books and authors

Books and more books

Last week I attended the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s fall trade show in Portland, Oregon. I was a guest at the Tuesday morning author breakfast and got to pitch 88 Names to a ballroom full of friendly indie booksellers. I also scored complimentary copies of the other guest authors’ books—the new Joy of Cooking, revised by Ethan Becker (grandson of the original author) and Megan Scott; Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel, about a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, with ghosts; and Ruta Sepetys’ The Fountains of Silence, a historical novel about Spain under Franco.

Before heading home I made the obligatory pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books, signed some stock, and picked up a few more presents:

That’s How to Disappear, by former skip tracers Frank M. Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan; The H.P. Lovecraft Book of Puzzles by Dr. Gareth Moore; and Julio Cortázar’s Literature Class, a collection of lectures on writing Cortázar gave a Berkeley in 1980.

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With author Jo Lendle at Elliott Bay tonight (5/14)

Tonight at 7 PM I’ll be onstage at Elliott Bay Book Company, talking to German author Jo Lendle about his novel All the Land, which has just been translated into English. The book is a fictionalized account of the life of polar researcher Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), who originated the modern theory of continental drift. If you’re in the Seattle area you should definitely come by and see us, but even if you’re not, you should pick up a copy of the book, which is great:

He looked through the sheets one by one, then crumpled each piece and tossed them over to the cold fireplace. He missed it every single time. The white paper balls bounced off the surrounds and rolled briefly across the kitchen floor before coming to rest. He kept the four best drafts. The tool chest contained a few nails and a hammer, and Wegener used them to affix the pictures to the wall above the fireplace, next to the cast iron pokers.

They showed the prehistoric face of the Earth. Wegener had spent the day cutting continents out of stiff card and transferring the most important characteristics to them: directions of the glaciers’ motions, occurrence of rare species of flora and fauna. Then he had pushed the pieces to and fro on the tabletop like glasses at one of the seances all the world was talking about. What ghosts was he trying to summon? When the pieces refused to fit he had cut, torn and folded them until everything finally tessellated: abrasions, habitats, coasts. Then he had constantly retraced the continents’ paths, how they split, divided, separated off and drifted into their present positions. He had repeated the movement until his hands knew them by rote, forwards and backwards, in a single moment overcoming distances for which the continents had taken millennia.

Then he had traced the various phases onto new sheets and finally coloured the surfaces of the continents as far as the pencil stumps had allowed. He had chosen a pink pencil for the ur-continent, because it was closest at hand. While the ur-continent was a single mass in the first picture, in the consecutive sketches it separated ever further, each surface drifting gradually away towards its present position.

Only now that the series of pictures was on the wall did it occur to him that their course looked like a flower slowly opening its pink blossom. Or a plate breaking very gradually. No, thinking about it, it was an embryo, lying curled in the first picture and then growing continually, the little head rising, the foetus stretching out arms and legs and taking ever greater shape. As long as one did not get confused by the head and limbs gradually separating off from the rump. Wegener picked up the last piece of pink and wrote beneath the first picture: All the Land.

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Seen on the internets

…so that’s one great thing the new year has going for it.

Also, a reminder for my fans and friends in the Bay Area: Tomorrow, Sunday, January 14, I’ll be appearing on stage at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin St.) with Victor LaValle and Nnedi Okorafor, as part of the 2018 Black Comix Arts Festival. Doors open at 1 PM and the event starts at 2; we’ll be hanging out and signing books afterwards.

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At the Black Comix Arts Festival on Jan. 14

First programming note of the new year: I will be a guest at the 2018 Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco. On Sunday, January 14th I’ll be appearing on stage with Victor LaValle and Nnedi Okorafor at the San Francisco Public Library at 100 Larkin St.

Admission to the event is free. Doors open at 1 PM; the discussion is scheduled to run from 2 to 3 PM, after which we’ll hang out and sign books for another hour. Come by if you’re in town!

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Lovecraft Country is a Washington State Book Award finalist

This past week the Washington Center of the Book released its list of finalists for the 2017 Washington State Book Awards. Lovecraft Country is nominated in the novel category, and it’s in good company: the other finalists include The Solace of Monsters, by Laurie Blauner; Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang; Barkskins, by Annie Proulx; and Daredevils, by Shawn Vestal.

The full list of finalists in all categories can be found here. The winners will be announced on Saturday, October 14, at 7 P.M. at a ceremony at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library; the awards ceremony will be followed by a reception and book signing. I hope to see you there!

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Virtual Memories

This week I am a guest of Gil Roth on the Virtual Memories Show podcast. Gil’s been trying to get me on the show for a long while now—we live on opposite coasts, and he only does in-person interviews—so I really wanted to bring my A-game. And because I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts lately, I was a bit worried about repeating myself. Gil told me not to fret: He prides himself on asking unusual questions and getting his subjects away from their standard riffs. So while we do spend some time talking about Lovecraft Country, the conversation is wide-ranging:

Had I known there would be subject tags, I’d have tried to work in a reference to ferrets. But there’s always next time.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download it from iTunes here. Thanks, Gil!

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

As longtime blog readers know, in 2011 I was invited to serve on the selection panel for that year’s NEA Fellowships. It was a great experience that introduced me to the work of Porochista Khakpour, Tayari Jones, and lots of other great writers.

In 2013 I was again invited to participate in the process, as one of a group of “expert readers” assigned to screen the manuscripts that the final selection panel would have to consider. One of the submissions that most impressed me that year was a work of creative non-fiction about a convicted pedophile and child murderer named Ricky Langley, written by a woman who had interned at the law firm that defended him. The manuscript combined a story of Langley’s crimes with a personal memoir about how the author and her sisters had been molested by their own grandfather.

It was powerful stuff. What I liked about it, beyond the strength of the writing, was the combination of psychological insight and moral clarity. Given her own history, it would have been easy for the author to paint Langley as a one-dimensional monster. She didn’t do that: She really wanted to understand him. But her attempt to humanize Langley didn’t extend to excusing or minimizing what he’d done. He was more than a monster, but he was still a monster.

The NEA uses a blind judging process, and one of the pitfalls of being a selector is that if you like a submission that doesn’t win a Fellowship, you may never learn who the author is, much less get to read their finished work; I’m still tantalized by a number of pieces whose anonymous creators didn’t make the cut. But in this case I got lucky: when the 2014 Fellows were announced, one of the names on the list was Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, a one-time intern at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center.

Marzano-Lesnevich’s book, The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir, was published in May. After spotting this review in the New York Times, I bought a copy and burned through it in two long reading sessions. It’s fantastic—every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be, based on the excerpt I’d already read. I know some readers may be leary of the subject matter, but Marzano-Lesnevich writes with great sensitivity, so if you are at all interested, I’d highly recommend checking it out. It’s an amazing book.

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The Lovecraft Country paperback is back in stock

The surprise sales spike following the announcement of the Lovecraft Country HBO series led to a brief paperback shortage, but a reprint has now made its way into the distribution channel, so the novel should once again be available from your local indie bookstore or your favorite online retailer.

Also:

* A new event has been added to my Locus Awards Weekend schedule. From 11:00 to 11:45 AM on Saturday, June 24, I’ll be joining Nisi Shawl, Seanan McGuire, and moderator Daryl Gregory for a panel discussion titled “How Much Is That Trope in the Window? Repurposing Genre Elements to Tell New Stories.” Following the panel, from noon to 12:30, I’ll be signing books at the official autograph session. Then it’s on to the Locus Awards ceremony, where Lovecraft Country is a finalist in the best horror novel category. Hope to see you there!

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Victor LaValle on the Juggernaut podcast

This week’s guest on The Juggernaut podcast is Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom. As a fan of both the podcast and Victor’s work, I’m happy to see these crazy kids get together. (You can listen to my own Juggernaut appearance here.)

Also, a reminder that tonight I will be reading and signing books at Queen Anne Book Company, starting at 7 PM.

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Reading at Elliott Bay Book Company tomorrow night (3/21)

This Tuesday, March 21, at 7PM, I’ll be appearing at Elliott Bay Book Company with Nisi Shawl. Nisi is the author of Filter House, Writing the Other, and most recently, Everfair, a fantastical alternate history in which the native Congolese and their allies use radium-powered blimps to turn the tables on the forces of King Leopold of Belgium. Basically, Everfair does for steampunk what Lovecraft Country tries to do for cosmic horror—and it’s great.

Nisi and I will be reading short passages from our novels, talking about the ideas behind the stories, taking questions, and signing books. If you’re in the Seattle area I hope you’ll join us.

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