high school and wanted to see if I could pull it off. Among other things it involves egotistical grad students, blizzards, giants and a talking crow (or maybe a raven, I haven't decided yet) who brings the finale of the story together .

I've been looking into Norse and Celtic myths to connect the talking crow to some deity and mythology source. Celtic is too confusing, so I looked at Loki for a trickster-type. To cut things short, I found out that old Odinn, lord of gods, held over 1000 names.

Now I knew of the Germanic name Wotan, and even the title All-Father, but 1000? Some make sense like Bileygr (One Eye) and Hrafnass (Raven God) but others like Hagvirkr (Skillful Worker), and my personal fave Ennibrattr (One With a Straight Forehead) are a little silly. So somehow out of these 1000 names I'm going to bastardize a name for my little crow, but I have to give the old gods credit. I don't know how they kept it all straight when they showed up at a party or a war. All the different outfits they must have had to keep on hand, and remembering which name to respond to. I have enough trouble keeping track of my rotating work schedule.


Friday, October 22, 2004


I'm feeling good about myself today because I'm about 10 pages shy from filling up the notebook I use for my journal. So I'll need to start looking around for new one. The one I have now is nice; it's a smaller size with a leather cover, unlined pages. I may go that route, or I might look for something a little odder. As a back-up I have a stack of those Mead Composition books in a desk drawer at home.

I know some writers think journals are evil, because they can take away time from writing fiction, articles, whatever. Mine's a big hodge-podge, though. Sure, it's a journal covering what's happening to me, but I also use it for basic writing exercises, drafts of reviews, story ideas, small fragments of stories. If I were to ever lose one, someone would find a notebook detailing the politics of my office followed immediately by some horror piece with no warning. That idea always amuses me.

Anyway. I don't know what others think, but if I didn't keep a journal I probably wouldn't write at all.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Cool Event

Someone just sent this to me via email, and it looks pretty cool (this is in Washington, D.C.):

October 28, 2004: Grace And Gravity: Fiction By Washington Area Women
On Thursday, October 28 at 6:30 pm, WNBA and the National Woman's Party (NWP) will be sponsoring the publication presentation of a path-breaking anthology: Grace And Gravity: Fiction By Washington Area Women, a collection novelist Elizabeth Hand lauds as showing "the range of women writing for a new century--compelling and original." Thirty-two Washington area women (including some WNBA members) are represented, including Doreen Baingana, Abby Bardi, Sophy Burnham, Lucinda Ebersole, Barbara Esstman, Patricia Griffith, Melissa Hardin, Donna Hemans, Patti Kim, Robin Alva Marcus, C.M. Mayo, Frances Park, Carolyn Parkhurst, Patricia Griffith, Leslie Pietrzyk, Nani Power, Mary Quattlebaum, Lisa Schamess, and Mary Kay Zuravleff.

The event, which will include a reading and a panel discussion with several of the writers, will take place at the NWP's historic Sewall-Belmont House located on Capitol Hill. The event is open to the public. WNBA members and NWP members receive free admission, and nonmembers pay $10.

Of the names I recognize, these are pretty cool authors. TIcket info is available through the DC chapter of WNBA. Promises to be an interesting event.

Genre Benders

I finished the Sedaris book. I guess I'll be giving it a favorable review. While it lacks a lot of depth and substance, it is a quick read and it gave me enough chuckles that I enjoyed it.

Next on my pile to look at is Litt Riffs edited by Matthew Miel, who I gather is an agent for a publishing house. I have mixed feelings about it. The concept looks fun; authors were invited to write a short story inspired by a song of their choice. The lineup is good with Jonathan Lethem, Tom Perotta, Aimee Bender and an old piece from Lester Bangs. What gives me pause is that it's a joint publishing effort between Pocket Books and Mtv Books. No, you didn't read that wrong. Mtv books.

Perhaps it will be good. They're doing good things with their rock-the-vote campaign and Spoke N' Heard is supposed to be good (or so I hear, I lack cable t.v.). But I wonder about anything with their label on it. We'll see. Maybe they'll surprise me. I hope so.


Monday, October 18, 2004

Humor is where the heart is

I've been thinking a lot about humor lately. It started a month or so ago when I read the new McSweeney's anthology, Created In Darkness, which collects humor shorts from a variety of McSweeney regulars. The intro by Dave Eggers talked about how he wanted McSweeney's in general, and this book in particular, to bridge that percieved gap between humorist and literary writers. Saturday I heard a good episode of Studio 360 on the radio. Along with the guest Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live, host Kurt Anderson talked about satire, parody and humor in the today's world.

Yesterday I started the newest book by David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. And while there are many moments that are funny I doubt I will ever read it again. They're all fun, anecdotal stories that he manages to tie together with a pretty little bow at the end, but not a whole lot to them as far as depth. Maybe I'm not playing fair with Sedaris since the Maggie Dubris book I just finished was so full of meaning. But while I can think of countless literary writers who work humor into their writing I'm having trouble thinking of someone who's main goal is to be funny and manages to be an exemplary writer. I know there must be at least a few, but who am I missing?


Saturday, October 16, 2004


Nothing literary to say today, but I finally got around to playing with the code for the template here. I've added a links section, which is pretty small right now but will grow. I'll put up links to blogs I visit regularly, as well as some other sites of interest.

I've also added a spot where I list what I'm reading at the moment, and link to info on the author whenever possible. Feel free to comment on what I'm reading anytime you like. Good or bad. Still debating about adding in a function to email me. We'll see how things go over the next few days.

In the meantime, happy reading and good writing.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Time steps slowly

I've had it with waiting. A mag I like a lot has been sitting on a story of mine for about 8 months now. It's a good story. Not amazing, but good. Their website states a turn-around time of 4-5 months. I waited six, emailed the editor and got a pretty quick reply that he was backed up and should be caught up in a month.

"Ok," I thought. "I can wait a month."

I gave them two months, emailing them again this past Monday. Got the same reply today, almost word for word.

Now I understand editors are busy, most lead lives separate from their mag and I have at least some idea of how much they get in the mail. But I think at this point I'm justified in starting to shop the piece around to some other places. I will let this nameless editor know once I send the piece out; I figure it never hurts to be courteous when I can. But, quite frankly, I probably never would have submitted to this mag if I knew it would take this long.


Sorry for the angry content. I just needed to vent, even anonymously. I'll aim for happier thoughts next time.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

What's Wrong With Me?

So last night I was supposed to go to this reading at Teaism in downtown D.C. showcasing work from a few local poetry mags: 32 Poems, Barrelhouse, Potion, The Dissociated Writers' Project, and The Potomac. I meant to go. Really, I did. I got into my car in plenty of time and made for the highway. But for some inexplicable reason I got into the south-bound lane instead of heading north, and I soon found myself criss-crossing the back roads of Stafford County, Va.

So I apologize to Mr. Gargoyle who invited me. And I apologize to the two people I know from grad school who now run one of the above mags. I meant to go. And I know it's important to maintain contact and mingle with the local writing community, especially since I don't know any other writers in my day-to-day life. Maybe I needed to wander, or maybe I just wasn't up for the sushi, tea and beer Teaism has to offer. I don't know.

On the good side I closed my journey at Alda's in Fredericksburg, one of the older and more authentic BBQ places in Northern Virginia. And so, with a pulled pork sandwich and a glass of coke on my table, I wrote a page for this story that been plaguing me and figured out some of the next steps I need to make with it. Some of which include researching Celtic and Norse myths, but that's all part of the process, right?


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Little Literary Snobbery?

Novelist Joanthan Carroll reviewed Jose Saramago's new novel, The Double, in the October 10 Edition of Washington Post's Book World. In short, the novel is about a man who sees his perfect double on television and spends the rest of the novel trying to find out who this person is.

Carroll proceeds to take Saramago to task for writing a book that's basically an SF-style concept and not taking it seriously. He also cites the McSweeney's anthology Thrilling Tales, a book that features mainstream authors playing with action/adventure pulp format, as another blatant example of mainstream authors dabbling and not taking it seriously. Carroll's own books, for those who don't know, walk a fine line between mainstream, fantasy and S/F.

Although Carroll might be pushing his point a little much in this review, I understand what he's going for. Despite it being well written, I remember having the same reaction to Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay; I thought it was ok, but that it received way too much attention as a comic book novel. It read to me like he really researched the subject but that he lacked a passion for it. Like if I set a novel in pre-industrial Russia for the hell of it. My spite for Chabon, though, stems more from his recruitment into numerous comics-related projects now solely to give them some layer of legitimacy.

Despite Chabon, I don't think this trend is a bad thing. I'm for experimentation in any form, and having mainstream writers play with fantasy and SF elements can only help broaden the horizons of readers. Perhaps Carroll, who always insists just a little too much that he's not a genre writer, fears that too many people are starting to tread into his territory.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fence Me In

Well I finally got around to reading the most recent issue of Fence, the Spring/Summer issue for '04.

It has the requisite contributions by dead poets, which usually irk me a little but these are interesting enough to justify bumping work by living bodies. First is a portion of Canto One from Pale Fireby Nabokov (this originally appeared in a novel by the same title).Second is a contribution from Phillipe Souppault, best known in the U.S. as a Surrealist poet and collaborator with Andre Breton for the landmark work The Magnetic Fields."Garland" is a wonderfully quiet poem that sneaks up on you with its imagery, and really sticks with you. New poems range from the serious tothe funny,like Anna Maria Hong's meditation on Hello Kitty entitled "HK Rules thePlanet".

The longer fiction works could have been culled out of any New Yorker or Glimmer Train issue. Accomplished, well written, but not particularly distinctive. It's the shorter fiction pieces overall that made this issue for me.

Robin Lipincott's Playing Possum is a page long, heart wrenching meditation on a friend dying from AIDS. Deb Olin Unferth's Maybe a Superheroromps through the tropes of the movie Tetsuo the Iron-Man by slowly turning a woman into a machine. But intstead of dark, violent,hyper-sexualimagery Unferth's piece is light and funny, and more about changes within women and their lives.

Gilbert Sorrentino, who seems to be everywhere lately, contributed Lost in the Stars, a odd little piece that links a U.S. salesman to a Jihad terrorist by way of masturbation.

Thalia Field's Story Material closes the issue with a mythology inspired piece that bends genres in her usual complex manner. I react to her work almost like Kathy Acker's; although I don't quite get it, I know there's something deep and complicated going on. She's definitely someone I want to check out more.

It's probably the best issue I've seen since Lethem left as the fiction editor a couple years ago. I started buying the mag because of him and his choices; a lot of the work he brought in contained an element of oddity or the fantastic that I enjoyed. Those types of work kind of full off after Ben Marcus took over a couple years ago, but it seems they are returning to them. At least for the shorter fiction pieces, anyway.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Those Non-Writing Hours

During Neal Stephenson's Q&A yesterday a fan asked what he did when he wasn't writing. He answered (paraphrasing here, of course) that he tries to spend his afternoons doing activities that are directly opposite that of writing. Exercise, computer programming, working on his house, helping a friend build his boat. He said it got his mind off things, at least directly, so when he woke up the next day his head would be filled with ideas and ready to write for a few hours.

Samuel Delaney said something similar to me in a writing workshop in Cleveland a few years ago, that he felt the best job in the world for a writer (particularly a beginning writer) is a ditchdigger. Mindless work, so you can think on your writing while you earn your money and then write when you go home.

In my non-writing times, I'm usually working, playing music, watching t.v., or going for the occassional hike. There may be something to it, though. I often come off of hiking (or even a long drive) with renewed vigor for writing.

But then sometimes I feel disconnected, I feel like I need to finish reading that newest issue of Fence so I know what's going on in the literary world, and that I have to go to that poetry reading next week so I know what's going on locally. All of which takes time away from writing. I guess everyone needs to find that balance that works best for them; I suppose I'm still searching for mine.


Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Report From the National Mall

The National Book Festival was held today, on the heart of the National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C. This is, I think, the third year for the festival, and they seemed to make a real effort to get a broader range of authors, mixing in both well known and the lesser known, genre and mainstream, fiction and non-fiction (and even poetry).

The whole thing felt like a slightly polished up version of the comic book and Star Trek conventions I went to as a kid. People wore their comfortable, geeky clothes like sandles and t-shirts with pictures of Poe or Rimbaud on them. I even saw a man buying 30 copies of Neal Stephenson's newest novel, and heard him utter the words "investment" over and over again.

Yep, I was at home here.

Far, far away at the distant end of a massive line of people sat Neil Gaiman, patiently signing copies of books for fans. I saw him once several years ago when he toured for Neverwhere, and age has defenitely started hitting him a little. Although still sporting the leather jacket and shoulder-length hair, a small shock of hair on his left temple had turned grey and his face was covered with a generous black beard. He carried it well, though, at least from what I could tell. Since I didn't bring anything for him to actually sign, I turned around and headed to the S/F and Fantasy tent.

Ben Bova was speaking. Instead of reading from his work, Bova spoke elegantly and knowledgeably on topics like the space program, colonization of other planets, and the potential for discovering life on Mars. His talk was peppered with quick reference to some of his books, as well as the writings of other S/F gurus like Arthur C. Clarke. Afterward Bova answered a questions ranging from the X-Prize, to UFO's, to editing for Omni Magazine and how he strikes a balance between using real scientific theory and creative license (he feels he's free to invent anything so long as no-one can prove his ideas wrong).

Neal Stephenson was next on the schedule. Although I haven't delved into his new Baroque Cycle trilogy, I think of his S/F novels like Snow Crash as the last great gasp of Cyberpunk inspired fiction. Cryptonomicon, likewise, is a masterful work of cross genre-fiction. Anyways, enough ego-stroking for Mr. Stephenson.

With a shaved head, fuzzy goatee and moustache, hyper-faded blue jeans and a blue dress shirt, he looked every bit the Geek-Chic author. After an intro from Washington Post critic Michael Dirda, Stephenson opened with some ego-stroking of his own by by shouting, "Raise your hand if you know who I am!"

Instead of reading, Stephenson immediately jumped to a Q&A session, citing his own longwindedness and time constraints as an excuse. It turned out to be a good thing, though. He took everyone's question seriously and somehow managed to answer nearly everything with his tongue just slighly in cheek. Questions covered topics like further use of the Baroque Cycle characters, his ideas on wisdom, and what he does when he's not writing. For someone with a little bit of reputation for hating anything taking time away from his writing, Stephenson was an amusing and rather gracious speaker.

Although there were certainly others I wanted to see (Gaiman, Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates to name a few) my day job called me away from the festivities. Perhaps next year.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Cafe Zeitgeist

Just a quick post today to point people to Lance Olsen's website. Olsen is a fiction writer who's done some very interesting things the past few years, and I count him as one of my personal favorites. He runs the gamut from experimental, s/f, and mainstream. His most recent novel Girl Imagined by Chance is a must read for anyone interested in postmodern fiction.

His website Cafe Zeitgeist of course primarily promotes himself and his own work, but he has a forum that's good to check out from time to time. A number of writers post there, sometimes to promote themselves, sometimes to solicit submissions to a mag or anthology, and sometimes just to raise an interesting question about writing or art in general.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

2nd time around

Today I'm thinking about sophomore efforts by artists, particularly for those whose first effort gained a fair amount good criticism. You've made fans based on a certain mode or style, and you have to choose to either continue with something similar or to verge off into other areas.

What prompted this was the new Interpol album, Antics, that I just bought yesterday. The first album floored me; the Cure-like textured guitars alongside the bouncing bass and droning vocals remenescent of Joy Division but with just enough indie-stylings to make it relevant was an easy sell to someone with my musical tastes. It made me feel like I was 20 again, and brought back a love for rock music that I thought I lost a few years ago. The new album is good, but is more of the same. There is a little more focus on rhythm, the bass is a little more upfront in the mix, but it's essentially a direct extension from their first album.

Is this a bad thing? A good thing? I'm not sure.

Given a choice, and I'm speaking in generalities of course, I'd rather see an artist evolve and strive towards different things. Even if that means a little failure. David Bowie comes to mind in music, Jonathan Lethem and Joyce Carol Oates in writing. To continually re-define your artistic self takes enormous energy, time and determination, and I have great respect for it.

To place this pressure on young kids like Interpol (I think they're all in their early 20's) is probably unfair. Particularly when you throw in the pressure they probably got from their record label to put something else out as soon as possible. Given time (assuming they stay together) they will probably progress onto other things as they gain more experience and exposure to other influences. But pulling it away from Interpol, I have to wonder what I will do. If my first novel is accepted and does even passingly well, will I write something similar for the second one, or make a break onto something different?

I don't know.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Well this is the start of it all.

I ran into someone I knew in grad school the other day, and about the third thing they asked me was for my blog address. I shrugged, admitting I have none. Just yesterday my cousin in Oklahoma who I haven't heard from in about three years emailed me that she ran across something I wrote, and asked if I had a blog.

So now I do.

Mostly I'll be using this space to review things I'm reading and listening to in a manner I can't in other places, but other things will work their way in here as well.

As a start, though, I will say that I'm enjoying the entry into fall weather. I know most people prefer spring, but there's something about the move away from summer. Perhaps it's my hatred of the summer heat and humidity here in the D.C. area, perhaps its the unique color and quality of light the sun gives us this time of year, or maybe I just miss dressing up for Halloween.