Today is the third anniversary of the publication of 88 Names.
Thanks to COVID, March 2020 was a lousy time to be bringing out a new novel, though I was certainly luckier than other authors in the same situation. Because of the book’s futuristic theme, we’d arranged a lot of online promotion, including a podcast and an interview in virtual reality, so when my real-world book tour got eaten by the plague, I had a back-up plan and all the hardware I need to start Zooming. The Lovecraft Country TV series also helped cushion the blow—I knew my wife and I would be OK financially regardless of what happened with the new novel.
Still, I’ve always felt that 88 Names got short-changed by the bad timing. So if you’re looking for a Friday read—something lighter in tone than The Destroyer of Worlds, but still topical and thoughtful—please consider checking it out. The Big Idea essay I wrote for John Scalzi’s Whatever blog will give you a good sense of what the story is about and whether it’s for you.
Episode 3 of the Destroyer of Worlds podcast dropped this morning. I think it’s a particularly good one: we talk about the Lovecraft Country HBO series and contrast it with the novel, which gives me an opportunity to talk in-depth about storytelling choices, so if you’re at all interested in my thoughts on that, I’d recommend checking it out.
As we mention at the end of the podcast, our next and final episode will be devoted to listener questions. Please feel free to add yours in the comments below. While our main focus will be on Lovecraft Country and The Destroyer of Worlds, I’m happy to answer queries about my other books, my writing process, or pretty much anything else. My wife, Lisa, may join us for a bonus round, so if you’ve got any questions about research, feel free to add those as well.
On this episode of the podcast, Blake and I talk about Misha Green’s adaptation of Lovecraft Country, which aired on HBO in 2020. We discuss some of the key differences in the way the TV series and the novel approached the story, and I share my thoughts on one of the show’s most controversial moments. We also touch on my favorite of the series’ innovations, Kevin Lau’s “Meet Me in Daegu” episode.
In case you missed it, we dropped a new episode of The Destroyer of Worlds podcast on Tuesday.
I’ve also added a couple new events to my schedule. On April 18, I’ll be going back to Portland for my rescheduled appearance at Powell’s City of Books. And on May 4, I’ll be at Brick and Mortar Books in Redmond, WA. But my next in-person event will be just two weeks from now, on March 24 at 7:15 PM, when I read and answer questions at Pulpfiction Books in Vancouver, BC.
Last week’s reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park was great, with a big, friendly crowd. On Saturday, my wife and I headed to Bellevue for the Literary Lions Gala, where Isabel Wilkerson was the keynote speaker; I also got to say hi to Nancy Pearl, who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic.
Sunday was a busy day at Emerald City Comic Con, where I had back-to-back panels and signing sessions from 11 AM to 4 PM. This, too, was a first since the pandemic, and it was both wonderful and disorienting to be around so many people in such a big space.
While I was busy making new friends at my signing station, Lisa made the rounds, checking out the tables where the real celebrities were selling autographs and photos. I had my own brush with stardom when James Marsters finished his own signing session and walked past me on the way back to his suite.
Though I enjoyed the people, I was less impressed with the venue. Seattle’s new convention center seems poorly laid out, and there’s not enough seating in the public areas. Folks were sitting on the floor everywhere, which is fine when you’re twenty but not so fun when you’re pushing sixty. I also couldn’t help noticing that they decorated the fifth-floor ceiling with these rows of wooden spikes, which is just what you want hanging over your head in an earthquake zone.
We made it out alive, this time. Then on Tuesday I had a Zoom session with a writing class at Rutgers University. It was a nice group of students and I really enjoyed talking to them, but what I will remember most is being “Zoom bombed” for the first time in my life—I was in the middle of answering a question when the screen suddenly filled up with a video of two horses fucking. My host for the event was embarrassed, but I thought it was hilarious, not to mention efficient: back in my day when you wanted to pull that prank, you needed to get two actual horses and coax them up on stage before security stopped you. Living in the future never ceases to amaze me.
Last but not least: just this morning, Bookreporter dropped this review of The Destroyer of Worlds, calling it “[an] enthralling sequel” and “a wonder to behold.” A great note to end the week on.
On today’s episode, Blake and I talk about Universalist-minister-turned-folk-historian Hugo Prosper Leaming, the legend of the third lost colony of Roanoke, and the challenges and joys of incorporating history into fiction. We also give a shout-out to the late Professor James W. Loewen, whose book Sundown Towns was a big inspiration for Lovecraft Country.
As previously mentioned, my February 22 appearance at Powell’s City of Books had to be canceled due to snow. I’m happy to report that I will be returning to Portland, Oregon on April 18 to try again. Hopefully this time the temperature will stay above freezing!
I was on the way out the door to go to my reading at Third Place Books last night when I found the box with my complimentary author’s copies of The Destroyer of Worlds sitting on the porch:
P.S. The reading was great, with a big, enthusiastic crowd that asked lots of good questions. I also signed a lot of stock, so if you’re in the vicinity of Lake Forest Park and are looking for a copy of your own, stop by.
This morning I posted our first full episode of The Destroyer of Podcasts, in which co-host Blake Collier and I discuss The Destroyer of Worlds and related topics. You can find it here.
I’ve also been appearing on a lot of other people’s podcasts over the past couple weeks. Because I’m promoting a new book, there is a certain amount of inevitable repetition, but each of these conversations had its own flavor and they all went to different places:
For all Nerds Show— This was my third visit with the “Multicultural Maestros,” DJ BenHa Meen and Tatiana King, and as always it was a pleasure. They were early supporters of both the Lovecraft Country novel and the HBO show, so it meant a lot to hear how much they liked The Destroyer of Worlds. (I also learned that I am an agent of chaos whose appearance on the show causes weird things to happen in the larger spacetime continuum. Sorry about that.) Big thanks to For All Nerds alumnus Mellow Brown, who first got me on the show back in 2017.
The Virtual Memories Show— This was also my third time speaking with Gil Roth, whose podcast specializes in interviews about “books and life.” Be sure to check out his backlist of other author interviews, including a recent conversation with one of my personal favorites, John Crowley, whose name appears in the acknowledgments of The Destroyer of Worlds.
Talking Scared Podcast— A UK-based horror fiction podcast hosted by Neil McRobert, who lives somewhere out on the Manchester Moors and conducts remote interviews when his internet hasn’t been knocked out by the local werewolves. We go in-depth about the “white guy writing from multiple black perspectives” issue; Neil, who is incredibly polite, was worried I’d be bored by the topic, but as I never tire of explaining, one of the main joys of storytelling for me is that it lets me imagine how the world looks from other points of view. P.S., he’s got Margaret Atwood coming on the show very soon, so you’ll want to check that out as well.
Vox Vomitus— The one thing that did go right during my recent trip to Portland was this whimsical and freewheeling chat with Jennifer Anne Gordon and Allison Martine Hubbard. We went live starting at 3 PM, and you can see me tempt fate here by joking about the snow, not realizing that it’s going to stick and cause real problems in just a few hours. The subject of karaoke also comes up during the conversation, but fear not, I don’t burst into song.
It’s been an exciting first week for The Destroyer of Worlds. Last Wednesday I was in Portland, Oregon, where I was supposed to do a reading and signing at Powell’s City of Books. But shortly after my arrival, it started snowing. My notion of what constitutes a bad winter storm is based on my childhood in New York City, and also on the five years I spent living up in Portland, Maine. Even after twenty-three years in Seattle, I still sometimes forget that here in the Pacific Northwest, where low-lying cities don’t have snow plows, the rules are different.
Long story short, by sunset the city had started to shut down. I was on my way to the bookstore when I got a call saying that Powell’s was closing early and my event had been canceled. I made a mad dash, hoping to at least get there in time to sign stock, but by the time I reached the store the staff had already locked up and left. This was followed by a mildly epic crosstown trek to find a takeout joint that was still open. After being turned away by two pizza parlors, I was blessed to discover Ramen Ryoma, who loaded me up with soup, noodles, gyoza, and spring rolls.
On Thursday, the morning train that was supposed to take me back to Seattle was canceled. My publicist and I spent a couple frantic hours trying to arrange alternate transportation. When Amtrak reinstated the noon train (which had also been canceled), I managed to snag one of two open seats. I checked out of my hotel around ten-thirty, started walking to the train station, and was almost there when I took a spill crossing a last icy street. Other than a bruised knee and some scraped knuckles, I was fine, but one of the conductors from my train was less lucky—he slipped on wet marble floor inside the station, went down a lot harder than I had, and ended up being taken out on a stretcher.
The storm wasn’t quite done with me. On the way out of the station, just after I’d texted my publicist that I was underway and all was well, the train stopped for five minutes while the crew dealt with a frozen track switch. But once we’d cleared that, we were fine—thirty miles north of the city, there wasn’t even any snow on the ground. I made it back to Seattle a little late, but still in plenty of time to make my event at Elliott Bay Book Company (which was great).
Friday I sat around the house in an exhausted daze and did nothing of consequence.
On Saturday I spent three hours at the Barnes & Noble in Tukwila, WA, signing books and chatting with folks (also great). And that, plus a podcast recording session last night, was week one.