Month: May 2015

Print is still dead, sorta

Wow, has it really been nearly 3 years since I first wrote about Apex Publishing along with my opinion on consuming short fiction? In that post, Print is Dead, I opine that paper as the means of consuming short fiction was terminal, if not dead already. I still feel that way; nothing has changed on that front.

As I said then, there are still some holdouts in the magazine business, publications that have a name to bank on. Though, I do wonder if nostalgia, or even some ironic hipsterism, may lead to a rejuvenation of print anthologies of short stories and novellas….  I doubt it. Even if there is a small rise in print, it will be niche and short-lived.

But here is the point of my returning to the topic: 10 years ago Apex Publishing began as a small project by a guy with an idea and a dream. Well, so I assume — his memoir isn’t out yet. But in his latest blog post, Apex owner John Sizemore describes that modest beginning:

Although I started the publication for the simple goal of channeling my creativity, it didn’t take long for me to realize something else. I would rather be editing, publishing, and writing than doing software development.

Since my original blog post, Apex has significantly exploded their print business for long fiction, while still breaking waves and doing amazing with their e-magazine for short fiction. And really, that’s just incredible and, to be honest, quite envious. As it happens, Apex as a business, and Sizemore as a publisher and editor and entrepreneur, are my models. Now that I’m beginning to solidify vision for Tragic Sans Press, he’s done exactly what I want to be doing, but in our own genre niche.

I love Apex (I have the t-shirt!), and respect the heck out of Sizemore. I congratulate them on the last 10 years and wish them decades more success!

Now, back to work making my own dreams come true…

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Mark Z. Danielewski comes to visit

danielewski-1Just a couple days following the appearance of Neal Stephenson at Powell’s west, one of my favorite postmodern author’s, the risky and groundbreaking genius, Mark Z. Danielewski came to the main Powell’s to talk about his new book series, The Familiar. It’s a 27-volume series inspired by serial television, with many characters with intertwining lives, all written in each character’s unique typography.

Danielewski rocked my world around 2002 with his novel, House of Leaves. (Sadly, I can’t get this blog to properly color the word “house” in blue as it should be.) Every work of his, Danielewski deconstructs the idea of the “novel” as a form, and reinvents it. Using every trick of typography imaginable (and some unimaginable), he turns the act of reading a novel into a unique and active experience that derives from the story, but exists outside the story.

danielewski-3Reading a novel is a passive experience, for the most part. Sure, it’s far more active than sitting in front of a screen where nothing is expected from you except a working sensory system. A novel has you converting symbols on a page into meaning and engage your imagination to bring the narrative to life. But it’s still passive in the sense that the traditional novel is just a platform, a means of ingesting a story.

Danielewski’s works expect the reader to be more actively involved than to just look at words in a continuous line from one page through a serious of ordered pages til the end. His books demand for you to interact with it. To actually make choices with how you are going to ingest the narrative, and thus with how the narrative is revealed and understood. My reading of House of Leaves, or Only Revolutions, is going to differ from yours not just because we might be imagining the same story with differences, such as hair color or tone of voice. Our experience of the book will differ structurally, fundamentally.

danielewski-2Well, anyway, he read a relevant bit from House of Leaves, and an interesting chapter from his first volume of The Familiar. And his Q&A session was great! Man, I so wish I’d taken notes. Most people asked really thoughtful questions, and his answers were so well-said, so insightful, and inspiring. The only thing I can remember, and is probably the least interesting thing he said, was “The way you live your life will affect the kinds of things you create.”

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Neal Stephenson, Seveneves, and envy

Neal StephensonI didn’t get to ask the question I wanted to. A question I’ve wanted to ask him for years. Alas.

Continuing the amazing roll of meeting favorite authors since moving to Portland, tonight I saw Neal Stephenson at Powell’s for the release, on this day, of his new novel, Seveneves. He read a portion (very witty), and he spoke a bit about the inspiration of the novel,being 10 years in the making. He explained that part of what took so long is that in order to make a convincing “ark” story, you needed to have an apocalyptic event that’s urgent and soon enough that there’s no time to solve the cause of the doom, but not so impending that there’s no time to build a humanity-rescuing ark ship. And, a doom that’s absolutely certain and not deniable by some, “like… climate change.” *grin*

He took questions, and fortunately, no one in this store full of geeks and nerds, did anyone feel that now that they had a microphone, they needed to soliloquize for 10 minutes before, maybe, getting to a question. Everyone was succinct and interesting.

Yet, time ran out before I could ask mine.

So, here it is, and if anyone knows Neal Stephenson, maybe you can pass it along: “This is going back a bit, so my apologies if it’s a tired question, but, Cryptonomicon appears to be set in our, ordinary world. And yet, there’s clues* that it’s not quite the world we live in. How would you describe the world in which the story of Cryptonomicon is set?”

Like I do for Cory Doctorow as well, I harbor a great deal of envy for Neal Stephenson’s speaking ability. While Cory speaks fast and clipped, and Neal speaks in a measured and easy pace, both are so incredibly eloquent, well-spoken, clever, funny, and without an instant of affectation (“uhm,” “uh”) or stutter or hesitation. I so wish I had such presence and extemporaneous speaking skill. *sad pout*

As for my fandom of Neal, it started when I read Cryptonomicon back around when it first came out, around 2002. I knew of his most famous (post?)cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, but had never gotten around to reading it until after I got past the mindnumbing haze of finishing the other brilliant and odd and educational and fascinating novel. Snow Crash is a bit weird, irreverent, quirky, and creates a near-future world that’s essentially a libertarian paradise — with all the problems that presents. Quicksilver soon followed, although I never picked up the sequels. I started reading the challenging and maybe too-clever? Anathem, but it’s a tough read, even for someone like me who loves when people play with language and linguistic development. It’s actually sitting on my desk right now; I do intend to finish it.

11262451_485174241632825_8738845372095469386_nNow, I’m going to dive right into Seveneves while the flame is burning bright!

*clues: Everyone at all times in the novel refers to Japan as Nippon, regardless of ethnicity or language, not just the native Japanese speakers. He created a British country off of England that spoke a consonant-heavy language that could have been Wales, or Isle of Man, but his own creation instead. Why, in an otherwise perfectly normal our world, would he do these things, unless he wanted a world that was only a couple degrees off? To what purpose?

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A little love for Michel Gondry

While looking for some music in my library to listen to, I was reminded about the similarities between Chemical Brothers’ songs “Let Forever Be” and “Setting Sun” with The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (seriously, check them out!) and I was reminded of the video for “Let Forever Be.”

A really fun, wild, unsettling video, and when it first came out is when I first became aware of the director Michel Gondry. Then found out he made the video for Daft Punk’s “Around the World.”

And then, when I saw the video for Radiohead’s “Knives Out,” I just knew that also had to be his, and it was:

No matter how many times I watch that video, it still makes me cry.

(And later discovered he made some of my favorite White Stripes videos.)

Michel Gondry is among my favorite directors, using surrealism and what I call “creative reality,” to make images that are at once fanciful but oddly disturbing. The roughness to them, the apparent slap-dash and playful imperfections mixed with repetitiveness visual loops and improper geometry and proportions, invoke a dreamlike quality that, like surrealism is meant to do, bypasses the consciousness and ego and communicates right with the subconscious, id (and perhaps our sense/memory of Lacan’s “the Real”).

I knew he had directed the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” when I went to see it, so I was excited to experience it (despite Jim Carrey). And, of course, that film was perfect for Gondry, and it is still one of my favorite films (despite not having watched it again in far too long).

He was supposed to direct a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, my favorite of PKD’s work. If anything would be perfect for Gondry, it should be a film about the dreamlike deterioration of reality with uncertainty and discomfort with what is real, what is illusion. Sadly, something happened and it’s no longer to be.

Just wanted to share these thoughts. Maybe next I’ll discuss one of my other favorite directors, Spike Jonze! (Interesting… so many of my favorite directors, who work with striking and emotionally affecting imagery, like these two, and David Fincher, come from the world of music video directing.)

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Making decisions

Continuing on from my previous post “Thoughts on CthulhuCon PDX, and getting going!,” I’ve been thinking a lot since that massive hit of self- and independent-published writing and game inspiration.

I don’t know how you’re reading this, Dear Visitor, whether it’s soon after its posting on a blog by a lazy writer, or maybe a year from now on the ancillary blog by the head of Tragic Sans Press — but the latter is what I’d always intended this blog to be at its inception. I have wanted very much so to start up my publishing imprint and get it going, but I have been easily distracted. First the move to Portland, then I have for a while been toying with returning to my scholarly pursuits (continuing my research on Philip K. Dick by finishing my comprehensive annotated bibliography and literary analysis, beginning my career as the foremost Steven Brust scholar….)

Sadly, like Nancy Kress, I’m not someone who can operate on little sleep, which cuts down my available time and energy per day even more. And I don’t do coke, so I have a hard time doing more than half a thing half of the time. I’ll be honest, I’m a touch lazy and did I mention easily distracted? So I can’t do it all; I have to make decisions on where to put my time and energy.

As much as I love my scholarship, and I so very much want to publish in peer-reviewed journals, and get a jump start on my eventual PhD, right now the thing that will give me the most satisfaction, the most enjoyment, is to focus on writing fiction and getting Tragic Sans Press going.

Now, exactly what form will Tragic Sans be? Will it focus on putting out a literary journal? If so, what will be the theme? Will it focus on publishing other peoples’ novels and non-fiction full-length works? For pay, even? These are things I’ve been thinking about and need to come to conclusions, soon.

I’ve also been thinking about re-trying to contact the agents that I found a few years ago, and a prominent writer suggested to me, to see about eschewing self-publishing and going traditional. That would be cool… but fun?

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Thoughts on CthulhuCon PDX, and getting going!

cthulhucon_poster_600Last weekend I attended the Portland CthulhuCon. It was a gathering of a few hundred fans of Lovecraft and related media for two days, featuring amazing and fascinating panels, art displays and competitions, readings, games, vendors…. It was amazing!

I myself am a moderate Lovecraft fan. I probably know more about the man and his work than I do of the stories themselves. I mean, sure, I’ve read his most popular stories and I’m familiar with his mythos, but I’m by no means hardcore. Even so, I held my own in a Lovecraftian Pictionary game!

The panels were simply fantastic! They really were quality, intellectual panels with some very prominent Lovecraft scholars and artists and writers, the quality of discussions I’d have seen a the ICFA. Cthulhu vs Dracula, compare and contrasting Lovecraft’s writing and style, and place in literary history, with that of Bram Stoker. One on Lovecraft’s life and internal demons and how that may have affected his writing. An analysis of the Lovecraft mythos and writing in mythos (his and in general). And more! I took so many notes.

One of the best parts was a performance by Leeman Kessler of “Ask Lovecraft.” He does a very funny, and honoring, not satirical, impersonation of a reanimated Lovecraft answering any and all questions from the audience, from the serious to the goofy — and every improvised response of his was great and humorous.

One of the highlights was definitely “Scotch with Scott.”

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