Sunday, December 12, 2010
A graphic novel that straddles dimensions as radically yet effortlessly as it does genres, Dash Shaw's BodyWorld feels like an artifact from an alternate reality—one in which post-apocalyptic teen drama and telepathy-inducing drugs magnify a deeper narrative about the malleability of symbols, logic, and consciousness. On a strictly visual level, though, it's stunning: With a dizzying command of paint, pixels, paper, and sheer spectacle, Shaw writes and draws rings around not only his competition, but the very fundamentals of comic-book linearity and language. Even better: It's a hell of a flesh-crawler.
2. Artichoke Tales
In clear, unfussy green-and-white, Megan Kelso depicts the fictional world of Artichoke Tales as an agrarian, allegorical land scarred by war but gripped by deep roots and desperate love. That love—romantic, familial, ecological—is played out in quiet, graceful episodes that somehow encompass everything from cooking to lovemaking to childbirth to military campaigns. But amid the epic and cyclical turmoil, Kelso's intimately soft yet barbed storytelling renders her elfin Quicksand Family potently, poignantly human.
3. X'ed Out
X'ed Out, the first installment of Charles Burns' new, not-yet-collectively-titled project, sees the Black Hole mastermind branching out into an even eerier domain, one that mixes his horrific surrealism for what appears to be hard science fiction—that is, with a heavy dollop of dream-logic and shout-outs to Burns inspirations like Hergé, Moebius, and William S. Burroughs. But rather than simply namechecking these influences, he works them into the fabric of his warped and hyperlinked narrative. And then applies some gorgeous full color.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Seriously, I could take a long, hot soak in Catherynne M. Valente's prose. Her latest, fragrant vat of verse-worthy fiction: The Habitation of the Blessed, the first installment of a new trilogy titled A Dirge for Prester John. Shimmering, poetic, and approaching the alchemical, her language spreads through my skull like blood through water. Sheer fucking magic. Cat, you're a demigoddess.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
The cover to my very firstest book of all time -- Quirk Books' The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook -- is now up on Amazon. Color me stoked. It's giving me some much-needed fuel to push through and finish this novel manuscript for Quirk that's due at the end of January. My first novel... When that cover finally gets unleashed, I'll probably just fucking pass out.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
*Apologies to WSB and PRN.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The seventh and latest issue of the British speculative-fiction magazine Polluto has just been loosed upon the world. Within its pages squirms a short story of mine titled "The Feast of the Night-Soil Man." What secrets lurk in the shit of the gods? Find out now.
Monday, July 26, 2010
My lengthy A.V. Club interview with master cartoonist Jim Woodring just got picked up by Boing Boing. Says Woodring of the feature: "The A.V. Club pried all kinds of words out of my unwilling mouth with the skill of a tenured, ten-armed shucker." In other news: I'm putting "tenured, ten-armed shucker" on my business card.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Earlier this year I wrote a short story called "The Feast of the Night-Soil Man." It was my first completed piece after quite a long break, and I was pretty proud of it. Then I started submitting it to magazines. The reactions I got were, um, rather confused. It seems that a post-pandemic eco-folktale about a servant of the gods who eats their shit wasn't exactly what most editors were looking for.
I'm glad to say, though, that "Feast" finally found a home. And a hell of a home, at that: Polluto, one of England's raddest, oddest, edgiest speculative-fiction magazines, has accepted my coprophagiac allegory for their upcoming seventh issue. It's great to know there are some other weirdos besides myself dwelling in the fringes of the genre -- and not afraid to own it. Here's a teaser:
I was forbidden to gaze upon Yu-in in the full light of the day, so it was only Ith I came to know. Sometimes at dawn in Yu-in's cavernous chamber He mistook me for some long-dead lover, reaching toward my manhood with languid, clanking fingers. He smelled of iron and vanilla--that is, after I had finished my work with Him. With rag and shovel I scrubbed and scraped at the thick slime and barnacle-like shingles that collected around His vast and nautiloid anus. After flushing the waste down the cracks of the mountain's glacier as I had been instructed, I would return to anoint Him with a perfume of ambergris and afterbirth, spices and sperm, that Yu-in deposited in a bedside urn daily for this purpose.
But earlier--that is, when I would climb to the slumbering, snowbound Gods in the hours just after star-rise--the smell was far less ambrosial. Like a tomb cracked open and left to fester, Yu-in leaked a black and brackish feculence that stunk of rot and waste. They wallowed in their filth, tossing and turning until even Their single, blank face--for Yu-in seemed to be possessed by none of its constituent deities as it slept--was slathered in that rank muck.
To this day I shudder to think of the dreams Yu-in must have had. Ith told me once; it was morning, and I was still wiping away the last festoons of stool that clung to Yu-in's massive hindquarters. Ith awoke in a panic and told me of a nightmare He and the Others had been having.
China Mieville has had more than just a profound influence over the SF/fantasy of the millennium -- his books happen to, quite simply, kick ass. Interviewing him for The A.V. Club was a sheer thrill, especially when he started geeking out over Star Trek phasers (a prop in his new novel, Kraken) and Pop Will Eat Itself. Following the interview is a lively comments section wherein A.V. Club readers passionately attack and defend Mieville's work. As convivial as he is to speak with, he's a pretty divisive writer. The great ones usually are.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
We're sitting in a restaurant. Our food has just been served.
A woman to the left of me slides her fingers into her plate of food and removes a bird talon of indeterminate species, a shred of raw and fruit-red flesh still attached.
Outraged, she waves the claw in all our faces.
I'm not sure what her gesture is meant to signify, but I mimic her indignation out of deference and awe.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
My third installment of Frequency Rotation is viewable and ready for your lewd comments over at Tor.com. The culprit: Pop Will Eat Itself, a band that did horrific things to my mind -- and enabled my geekitude to a crippling degree -- during my high school years. China Mieville also drops a couple mentions of the band in his new book, Kraken, so I took the liberty of tying all that together, you know, just for the hell of it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
The second installment of Frequency Rotation -- my new science-fiction-music-blog -- is up at Tor.com. This week: the astounding and otherworldly Janelle Monáe. I've got lots of crazy songs, both amazing and entrancingly terrible, lined up for the near future, so bookmark them shits!
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
My new weekly blog at Tor.com, Frequency Rotation, is up. Each week I'll track down a different SF/fantasy-themed song, post the video, and talk about its awesomeness and significance (or lack thereof). Song suggestions, of course, are always welcome. Needless to say, it's an honor to be included on the Tor.com roster, and I am stoked to get the ball rolling. Plus, I'll take any excuse to inflict a Rezillos video on the world.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
In related news: My new blog for Tor.com will be starting soon. It's called Frequency Rotation, and it'll be a weekly rundown of a different science-fiction/fantasy-themed song. As for the first geeky jam I'll be covering, I'll give you a hint: I took the title of the blog from the song's lyrics. Guess now or forever hold your peace. No Googling! Winner gets a lovingly handcrafted wedgie.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
In the new issue of the legendary Weird Tales I interview the soon-to-be-legendary Jesse Bullington about his book, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. I review it, too. It's my second byline in Weird Tales--the first being my tribute to the late J.G. Ballard in the Spring 2009 issue--and it's once again an honor to be a small part of fantastic fiction's greatest institution. (And if you haven't read Brothers Grossbart yet, it comes highly recommended--historical fantasy done scary, witty, bawdy, messy, and brilliant.)
I don't know why I haven't heard of it before, but I just stumbled across Membra Disjecta, an online genre magazine published by Drollerie Press. It's fresh, edgy, progressive, well-designed, small-press-centric, and multimedia-minded, with fiction running alongside nonfic features and spotlights on DIY music and micro-presses. And it's all good shit, too. I just submitted a story of mine titled "When Men End" for an upcoming theme issue. Fingers crossed! But even if it doesn't get accepted, I'm glad I ran into this site.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I was probably 18 or 19 the first time I read Basil Wolverton comics. If I remember correctly, my brain caved in. Here was a guy who predated Ed Roth, Robert Crumb, XNO, Peter Bagge -- not by years, but by decades -- and perfected the fine art of the grotesque long before punk rock made ugliness sexy.
Jules Feiffer, one of Wolverton's far more urbane and successful contemporaries, said this of Wolverton's homely, gleefully damaged cartooning: "I don't like his work. I think it's ugly." Mr. Feiffer, with all due respect, don't be such a pussy. There's more craft and feverish imagination to Wolverton's work than he's ever gotten credit for, although Fantagraphics, bless them, have been going out of their way for many years to collect as much of the man's output as they can (including the brand-new Basil Wolverton's Culture Corner, a mind-melting anthology of his WWII-era strips).
To me, Wolverton's eye-gouging gags and rubbery surrealism were as as subversive in their time as was the work of William Burroughs or Lenny Bruce -- maybe more so, seeing as how that subversion was smuggled inside kids' comics, a modus operandi he carried over to his seminal work on Mad. But Wolverton never seemed like a rebel. He was more of a merry prankster -- that is, a prankster with one foot in Bosch and the other in bubblegum.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The fact that we humans fetishize inanimate objects just as much, if not more, than those big, puffy intangibles like life, liberty, hope, happiness, and heaven is not surprising. And yet, I always thought my record-collecting habit was more than just a sickness. Yes, I used to spend hours each day working shit jobs to make money to buy records; hours rearranging and pawing through and writing about them; hours thinking about the ones I had yet to own. But I spent even more hours listening to my records. They were only inanimate objects until I put them on a spinning turntable; as soon as I dropped that needle, they unleashed a life, a liberty, a hope, a happiness, and a heaven all their own.
About a month ago I was force by circumstance to sell off a stack of my old LPs on eBay. It was easier than I thought it would be--not the mechanics of eBay, but the relinquishing of these objects I'd clung to so tightly for so long. I'd sold many of my records off in the past, but I really let go of some treasure this time around, shit that I had a personal stake in--the biggest being an original pressing of Jawbreaker's debut album, Unfun, on clear vinyl. It's about to be reissued, and I figured now was a good time to unload it for some bucks. And I did get some bucks out of it--quite a few, in fact, and far more than I'd expected--but when I packed it up and stuck it in the mail, it felt far less the amputation I'd expected.
I blame it on the mp3. I owe it to the mp3. If my younger self could see me now, he'd probably commit suicide (or at least get a lobotomy) to prevent himself from ever turning into what I've become: a dude who doesn't give a shit about vinyl. I couldn't even put my finger on the exact moment of my conversion, but sometime over the past ten years I realized I was sick of lugging around thousands of LPs every time I moved. I was sick of spending so much time, money, and energy an building and maintaining my collection. I was sick of spending 50 percent of every vacation I took combing through record stores while some exciting city lay unexplored outside. Mostly, though, I was sick of taking the medium as seriously as the message.
Even when I collected LPs like a madman, the seeds of my demise as a collector were already there. I never took particularly good care of my records. I'd leave them laying out for weeks at at time, somehow aesthetically titillated at the disarray. I was never that concerned with the condition they were in when I bought them. Even more telling, I couldn't give two shits about owning an original pressing of anything. I'd often trade a first press for a repress PLUS another LP (or five). To me, it was all about having as much music as I could get my hands on.
Now, via the Internet, I can get my hands on practically anything, anytime I want. If it's not available through a reputable vendor, there are blogs that offer free downloads of rare classics and other, ahem, less reputable sources. In this regard, the most ironic and beautiful use of the Internet is YouTube--particularly those clips that show some collector actually playing his own copy of a record from his collection and then posting a video of it, scratchy audio and all.
My copy of Unfun was a little scratchy. But not too bad; after all, I hadn't spun it in many years. I still listen to the album all the time, but I do it on my iPod. It's perfect: I listen to it while I'm riding the bus or waiting in line or walking around town (that is, when I don't have anything else to occupy my time). It's perfect; I could never cart my turntable around in my backpack, but now I've got an entire library of songs in my pocket, music that's effectively been liberated from those slabs of plastic that have sucked up so much of my cash, sanity, and living space over the years.
Before I sound like some grandpa gee-whizzing over all these newfangled gizmos, let me say that the profundity of this basic shift in music-listening is still more striking than most people realize, even after a bazillion blogs have been written on the subject. On a personal level, it's the reason I can now throw a baby like Unfun out with the bathwater of my erstwhile materialism. I may be in denial, but I've never considered myself a pack rat by nature, and I never understood my own impulse to horde shit--even good shit--while I ate macaroni and cheese until the next payday.
It's perverse, I realize, to write this on Record Store Day (which I am). Not only do I wish the best to all brick-and-mortar music shops, I used to work in one, and I believe they're subcultural institutions that no online store can replace. But it makes me even happier that I'm letting my records reenter circulation; not only do I sell off huge stacks of good shit to my local used-record store from time to time, I honestly, truly am thrilled at the thought of some young, starry-eyed collector--you know, like I how used to be--stumbling across some LP of her dreams because some old dude like me decided not to let his collection be pried out of his cold, dead hands.
I know this whole issue is tied into vaster issues like artists getting paid for their labor; whether analog sounds better than digital; if pressing LPs is a good use of our dwindling oil reserves; and even the very future of recorded music itself. For me, though, it's simple: The music I love has been freed from the grooves it was locked into, and now it exists--at least for me--on a purer, more ethereal plane less tainted by grabbiness and gluttony.
Even better: Now that I'm selling off my LPs, I'll have tons more room in my apartment for all these massive stacks of science-fiction books I keep buying.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Dear tea party protesters,
Kindly get the fuck out of my neighborhood. I just saw one of you inbred dipshits throw a full sack of fast-food trash into a bush. And what the hell are you all doing on the RTD? Shouldn't you be boycotting the socialist public transportation system?
P.S. You know, you're really not being clever with your "OBAMA WANTS YOUR GUN!" bumper sticker. It's pretty obvious it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment and everything to do with you wanting to put a bullet in a black man.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I wrote the cover story in this week's issue of Westword, Denver's Village Voice paper. It's about local comic-book creators and all the rad stuff they've been up to around town (and beyond). The panels here are by Lonnie Allen, one of the main artists I interviewed for the article. He does great stuff; check it out. And, you know, support your local cartoonist and all that.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yesterday I did a phone interview with John Lydon for The A.V. Club. I asked him about the imminent PiL reunion tour. He started talking about Alcatraz and Zen rock gardens and fixing his roof and how he likes to get drunk and listen to his own records. Awesome.
The whole experience reminded me of this American Bandstand clip, one of the weirdest, coolest moments in TV history. Best part: When Lydon gets all up in the camera and uses some nasal spray. Second best part: When Jah Wobble introduces himself as THE Jah Wobble...
Monday, March 22, 2010
Over at The A.V. Club we do a regular series called Better Late Than Never?, in which we examine pop-culture classics that one of us writers, for some odd reason, never got around to reading/watching/hearing. This week I take on Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and ramble on about Kubrick, punk rock, being young, getting old, and how much of a difference that controversial 21st chapter really makes.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sauntering like some Venusian insect in stack heels carved from whole skulls, Batman Lambert approaches a starving Haitian boy amid the rubble of an abattoir. He peels a piece of lunch meat from his wrist, plucks an arm hair from its sticky surface. He wrings grease from the meat as if it were a damp washcloth and asks the hollow-eyed child in a voice both dulcet and deadened, "DO YOU THIRST?"
Look for the conclusion next week -- same Bat-Lambert-time, same Bat-Lambert-channel.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
My mini-primer on J.G. Ballard for The A.V. Club's Gateways To Geekery series just went up. I'm pretty happy with how it came out, and I'm looking forward to debating the merits of my favorite writer with a few readers on the comments thread throughout the day. I also think this officially puts an end to my run of Ballard features -- four? five? -- since he died last summer. Of course, I'll never stop reading the man. Dude more or less changed my life. Or at least mutated my brain.
Monday, February 8, 2010
This news is way late, but I thought it was worth revisiting (especially since it makes me happy as hell). I recently wrote a long and very personal tribute to the late J.G. Ballard for Weird Tales #353. An article about my favorite writer for my favorite magazine? Word. (The piece isn't available online, but copies can be bought here.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
A guide to Northern soul.
An interview with Finch's Jeff VanderMeer.
An interview with The Magicians' Lev Grossman.
A review of the recent Jawbox reissue.
Ska ska ska.
Why I like the Eagles. (Yes, for real.)
And coming soon: Look for a hefty primer on the dazzlingly deranged works of the late, great, J.G. Ballard; reviews of new discs by Lightspeed Champion, Xiu Xiu, Alkaline Trio, etc.; and probably some piece where I rag on indie-rock some more.
So the very first piece of science fiction I ever sold, a short story called "Behold: Skowt!" (reviewed here), was to a great publication called Apex Magazine. Not only did I make a pro-level sale my first time, I was able to spin the story off into a sequel, which was published in the prestigious (as far as I'm concerned) Sybil's Garage. Now, the folks at Apex have reprinted "Skowt" in an anthology called Descended from Darkness. Yes, it's a BOOK. A real one, with pages and papercuts and air displacement and everything. Looks damn fantastic, too -- and I share the table of contents with some of my favorite current writers of speculative fiction, including Theodora Goss and Ekaterina Sedia. DfD is available at Amazon, but if you're gracious enough to want to pick one up, you might do Apex a favor and buy one directly from their online store. They've got lots of other great books for sale, too. (If you're into the whole eBook thing, you can get it here.)
After three years as the editor of the Denver edition of The Onion's A.V. Club, I stepped down in June of '09 to pursue, you know, stuff. Like having a life, a negative balance in my bank account, and more time to write fiction. My old bosses, however, have graciously allowed me to continue writing for The A.V. Club on a freelance basis, for which I am perpetually grateful. And I'm even more ecstatically, convulsively grateful about being included in The A.V. Club's new Scribner book, Inventory. In it, all of us A.V. Clubbers got together and made up some pop-culture lists, kind of like how we do on www.avclub.com each week. But the book has lots of extra-special surprises -- including an introduction by Chuck Klosterman and special celebrity lists from the likes of Patton Oswalt, P.T. Anderson, Zach Galifianakis, and Weird Al Yankovic.
Yes, I have a co-author credit with Weird Al. If I could go back in time and tell my 10-year-old self about this, he'd shit bricks. As for the modern-day me, I couldn't be more stoked.