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This Just In...News From The Agony Column


06-27-08: Updated With Link please email the story! NPR First Book Report: Paolo Bacigalupi, Michelle Nijhuis, Jeremy Lassen and 'Pump Six' ; Agony Column Podcast News Report : Carol Emshwiller Interviewed at SF in SF

Echoes of Eco-Fiction

NPR is slated to run my report on Paolo Bacigalupi and the road to his First Book, 'Pump Six', on Weekend Edition Sunday this Sunday, June 29. Bacigalupi's ecologically-themed fiction is becoming more pertinent and prescient every day, though one hopes that in reality we'll be able to steer clear of the some of his projections based on the work of Nijhuis. Please go to this website and use the Email this Story link. As ever, my editor made great contributions to this piece. And it would not have been possible without Bacigalupi, Nijhuis and Lassen, who made the book happen and gave great interviews. The book is as ever, the bottom line. Buy it, read and make sure nothing it describes comes to pass. One hopes that like '1984', the future will regard this as a wonderful work of preventive prognostication. Wait, we're sort of living in '1984', aren't we? Well, 'Pump Six' offers us another chance to change the present and thus the future. It's not too late. I'd like to see the science fiction genre become associated more with utopias than dystopias.

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Carol Emshwiller Interviewed at SF in SF : "That stuff doesn't interest me"

From Wikipedia.

Today's podcast is the second from last Saturday's SF in SF – a conversation with Carol Emshwiller, whose latest novel is 'The Secret City' from Tachyon Publications. She's been writing since 1955, and her latest story – which you'll hear podcast next week – is simply astonishing. It's funny, pertinent, insightful and inventive. But first a look into the talent that created 'The Mount' and 'The Secret City'; just follow this link to the MP3 of my conversation with Carol Emshwiller.


06-26-08: Ramsey Campbell Laughs with 'The Grin of the Dark' : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Pat Murphy at SF in SF

"It's Imminent"

The evil face of Photoshopped stock images.

Immanent ... imminent ... both seem equally applicable to the dark forces that haunt just about any Ramsey Campbell novel. Campbell has a way of peeling back reality, peering into the black void behind and making the reader stare helplessly as the gibbering things loom upward out of the darkest parts of our own minds. True, he's something of an acquired taste, a unique talent who writes in an inimitable style that no other writer could ever hope to employ. His prose is peerless and he can write an utterly unsettling sentence that seems to scrape and creep and crawl into your brain. His characters spend most of their time doing prosaic chores that somehow seem to be happening in swirling hell that only the reader can see. It's life in those "naked lunch" moments that William Burroughs wrote about, with the pettiness stripped away so the writhing chaos underneath can rise and overwhelm you in a moment of Sartrean nausea.

'The Grin of the Dark' (Tom Doherty Associates / Tor Books ; July 8, 2008 ; $25.95) first came out last year under the auspices of Peter Crowther's iconic PS Publishing, but now it's available stateside in a more accessible and affordable American edition – made more so, I suppose by the totally Photoshop stock-image catalogue cover. What, how much could it cost to have JK Potter do not just the cover, but a bevy of interior images as well? Small press publisher Arkham House did this all the time and made a few bucks (I hope!). Well, with Campbell, you can more than make do with just the prose, especially when he breaks out of the third person, as he does here, to tell the tale from the first person perspective of Simon Lester, a film critic forced to work as a gas-station attendant when his magazine tanks. (Trust me, there is more money in gas-station-attending than in any sort of criticism.) Lester gets his chance for redemption when he is offered money he can't refuse to write a book on silent film stars, including the notorious comedian Tubby Thackery. Cue the grinning clown faces as reality starts to crumble around the shattered remains of his tiny mind.

Campbell's been down this road before with his wonderful novel 'Ancient Images', but this time we're looking at videocassettes and the Internet as we all realize that reality is instead catching up with Campbell. With a first-person narrator, we can enjoy a wonderful perspective on the mind of a man who is encountering something far more sinister than a dead girl in a well. Remember, this is the Campbell who has done an entire collection ('Cold Print') of superb Lovecraftian stories. (Need I remind you that Scream / Press did the JK Potter illo'd edition that is must-buy material. Damn, I'm going to have to dig that up again!) Campbell loves to explore that place where the mind breaks open only to allow something else to come through. His stories are not tales of chases and captures, or big-screen mayhem. He slices away the reading portion of your brain one word at a time. It's like having your stomach slitted by a razor blade. There's a grinning red smile in your midsection and you dont notice that it's dripping till you feel the cold chill creep up your spine. Your mind's been injured and your body will follow.

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Pat Murphy at SF in SF : "It really trains you to see amazing things in the everyday world"

Now this is actual cover art!

SF in SF last Saturday was another example of why you want to get yourself out on a Saturday night and see writers reading, which, when I put it that way, sounds rather odd. I suppose they'd not like to have us watch them writing! Unless theyre sitting in the window of Change of Hobbit. The first recording from this event is my interview with Pat Murphy, author of 'The City, Not Long After'. Her new book is 'Wild Girls'; it's about two girls who become friends writing together with the only SFnal content being an SF-writing father – and that sounds just a treat enough. When SF writers create SF writer characters, they can have a field day and yet hit all the grace notes. As you'll hear in this gracious MP3 interview, Murphy can clearly hit the grace notes. Every time.


06-25-08: Alan Cheuse Looks 'To Catch the Lightning' ; Agony Column Podcast News Report : Geekspeak Interview and SF Discussion with Kathleen Ann Goonan


The ARC of the new Alan Cheuse novel.

Four pages in to the new Alan Cheuse novel and you'll know you're reading a Great American Novel. The Real Deal, not some publisher's-hyped product of the season. You know who Alan Cheuse is. If not, run a little search on the NPR Website and listen to his work. But not too much; it might distract you from reading. You'll hear him again, on the radio, while you drive or clip the roses. But this book; 'To Catch the Lightning' (Sourcebooks ; October 21, 2008 ; $25.95) is where you should plan spending your lingering fall afternoons, watching the leaves turn. You would be well advised to think that nothing could compete with those leaves, the gentle breeze, the infinite colors of the light and the landscape. And you'd be equally well advised to understand that this book is the song that compares, that soars. I can't say whether or not this is the book that Cheuse has been waiting to write all his life, though the subject is clearly the object of a writer's passion. I can only say that this book will sweep you away as thoroughly as any you are likely to encounter on your journey from this day to the next.

'To Catch the Lightning' begins as William Myers seeks a photographer for himself and his wife-to-be and happens upon the office of EDWARD CURTIS PHOTOGRAPHER. That session does not come off, but Myers, who notes that the photographic portrait is, "one of the great inventions of the new world," does mention to Curtis that he "prefers words." And thus begins a single portrait of a remarkable man (and a nation) in a series of very remarkable words, an astonishing novel with the kind of breadth and scope that envelop readers in worlds not their own. Edward Curtis is the man who single-handedly made it his goal to document every Indian tribe of the West in turn-of-the-twentieth-century America. Alan Cheuse makes it his goal to provide a portrait of Curtis, as well as those he photographed. Pictures within pictures. within words, circles and parallels.

'To Catch the Lightning' is an ambitious novel, with deliberate echoes of literary portraits that haunt us still. Cheuse has the literary music and muscle to pull all this off with an historical novel that is as compelling as the Curtis' portraits – some of which are to be included in the finished version. This is a broad novel, with a huge scope that is simultaneously an intimate portrait of a man driven by art to trek through the still-wild parts of our country to create portraits of a way of life that was quickly disappearing. This is a snapshot of another world that captures a man who himself took snapshots of another world.

Cheuse is gorgeous prose writer, and it's going to be very difficult to pick up this book without falling into his carefully woven world. But there's not so much poetry as to get in the way of Curtis' complicated story, and the high-profile company he kept. Cheuse knows when to sing and he knows when to speak. He knows when to get close to his subject and when the actions will speak louder than words. Great American Novel is arguably the toughest genre for any writer to work in. It's not really something you can do deliberately, other than by choosing an American subject. Once you've done that, you just have to write and evaluate the results after the fact – after the fiction is completed. It's not even really something you can hope for as a writer. But when a novel is within the boundaries, it's quite startlingly clear, and 'To Catch the Lightning' manages to do just that, to capture, in words, the electricity of great art while being itself great art.

Agony Colmn Podcast News Report : Geekspeak Interview and SF Discussion with Kathleen Ann Goonan : In All Times

New book and author Kathleen Goonan.
Today's podcast is a recording of my visit to Geekspeak this Saturday morning, where I chatted with Sean Cleveland and Lyle Troxell about science fiction books and we all talked with Kathleen Ann Goonan about her novel, 'In War Times'. I reviewed this book when it came out last year, and hoping to interview the author, I prepped the book with a packet of sticky notes while I was on the first ocean cruise I'd ever experienced. They came in handy when I joined Sean and Lyle on Geekspeak; heres a link to my MP3, the Geekspeak Website (where you can get their MP3 of the same interview (redundant backup!). Oh how I love redundant backup! You might well think it's serious overkill, but I have a three-terabyte storage system with automatic redundant mirroring. And I'll mention that my backup software, SuperDuper, was located at a suggestion from Lyle Troxell. Is that redundant?


06-24-08: Salman Rushdie Interview at Rio Theater, Part 2

Enchanting Q&A

Today's podcast completes the interview I did with Salman Rushdie at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, California, on June 17, 2008, sponsored by the Capitola Book Café. Hey, does that sound corporate enough to generate some income? Ah hell, to quote Mr. 72 from Chuck Palahniuk's 'Snuff', "I dont know." Fortunately for readers, at this point, that's not so much of an issue. Please not that I should have video of both this gig and the Palahniuk presentation for the podcast as soon as I can take a breath.

The second half of this interview covers (I believe) Rushdie's admitted effort to rehabilitate Machiavelli, because as he put it, "Machiavelli wasn't Machiavellian." I couldnt agree more. You'll also hear his informative answers to some good questions form the audience, or your questions if you were in that audience. Whatever the offering, Rushdie had an enjoyable answer ready to serve. In case readers are wondering what the default setting is for splitting an interview, my inclination is to do so if the interview goes beyond an hour. If listeners want the whole shebang uninterrupted, just email me to let me know. While you ponder the power of your attention span, here's a link to the MP3 of the second part of the Salman Rushdie interview.


06-23-08: Salman Rushdie Interview at Rio Theater, Part 1

Advertising Days

Salman Rushdie via RH pub.
Today's podcast is the first of two parts of my live conversation with Salman Rushdie at the Rio Theater on June 17, 2008. Presented by Capitola Book Café, Salman Rushdie proved to be a rather different figure than, I think, many expected. As he put it in another interview, "Who expected you'd be funny?" But Rushdie was very funny, and his tales of working in the advertising biz while he was writing his first novel and working on his Booker-prize winning 'Midnight's Children' are both amazing and hilarious. Well, amazing, in that Rushdie was the one who came up the "Nice'n'easy" slogan for Clairol. Here's a link to the first of two parts of my conversation with Salman Rushdie. Take it nice – and easy.


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