This Just In...News
From The Agony Column
03-07-08: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Toby Barlow's 'Sharp Teeth'
Podcast News Report : Toby Barlow's 'Sharp Teeth' Book Review :
Barlow at KQED.
is an audio version of yesterday's book review of Toby Barlow's 'Sharp
Teeth' – well, sort of. I'm deviating quite a bit, including
sound clips from the author and his editor over at Harper Collins,
Jennifer Barth, from what I wrote to give a better flavor of the book
itself, and just to keep things up in the air a bit. Here's
a link to the MP3 of the audio book review. I suppose I can't claim
to be surprised that it's a deviant review.
03-06-08: A Review of 'Sharp Teeth' by Toby Barlow ; Agony Column
Podcast News Report : A Conversation with Seana Graham
a book about electronics.
I just finished
writing my review
of 'Sharp Teeth' and I'm still not sure if I've managed to capture
just how cool this book is, so let me just go plain speaking and say, "You
should read this book, you'll love it – not just like, love it." The
free verse aspect proves to be a strength, and after a page or so stops
seeming unusual. And let me mention here that I first heard about this
book from none other than Charlie Huston – buy
some of hius books when you buy this one. It makes the book a lot easier
to read, because Barlow taps into a breezy vibe that lets him tell
a complicated story easily and briefly. Damn, if I just gave that last
bit line breaks, I'd be tapping into a Barlow vibe. Here's
a link to my long-form review.
Podcast News Report : A Conversation with Seana Graham : Report
from the Writing Life
is my conversation with Seana Graham, who had a story
in 'The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet'. She's just come
back from The Association for Writers
and Writing Programs Conference in New York, and you
can hear our conversation about how she fared in this excursion from
this link to the MP3. There seem to be literally hundreds of these
affairs going on across the nation – are they worth your valuable
time and money? This is your chance to hear from an attendee who has
been published in one of the most prestigious New Weird journals you
can hope to find. She found that fantasy was getting a surprisingly
03-05-08: Christopher Conlon Marks 'Midnight on Mourn Street' ; Agony Column
Podcast News Report : Paolo Bacigalupi Reads 'The People of Sand and
Slag' at SF in SF
similar to another effective Miller cover for a Lucius
Conlon is a busy guy, and even though you (like me) might
think you havent heard of him before, you indeed have. He's
a poet, with three books of verse, including 'The Weeping Time,' 'Gilbert
and Garbo in Love' and 'Mary Falls: Requiem for Mrs. Surratt' – but
wait, there's more. He has two collections of short stories, 'Thundershowers
at Dusk: Gothic Stories' and 'Saying Secrets: American Stories.' (Note
that last title.)
But you've all heard him mentioned here, in the Agony Column Podcast, by
John Shirley, as the editor of 'Poe's Lighthouse', an anthology with many
versions of the same story, a fragment from Poe finished by Shirley and others.
So when the prestigious Earthling Publications releases 'Midnight on Mourn
Street' (Earthling Publications ; June 15, 2008 ; $16), you might suspect
it would be worth your valuable time. What you might not expect is that the
publisher would dispense a blurb from the creator of The Waltons to promote
There's a reason for that blurb, the same reason that you'll find a note
from William F. Nolan. Conlon has, a bit of a history with television writers,
having done two books on / with Jerry Sohl, who wrote some iconic episodes
for The Twilight Zone, a single mention of which can disperse the doubts
of the most incorrigible crank. (Me.) Having dispersed said doubts, one can
move on to the text itself, which offer readers two unpleasant characters
watched over by a third. Reed Waters is the middle-aged man, Mauri Dyson,
the teenaged runaway. Nobody's come clean as the book begins and few will
feel clean as it unspools. Conlon has a way of getting to the grit that makes
us actually empathize with his characters, even those who in other writers'
hands might turn out to be south of Deplorable, headed for the Despicable
I'll warn readers that there are scenes in here that might be on the disturbing
side, knowing full well that more than few will find that a plus, not a minus.
Conlon resists the temptation to make his first novel about, well, everything,
and keeps the focus tight and sordid. I'd recommend a judicious reading rate
to ensure that you dont just gobble this one up in one gulp; at 219
pages, there might be real temptation to do so. But 'Midnight on Mourn Street'
offers readers the kind of novel that lives in memory long after you finish
it; scenes will stay and play again and again on the movie screen of your
mind. So take it slow. Let the secrets herein reveal themselves in the fullness
of time. One time. Midnight.
Podcast News Report : Paolo Bacigalupi Reads 'The People of Sand
and Slag' at SF in SF : Table-Turning the Upside-Down Classics
Shade Books HC, very nice.
So here's the final
act from the last SF in SF; Paolo Bacigalupi reading
'The People of Sand and Slag,' in
a convenient MP3 file that should just about do for any single commute.
I trust that all readers will hear the echo of a very famous SF story
from my youth, a story that turned the genre in a direction it had
never faced. In fact, it ended up being made into a film, and one can
see that fate for this story as well, directed by an actor famous for
playing villains in Peckinpah masterpieces – oh so appropriate
and coincidentally, also appearing in SF this weekend. But dont
worry readers, I'll stay home, writing about the books you'll read
(or want to be reading) next week. As often as I try to make myself
go to the movies, I just fail again and again; weighed against reading
a book, the movies always come in second place.
03-04-08: Alan Campbell Wishes for an 'Iron Angel' ; Agony Column Podcast
News Report : A Brief Conversation With Paolo Bacigalupi At SF in SF
impressive (and uncredited in the ARC) US ed cover.
What more could
you ask for than a book where you might find a scene in which a character's
emotions change the surroundings? That's just one snippet from 'Iron
Angel' (Tor UK / Pan Macmillan ; May 2, 2008 ; £17.99 ; Bantam
Spectra / Bantam / Random House ; May 6, 2008 ; $25) by Alan
Campbell, the sequel to 'Scar Night' and 'Lye Street'. Campbell
is one of those guys who bursts out of nowhere with some seemingly
towering edifice of prose already complete in his mind. The world of
Deepgate is vivid, complicated and filled with the sort of details
I love best as a reader; grotesque monsters, distorted human and animal
forms bent by forces that suggest the twisting states of mind one is
able to achieve just trying to live in the real world. Deepgate offers
us angels and devils, hunters and prey, the pitiable and the enviable,
everything we love and hate within our own self-image.
All this and a ripping
yarn that follows on directly from the aftermath of 'Scar Night', which
I'm loathe to divulge here. Suffice it to say that things have gone
from bad – assuming you consider a city suspended over the pits
of Hell bad – to worse. But whats stayed the same is Campbell's
intensity of vision, his willingness to use every damn tool in the
speculative fiction writer's toolkit and his ingenuity in making all
of this hang together. Having just chatted with the VanderMeers about
'The New Weird' again, I wish I had seen this novel before the conversation,
because to my mind, this is the best evidence there is that The New
Weird is more than a marketing category. Here's a novel that sports
all the influences of the New Weird, with a bottom line of steam, scum,
monsters and characters you care about.
UK cover as well. Different vibe.
The last bit there is the main key in this very complicated equation of a
novel. It's not hard to summon the slime and grime, but it is incredibly
difficult to make us like the bearer of this and even more bad news. The
angel and the assassin – and Dill and Rachel Hael, respectively – whose
journeys we follow in 'Iron Angel' offer the right combination of tenderness
and terror, not a bad feat since one of them isnt even human. And
Campbell's milieu is so vividly realized that their all-too-human reactions
can register off the scale for us while seeming matter-of-fact to them. There's
a duality aspect of the New Weird that allows us to see our own world in
the perfervid light of Deepgate.
This presumes that you dont feel that the world you live in is suspended
over the pits of Hell and being run by powerful psychopaths. And that Hell
is not shy about flinging ghosts into our world to haunt us. Of course if
you do feel that way, join the crowd; and maybe read this book, for a glimpse
of what's going on behind the scenes.
Podcast News Report : A Brief Conversation With Paolo Bacigalupi
At SF in SF : "A Bit Like A Homecoming"
Yes, I'll confess,
this is an entirely all-too-brief conversation with Paolo
Bacigalupi at SF in SF on February 23, 2008, and the reason is
quite simple; he and his publisher Jeremy Lassen had driven down to
Santa Cruz earlier that day, where we did a straight-up interview over
at KUSP. I'll get that out as soon as
possible, but in the interim this little bit of off-the-cuff should
intrigue you enough to get you looking at Bacigalupi's excellent collection,
'Pump Six' (Night Shade Books ; February 1, 2008 ; $24.95). Here's
a link to the MP3 of our conversation, and for your convenience, Night
Shade Books, because, of course you'll want to buy it and of course,
you'll want to do so direct from the publisher.
03-03-08: SF in
SF Panel Discussion from February 23, 2008
is for real"
Maybe I'm just getting used to this, but to my mind the SF
in SF shows
and panels are getting better and better. That's good, because as I
noted last week, getting to the February 23 show was remarkably difficult.
My wife and I had planned on meeting up with friends for dinner near
the theater before the show, but all the problems attendant with the
parade, the rain, the parking forced us to scuttle that plan. We'd
actually refrained earlier, so we found ourselves on the verge of passing
out and starvation on our way home at 10:30 PM. But on the plus side,
we did get some great audio. I've got a new portable mic mixer, the
mixer, I am told used by POTUS for those abominable press conferences.
I also picked up some extra mics, so I can get a consistent sound and
I hope it shows. Now all I have to do is to figure out a way to mic
the audience effectively, and I think this involves mainly remembering
to bring my boom mic. That
said, here's the MP3 of the Panel discussion with Terry Bisson, Carter
Scholz and Paolo Bacigalupi.
In the next couple of days, I'll finish off the podcast from this
delightful event, gathering new audio while I do so. I've just checked,
and last Friday's
podcast completed six straight months of podcasting five days a week, with
all new material each and every day, including holidays, even the big ones.
Of course, it's in part due to the support of listeners like you – so
email the powers that be at NPR.org and request a book show from them hosted
by Yours Truly. OK, craven beg break over, now let's get back to the great
reading and audio.