Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chunks of dead trees

J.G. Ballard? Philip K. Dick? Harry Harrison? Fritz Leiber? Kurt Vonnegut? Thomas M. Disch? Anyone who knows me knows I couldn't possibly pass up a book with those names on the cover. And yet, when I picked up this copy of The Ruins of Earth from a used bookstore recently, my first thought was: Why have I never heard of this? The anthology -- edited by Disch and containing his satirical short story "The Birds" -- was published in England in 1973 and features some of the best science fiction authors of the day, including a few veterans of the New Worlds-led New Wave. But the collection also runs parallel to the ecological movement of the time -- with the obvious theme being environmental catastrophe, summed up beautifully by Disch in his introduction. Sadly, Disch's own story, "The Birds," is a weak example of his otherwise incisive satire. A more noteworthy moment: the first published appearance of Harrison's "Roommates," the short story based on his novel Make Room! Make Room! (itself the basis for the film Soylent Green). Also: Gene Wolfe -- who in 1973 apparently didn't rate a mention on the cover! -- contributes "Three Million Square Miles," a wisp of a vignette that's mostly curious for this reason: Its man-caged-by-highway scenario almost seems like the seed of... J.G. Ballard's 1974 novel, Concrete Island. For his part, Ballard offers his 1962 story "The Cage of Sand" -- which, despite the title and the fact that the word "vermilion" pops up in the opening sentence, is not a Vermilion Sands story. Guided by Disch's grim, wry fatalism rather than the era's typically shrill eco-panic, Ruins is a great little slab of retro-future-shock; it's also one more reason why, funnily enough, I still love combing used book stores for chunks of dead trees.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tintin time

It'll be another few days before I get a chance to head to the theater to see Spielberg's The Adventures Of Tintin. But my mouth is watering like Captain Haddock's in a room full of rum. It's been twenty years since I discovered Hergé's original Tintin comics series, and they just get better every time I revisit them. That includes my latest rereading of the series, which I did in preparation for my latest A.V. Club article, Gateways To Geekery: The Adventures Of Tintin. Days like this, I really love my job.

Guest post up at The Qwillery

The fine folks at the book blog The Qwillery have a guest post from yours truly up today. It's about Taft 2012, the novel's creation, and its peculiar sort of genre-busting. Next month, The Qwillery will also be runnning an interview with me and graciously allowing me to take part in a two-week Q&A session with Taft 2012 readers--all part of their Debut Author Challenge. Can't wait! More details as they unfold...

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011: My year in books

I've just spent a solid month compiling year-end list upon year-end list for The A.V. Club. It's official: Year-end-list exhaustion has settled into my bones. But I did want to put together this quick, admittedly erratic rundown of my favorite (and least favorite) books of 2011. Please pardon my lazy lack of commentary. I'm fresh out of adjectives. And so, without further ado...

Top 15 16 books of 2011
1. Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music by Rob Young
2 & 3. There Is No Year and Nothing: A Portrait Of Insomnia by Blake Butler
4. Low Town by Daniel Polansky
5. The Enterprise Of Death by Jesse Bullington
6. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
7. The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
8. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
9. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
10. My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson
11. All Men Of Genius by Lev AC Rosen
12. Seed by Rob Ziegler
13. Mechanique: A Tale Of The Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
14. The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
15. The Engines Of Desire by Livia Llewellyn
16. Joe Simon: My Life In Comics by Joe Simon [RIP]

Worst books:
Enter Night: A Biography Of Metallica by Mick Wall
Flashback by Dan Simmons

Biggest letdown:
Embassytown by China Miéville

Best old book I read for the first time:
The Inverted World by Christopher Priest

Best rereads:
Beneath The Underdog by Charles Mingus
The Adventures Of Tintin by Hergé

Best reprint:
Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island And Its People, 1602-1890 by Nathaniel Philbrick

Sequels I slept on (despite loving their predecessors):
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Book I only wish had come out:
The Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Book I wrote (shameless, I know)
The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook by Jason Heller

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview @LibraryThing just ran an interview with me about Taft 2012. It's a pity my Herman Cain reference is already obsolete... The entire satirical community is still reeling from his criminally premature exit from the campaign trail. It looks as though William Howard Taft will have to fill the gap!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Goodreads' The Next Best Book Club is hosting a giveaway of my upcoming novel, Taft 2012 -- plus a two-week, online Author/Reader Discussion in January! Check out TNBBC's blog for all the details.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Raised on promises

Up now at The A.V. Club: My latest fit of rambling about tradition, recession, depression, dreams, decay, and the unwritten rule of manual labor (with a little bit thrown in about Tom Petty's "American Girl"... okay, so the whole article was supposed to be about that).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Taft 2012 trailer debuts on Huffington Post

Huffington Post has just debuted the second book trailer for my upcoming novel, Taft 2012! And here it is, in all its Taft-tastic glory.

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Clarkesworld

The new issue of Clarkesworld is live! Fiction by Ben Peek and Chris Stabback. The conclusion of Catherynne M. Valente's "Silently and Very Fast." An interview with Aliette de Bodard by Jeremy L. C. Jones. Nonfiction by Blenta Blevins. And the ever-excellent podcasting of Kate Baker. Also: Farewell, departing nonfiction editor Cheryl Morgan. Thanks for setting the bar so high.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taft teaser

The first teaser for Taft 2012 has debuted! I just peed a little. Okay, a lot.