…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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
* 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!
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.)
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.
Paul La Farge’s novel The Night Ocean was published this week, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the Los Angeles Review of Books. You can read our conversation here.
The Night Ocean takes its title from a short story co-authored by H.P. Lovecraft and his teenaged fan Robert H. Barlow, whom Lovecraft visited in Florida in the summers of 1934 and ’35. In the novel, a journalist named Charlie Willett tries to get to the truth of Lovecraft and Barlow’s relationship—were they lovers?—and after several reversals of fortune ends up in a mental hospital. Then he apparently commits suicide. Then his wife, Marina, the novel’s narrator, gets emailed a photo of “a stretch of nearly black sand, and, beyond it, an indigo ocean,” that she thinks might be from Charlie. Then things get weird.
This may sound like the outline of the kind of horror story that Lovecraft himself would write, and for the first few chapters of The Night Ocean it seems like La Farge might be going that way. But as I note in the intro to our interview, this is one of those books that’s impossible to categorize, and part of the fun of reading it is never being sure what genre you’re in. Just trust me, it’s an awesome read with some great characters—and as with Lovecraft Country, you don’t need to be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy it.