“For years, my basic rejection letter would use ‘alas,’ and the SF community picked up on that and started calling them ‘alas-o-grams.'”
Editor/publisher Gordon Van Gelder joins the show to talk about his career in the science fiction and fantasy fields. We get into publishing F&SF Magazine, coping with burnout, balancing the demands of art and business, exploring the differences between editing for magazines vs. anthologies, trying to avoid disruption, handling diversity issues without implementing a quota, figuring out the dystopian theme of his current run of anthologies, dealing with the cultural, um, norms of stories of past decades, avoiding the perils of chasing “name” authors and rejecting a story by Ray Bradbury, making the shift from print to online, watching new writers develop a strong voice, working with the necessary egotism of writers, explaining how the internet has wrecked SF/F criticism, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his new anthology, Go Forth And Multiply: Twelve Tales of Repopulation (Ramble House)!
“The best stories transcend race and gender. . . . On the page, everyone is black and white.”
Gordon Van Gelder published his first story in 100 Great Fantasy Short, Short Stories in 1984 but the majority of his career has been spent as an editor. After a brief internship at Bluejay Books in 1986, he began working at St. Martin’s Press in July 1988. He worked there for 12 years, during which time he worked with such authors as J. G. Ballard, Jack Cady, Bradley Denton, George Pelecanos, and Kate Wilhelm. In 1997, he succeeded Kristine Kathryn Rusch as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He spent 18 years as the magazine’s editor before handing the reins to C. C. Finlay at the start of 2015. He lives in New Jersey with his family and continues to publish F&SF.
“Every one of my novels has had at least a portion where I’ve thought, ‘if I do this badly, it’s going to be terribly embarrassing and I’m going to have to hang my head in shame forever, but if I pull it off, it’ll probably be pretty cool!'”
Novelist Matt Ruff joins the show to talk about how his fantastic novel Lovecraft Country began as a TV pitch 10 years ago, and is now on its way to becoming an HBO series. We get into cultural appropriation issues (Matt’s white and LC‘s about a black family dealing with racism and the supernatural in 1950s Chicago), the pros and cons of genre-hopping, the differences between mid-century racism in the North and the South, growing up over the course of his first three novels and learning to be happy with his voice, becoming friends with one of his favorite authors (past and future pod-guest John Crowley), his ambivalence toward HP Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick and his affinity for their imitators, why he loved the descriptions of late Heinlein novels but was disappointed by the books themselves (when he was 12!), bucking his family’s religious traditions, missing his opportunity to babysit Thomas Pynchon’s kid, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Lovecraft Country!
“I intended for Lovecraft Country to be a TV series, so I thought, ‘What if I do the literary equivalent of a season that you binge-watch?’ That’s why the novel is structured very much like an 8-episode TV season.”
“I have a folder of work that I can never print, but you just have to get them out.”
Legendary cartoonist MK Brown joins the show to talk about her lifetime in comics and art, her years with B. Kliban and how they worked out opposite work/sleep schedules, the ups and downs of The National Lampoon, the balancing act of motherhood and art, her trepidation at organizing a multi-decade collection of her work (and her idiosyncratic chapter headings for the book), her love of westerns, her favorite political comic, her secret stash of unprintable comics and gags, working in animation, the future of Aunt Mary’s Kitchen, and why she goes by “MK”. Give it a listen! And buy MK’s collection, Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013 (Fantagraphics)!
“If you look through a microscope, you can get lost.”
The American Bystander . . . does not just belong to the tradition of defunct magazines like The National Lampoon and Spy. Its nostalgic, lightly witty style evokes influences that have been dead even longer, like the raconteur Jean Shepherd and the sophisticated stylist Robert Benchley. In an era when so much comedy is boisterous and engaged with the world, The American Bystander’s humor is understated and escapist, steering clear of topicality and political jokes.
— so, yeah, I’m awfully glad to have them as a sponsor of The Virtual Memories Show!
M.K.Brown is an artist whose work has appeared in most national magazines and collections since the 70’s, and in many forms such as cartoons, animation and illustration. MK grew up in Darien, CT and New Brunswick, Canada, and attended art schools in New Canaan, CT, GTO, Mexico, and San Francisco, CA. After selling cartoons to small publications like The Realist, her work was published in Playboy Magazine, then in National Lampoon, where her cartoons were featured for several decades.
Aside from Playboy and National Lampoon, Brown’s cartoons and illustrations were published in Mother Jones Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Women’s Sports, Arcade Comics, The New Yorker and many other magazines both mainstream and underground. She collaborated with Brian McConnachie, Bill Murray, Peter Elbling and Brian Doyle Murray to write TV’s first scripted comedy hour for NBC, and later created an animated series for the first season of the Tracy Ullman Show. She also wrote and illustrated several children’s books which were featured on Reading Rainbow, and received a Junior Literary Guild award.
Recently, she’s been at work on cartoons for the third issue of The American Bystander. Another project was a short animation called “Aliens,” about distracted driving, for Ford Motor Co. produced by J.J.Sedelmaier. It tied for 1st place with Bill Plympton in the public service category at the ASIFA/SF Summer Screening. Her next project is to finish a new website with the help of Stan Jarin in Australia.
“I’m not looking for artists to actually be able to draw everything perfectly and accurately, but I want them to understand how the body works enough so that within the context of their own style they can create a set of rules that will work for them.”
If I was still doling out titles for each episode, I’d call this one The Anatomy Lesson. Kriota Willberg joins the show to talk about her work teaching anatomy, pathology, drawing, and massage, and her focus on keeping cartoonists from suffering work-related injuries (or art-related injuries, I suppose) through her minicomics and exercise programs. The conversation veers into the challenges of delivering pathology gags, making needlepoint of medical images, becoming a dancer and becoming an ex-dancer, learning not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, growing up nerd in central Washington, and why it’s not good to tell jokes when you’re in the middle of surgery (okay, that last bit is one of my anecdotes). Give it a listen!
“People don’t realize they need to pay attention to their bodies when they’re drawing, until they have an injury.”
Also, if you want to find out who Kriota’s reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of February, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who Kriota’s reading lately and why.
Through graphic narratives, writing, performance, and needlework, Kriota Willberg focuses on the intersection between body sciences and creative practice. In addition to body/science narratives, she makes self-care comics for artists ((NO) PAIN!, and First Aid for Drawing Injuries) and a minicomic series of little educational value, called Pathology Laffs. One of her blogs, thecinematologist.blogspot.com examines medical themes through the lens of Hollywood films. Willberg keeps her past as a dancer/choreographer alive by teaching anatomy in the dance department at Marymount Manhattan College. She is also a massage therapist working in the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her projects and opinions do not reflect the views of MSKCC. Kriota is working on a project called Pathographics, a soon-to-be-posting blog exploring the body, medicine, and history, through comics, and other visual narratives. This project is a collaboration between Cathy Leamy, Andrea Tsurumi, and Kriota.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Willberg’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Willberg by me.
“I started writing stories as soon as I knew what stories were. I taught myself to type when I was 8 years old, because I couldn’t type fast enough.”
Novelist and immersive theater director Kathe Koja joins the show to talk about her new novel, The Bastards’ Paradise, the arc of her career from splatterpunk (hey, it was the ’90s) to YA to the 19th C. romance of her Poppy trilogy, the meaning of Detroit, her life-changing experience at a staging of Sleep No More, the joys (and perils) of defying genre conventions, the epiphany of brutally murdering Tweddle-Dee, saving her first novel (from when she was 14) to feel better about herself, why great poetry is like IV drugs, and more! Give it a listen!
“I think the story of the wrongness of science fiction is like an exposure of the nature of homo sapiens on this planet. Science fiction goes wrong because we go wrong, and it does it with great clarity. I want a record of that and I want to see how we go wrong and how we can learn.”
(1940- ) Canadian novelist and sf critic, in the UK from 1969; married to Judith Clute from 1964. He has been the partner of Elizabeth Hand since 1996. His first professional publication, a long sf-tinged poem called “Carcajou Lament”, appeared in Triquarterly for Winter 1960 (i.e. in 1959), though he only began publishing sf proper with “A Man Must Die” in New Worlds for November 1966, where much of his earlier criticism also appeared. This criticism, despite some studiously flamboyant obscurities, remains essentially practical, and has appeared mostly in the form of reviews, many of which first appeared in TheMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Foundation, Washington Post, Omni, Times Literary Supplement, New York Times, New York Review of Science Fiction, Interzone, Los Angeles Times, Observer, Science Fiction Weekly (see Online Magazines), the Independent, Strange Horizons and elsewhere. He has written two regular review columns: Excessive Candour for Science Fiction Weekly between 1997 and 2009; and Scores, intermittently in TheInfinite Matrix 2001-2003, regularly in Interzone between 2005 and 2008, and in Strange Horizons from 2010. Selections from this work, almost always revised, have been assembled in Strokes: Essays and Reviews 1966-1986 (coll 1988), Look at the Evidence: Essays and Reviews (coll dated 1995 but 1996), Scores: Reviews 1993-2003 (coll 2003), Canary Fever: Reviews (coll 2009) and Stay (coll 2014). An ongoing project to construct models of story “moves” in the literatures of the fantastic is represented by a set of connected motif entries in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) with John Grant [see TheEncyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] and in The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror (2006), as well as in Fustian (2006 chap) with Jason Van Hollander, a long interview focused on these issues. In later essays – like “Fantastika in the World Storm” (Spring 2008 Foundation) and “Physics for Amnesia” (October 2008 TheNew York Review of Science Fiction), both assembled in revised form with other essays as Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm (coll 2011) – he has suggested that a central task for Fantastika in the twenty-first century is to dissolve the cultural Amnesia that has arguably consumed the Western world since World War Two (see Horror in SF; Postmodernism and SF). Primarily for his critical work, he received a Pilgrim Award in 1994, the IAFA Award as Distinguished Guest Scholar in 1999, and a Solstice Award (see SFWA Grand Master Award) in 2012.
In 1960 Clute was Associate Editor of Collage, an ill fated Chicago-based Slick magazine which in its two issues did manage to publish early work by Harlan Ellison and R A Lafferty. He served as Reviews Editor of Foundation 1980-1990, and was a founder of Interzone in 1982; he remained Advisory Editor of that magazine until 2004, and then contributed the column mentioned above. He was the Associate Editor of the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979; vt The Science Fiction Encyclopedia1979), which won a Hugo award, and was co-editor of the much-expanded second edition The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993; rev 1995; further rev vt Grolier Science Fiction: The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction1995 CD-ROM; further rev 1999), for which he shared 1994 Hugo and Locus awards with Peter Nicholls. Though Clute and Nicholls were listed as editors, the book was in fact written mostly by them and Associate Editor Brian Stableford. The current third edition, again much expanded as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (online from 2011) edited by John Clute and David Langford with Peter Nicholls serving as Editor Emeritus and Graham Sleight as Managing Editor, has similarly been written in the main by its editors and Contributing Editors; it won a Hugo as Best Related Work in 2012. Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (1995), which he wrote solo and for which he also received a Hugo in 1996, is a companion to sf, not in any way connected to the encyclopedias listed above. TheEncyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) with John Grant, for which both editors shared a 1998 Hugo, deals with fantasy within a frame broadly compatible with that governing this Encyclopedia, which is its elder sibling.
Over his career, Clute has published several sf stories and two novels: The Disinheriting Party (in New Worlds Quarterly 5, anth 1973, ed Michael Moorcock; exp 1977), which is Equipoisal with the fantastic, but demurs into rationalizations at the end; and Appleseed (2001), which is a Space Opera with an anti-Religion bias. The Made Minds (AIs) who dominate much of the action manifest themselves throughout as Avatars allied to a Forerunner mentor in support of all surviving humans, who are shunned because of the sexual (see Sex) odour they emit; but as they are genetically deaf to god (see Communications; Gods and Demons), the galaxy-wide diaspora of Homo sapiens has created a Pariah Elite destined to become central combatants in the coming universal War against the Entropy-generating deity, as proclaimed for the first time in the book’s Slingshot Ending. [JC]
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation with Ms. Koja was recorded at the Saratoga Hilton on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder (except for when I screwed up the recording and used my Zoom H2n backup). The session with Mr. Clute was done on my enCORE 200 & Zoom H5. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of Ms. Koja and Mr. Clute by me.
It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!
This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.
Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!
Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.
The July episode of The Virtual Memories Show is ready to go! This time around, you get two interviews for the price of one!
During my June trip to Boston for the BIO annual meeting, I recorded conversations with Diana Renn, a writer who just published her first book, a YA novel called Tokyo Heist, and Paul Di Filippo, a science fiction writer and critic who’s celebrating his 30th year as a freelance writer.
I thought of posting them as two separate podcasts, but it made more sense to have the perspectives of the first-time novelist and the life-time writer in a single episode. Diana has lots to say about working through the novel-writing process and how her history with comic books informs her, while Paul has a ton to say about the current state of science fiction, how he carved out a role in it, what it’s like to be the “King of Steampunk,” the allure of Providence, RI, and whether he’d have taken an assignment for the Before Watchmen series.
Credits: This episode’s music is Rewrite from Paul Simon’s recent record So Beautiful or So What? I recorded the intro on a Blue Yeti mic into Audacity, and the conversation with was recorded on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4N recorder.
It’s been far too long, dear readers! But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the month of June is devoted to the Top 20 Pharma / Top 10 Biopharma issue of my magazine. In addition to researching and writing a shit-ton of profiles, I also had to transcribe and edit a bunch of interviews I did with major companies and their outsourcing partners. I hate that process, but don’t trust other people enough to let them handle it. (I have a weakness for Q&A-style articles, so I try to include one or two in every ish.) Late in the process (as in last Monday), one of the pharma companies told me that the person they’d given me to interview had subsequently left the company. In the two weeks between the interview and my sending them the transcript. They didn’t get around to telling me this for 10 days, and offered no solution outside of, “You can’t run any of his quotes.”
I built a lot of flexibility into the structure of this ish, so I can absorb the loss of a two-page article a week or so before press time, but I’m still peeved enough at their crap behavior to put them on my banned list for future publicity, articles, etc. I mean, it’s not like they’re even going to notice this, being a $20 billion company, but I have to have my petty triumphs.
Still, I finished writing my Tops profiles a day ahead of schedule, putting myself in a less stressed mode before tomorrow’s trip to DC for the annual BIO convention. I still have to clean up the page layouts and write short intros for the two features, but those will be manageable. (With a little work done over July 4th weekend.)
During BIO, I’ll be staying at a hotel called the Helix. If my room gets downgraded to a double, I’ll laugh at the cosmic jokester.
This is my first post in a while, and I thought I’d ramble about Bob Dylan. He turned 70 a little while ago, which got me listening to his music. I also found myself watching two of his great videos, Jokerman and Series of Dreams. On Facebook, I pondered whether any other musician has enough built-up history/iconography to freight a video like this one:
“Freight” felt like an odd but appropriate choice, given the artist and the video.
Amy & I also watched No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s 87-hour documentary about Dylan. Not being too much of an acolyte, I found a lot of the details and anecdotes illuminating. I thought it was interesting to see a documentary about a guy with encyclopedic knowledge of music made by a guy with encyclopedic knowledge of film. I was surprised at how at ease Dylan was in his interview segments. I was expecting a mystic making cryptic / gnomic pronouncements, rather than a plainspoken older guy. (Which isn’t to say that he was necessarily honest, just that he was speaking plainly.)
I enjoyed the documentary up until the last hour, when I realized it was only going to cover Dylan up to the 1966 motorcycle crash (with a coda of his first post-crash live appearance, in 1968). Don’t get me wrong; it was a really engaging documentary. I loved learning about the schisms in the folk scene, how Dylan evolved from protest-singer to rock star, how his relationships went, both with lovers and other musicians, how he dealt with fame in the early days, how he transformed himself from that kid from Hibbing, MN.
But I realized as the documentary unfolded that that wasn’t the Dylan I wanted to learn about, exactly. See, I was hoping that the narrative would continue into the 1970s (and maybe beyond). I wanted the Dylan who embraced his Judaism, became a born-again Christian, got divorced, recorded Blood on the Tracks, sank, rose. What I wanted, I think, was to find out how he tried to live once he got all the fame and riches, and had no idea what to do. A lot of the documentary involved the matrix of Dylan and his audience: how betrayed they felt over his distance from the protest movement, how shocked they were when he went electric (ha-ha). I would have loved more insight about Dylan when those audiences became stadium-sized and his popularity was more immense. How did he cope?
I guess I’ve always been fascinated by that question, “What next?” It’s because stories so rarely seem to end, so much as just stop. It’s why I’ve always adored Anna Karenina‘s ending, because Levin finally understands that there’s no miracle secret to living a good life. He at last understands the day to day negotiations to try to live better. I think what I wanted from a documentary of Dylan is some idea of how he dealt with his life once he achieved (what he thought were) his goals.
And that made me wonder about the filmmaker. See, Martin Scorsese has confounded my expectations in exactly this fashion before, with The Aviator. That biopic about Howard Hughes focuses on the industrialist’s movie-making aspirations, and ends just before HH’s obsessive-compulsive disorder sends him totally ’round the bend. Sure, there are a few scenes of him losing his grip for a while, but I was much more interested in the Hughes who wore tissue-boxes as shoes, never cut his fingernails, and whittled himself down to 90 lbs. by the time he died. A pal of mine, SF writer and critic Paul Di Filippo, had the same reaction when I mentioned the movie to him: “That’s the Howard Hughes that I find interesting. I wish the movie had started from that point.”
Of course, I understand why Scorsese would focus on HH-as-filmmaker, what with that aforementioned encyclopedic knowledge of film. But as a character, batshit-nuts Howard is much more interesting to me than young up-and-coming Howard. And post-rise Dylan would have helped (me) complete the image of Dylan as an artist and as a man. Or at least it would have put together a narrative sequence, like a series of dreams.