Lovecraft Country: Sanctum

It seems like years ago now, but back in March I published a new novel, 88 Names, that is set largely in virtual reality (you can read more about the book here and listen to the official podcast here). My real-world book tour fell victim to the pandemic, but because of 88 Names’ subject matter, I ended up doing a number of events in VR, including a virtual book reading, an interview in Sansar, and a couple of visits to the Second Life Book Club (April 8, July 1).

Tonight, VR comes to Lovecraft Country. HBO and The Mill have created Sanctum, a series of three virtual reality events that will be hosted on VRChat. The first event, “Garden of Eden,” features afrofuturist art installations by David Alabo, Devan Shimoyama, and Adeyemi Adegbesan. Attendance in-world is invite-only, but the event will be livestreamed on YouTube, here, starting at 7 PM Pacific/10 PM Eastern.

And on a semi-related note: Lovecraft Country is once again on the New York Times trade paperback fiction bestseller list, climbing to the number 4 spot this week. I’m in good company, too, as Octavia Butler appears on the list for the first time ever—her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower debuts at number 14!

Powell’s online event with me and Christopher Moore this Thursday, 7/16, at 5 PM Pacific Time

This Thursday, July 16, at 5 PM Pacific, I’ll be appearing on a Zoom event hosted by Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. Joining me online will be my friend, the author Christopher Moore (Shakespeare for Squirrels). We’ll talk about 88 Names and whatever else comes to mind, and then take questions from the audience.

You can register for the event here.

Second Life Book Club this Wednesday, June 24 at Noon Pacific [POSTPONED]

This Wednesday, June 24, I will be the featured guest on the Second Life Book Club, chatting with host Draxtor from noon to 1 PM Pacific Time. If you want to (virtually) attend the event, you will need to sign up for a (free) Second Life account and create an avatar—click the “Join Now” button on the Book Club page to get started.

The event will also be livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and the video will be posted to YouTube afterwards.

[ETA: This event has been postponed to July 1.]

88 Names podcast: last words

Today we officially wrap up the 88 Names podcast. My co-host Blake Collier and I both have some final thoughts to share. You can read Blake’s sign-off essay here; you’ll find mine here.

I had a blast doing this. I owe a big thank you to Blake and to our heroic producer, Darryl A. Armstrong of the Threaded Zebra Agency. Many thanks also to our wonderful guests; to Tyler Huckabee; to our host site, Rise Up Daily; and last but not least to our sponsors. Stay safe, everyone!

88 Names podcast: reading and Q&A in AltspaceVR

In conjunction with the 88 Names podcast, I did a live reading from the novel in virtual reality last month, on Microsoft’s AltspaceVR platform. The video, courtesy of our floating cameraman Shahab Zargari and producer Darryl Armstrong, is now available to share. (There’s also an audio-only version, which you can find here.)

Like my other virtual events, this was a lot of fun. As I told Suzanne Lee, who did a write-up about the reading, what I especially love is the degree of spontaneity this allows for. In the real world, setting up a bookstore appearance or an author panel can take weeks of advance planning, but on Altspace or Second Life, you can throw an event together in a matter of hours and have people logging in from all over the world. And this will only get easier as the hardware and software improve.

88 Names podcast: COVID-19 follow up + Troy Heard Q&A

Most of our podcast episodes were recorded before the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. We wanted to follow up with some of our interview subjects, see how they were handling the economic shutdown, and ask if they had any predictions about how this might affect the future of VR and other immersive technologies. Brandon Oldenburg, Joanna Popper, and Noah Nelson share their thoughts here.

We also have one more written interview to share, this one with Troy Heard, Founding Artistic Director of Majestic Repertory Theatre in Las Vegas. The theater scene has been hard hit by the pandemic, and it’s especially difficult for practitioners of immersive theater like Troy. But he has some interesting ideas for adapting to the crisis, like drive-through performances. You can read the interview here.

88 Names podcast episode 8: Simón Rojas & Amir Ebrahimnia

In this bonus episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Simón Rojas and Amir Ebrahimnia, co-founders of the Toronto-based ad agency Derooted Immersive.

This was our only podcast interview to be recorded during quarantine. We discuss the impact of the pandemic on current business and speculate about how it may affect the future of VR and other technologies that allow people to connect remotely. We also talk about the risks of conducting guerrilla marketing campaigns in a nervous world. (Pro-tip: If you’re going to stage a mock pirate ship battle in a big city harbor, make sure to let the cops know about it in advance.)

88 Names podcast bonus interview: Amber Osborne

Today on the 88 Names podcast site, we have a written interview with Amber Osborne, an award-winning VR and AR marketing strategist (somebody my protagonist John Chu would get on well with, I think). She tells us how she got her start in the industry, talks about the challenges of promoting a technology that isn’t fully developed yet, and shares some thoughts about the future. You can check it out here.

88 Names podcast episode 7: Noah Nelson

On this episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Noah Nelson, the founder of No Proscenium, a website and podcast devoted to “everything immersive,” though as the name implies, there’s an emphasis on theater and other types of immersive live performance that blur the line between actors and audience.

For me, this was the most eye-opening of the podcast interviews, touching on whole categories of experience that I’d never even considered in connection with 88 Names. By the time we finished talking, I was eager to check out some immersive theater for myself, and Noah generously offered to be my guide when I came to L.A. on book tour. That plan was derailed by the coronavirus, but all is not lost: On the website, Noah writes about how the immersive theater community is trying to adapt to the pandemic, and a frequently updated post lists immersive and interactive experiences that are available online.

A programming note: This is the last “regular” episode of the 88 Names podcast. We have one more special episode that will be dropping shortly, another written interview (with VR marketing consultant Amber Osborne), and then Blake and I will be offering some final thoughts. Stay tuned!