“I think of a collector as a gardener, rather than someone who just buys books. Like gardeners, they do a lot of murdering. They cull books.”
It’s another Readercon episode! First, Liz Hand rejoins the show for a little conversation about what she’s been reading lately (it’s some creepy stuff, of course), the regenerative aspects of Readercon, why the novella is ideal for dark/spooky fiction, and whether the attendee wearing an ASIA t-shirt is doing so ironically. Then John Clute talks about the ruins of futurity and the launch of the Clute Science Fiction Library at Telluride Institute. We get into the need for visual presentation and accessibility of original books in their context (including dust jackets), his transition from book accumulator to collector, the externalization of one’s mind into one’s library, why he doesn’t write fiction, the Easter eggs he sneaks into the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, why Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie (except for Wrath of Khan), reaching a uniform degree of incompletion, generational shifts in SF/F, and the sneaky adoption of Fantastika. Give it a listen! And go buy Liz Hand’s new collection, Fire., and her Cass Neary novels: Generation Loss, Available Dark, and Hard Light!
“Most scholars, academic institutions, libraries are not interested in context. In that sense, the Science Fiction Library at Telluride is transgressive.”
About our Guests
Elizabeth Hand flunked out of college a couple of years after seeing Patti Smith perform and became involved in the nascent punk scenes in DC and New York. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She was eventually readmitted to university to study cultural anthropology and received her BA. She is the author of many novels, including The Winterlong Trilogy, Waking the Moon, Glimmering, Mortal Love, Illyria, and Radiant Days, and the Cass Neary novels, Generation Loss, Available Dark, and Hard Light, as well as three collections of stories, including Saffron and Brimstone. Her fiction has received the Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Tiptree, and International Horror Guild Awards, and her novels have been chosen as notable books by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. She has also been awarded a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship. A regular contributor to The Washington Post Book World and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she lives with her family on the coast of Maine.
John Clute is a multiple Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award winner and Visiting Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. He is perhaps best known for his editorship, with David Langford, and others, of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (sf-encyclopedia.com). As an illustrious and prolific reviewer and essayist, he has profoundly influenced science fiction writing in his time.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Marriott in Quincy, MA during Readercon on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Liz Hand and John Clute in the Soundcloud by Scott Edelman; not sure who the other/younger one is by. Either way, they’re not on my instagram.
“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.”
About our Guest
Matt Ruff is the author of the novels Fool on The Hill (1988), Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy (1997), Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls (2003), Bad Monkeys (2007), The Mirage (2012), and Lovecraft Country (2016), which was recently greenlit as an HBO series.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Ruff’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 Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Ruff by me. It’s on my instagram.
“In photography, the story is the most important thing, and technical imperfections will be forgiven.”
Photojournalist (or “artist who sometimes uses a camera”) Kyle Cassidy returns to talk about his new book, This Is What a Librarian Looks Like! Along the way, we also talk about photography, his love letter to America, the difference between knowledge and information, the heroism of NASA scientists, the example of Mr. Rogers, his continued use of LiveJournal, the joy of running, and how he convinced his wife that they should take vacations to visit libraries. Also, his cat Roswell gets his two cents in! Give it a listen! And go buy This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information!
“It inspires me to see scientists spending their entire lives — in the shadows, unheralded for the most part — doing something that advances our knowledge.”
About our Guest
Kyle Cassidy has been documenting American culture for more than two decades. He has photographed Goths, Punks, Cutters, Politicians, Metalheads, Dominatrices, Scholars, and Alternative Fashion, in addition to less prosaic subjects. In recent years his projects have extended abroad to Romania, where he captured the lives of homeless orphans living in sewers; and to Egypt, where he reported on contemporary archaeological excavations. His publications include several books on information technology, as well as a regular appearance as contributing editor for Videomaker magazine. His Photo-A-Week blog was one of the first photo blogs on the internet. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Barron’s Financial, Photographers Forum, Asleep by Dawn, Gothic Beauty and numerous other publications.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Kyle’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 Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Kyle & Roswell by me. It’s on my instagram.
“These days, we tend to think of identity as something chosen; we put on certain masks or we identify as this or that, culturally, ethnically or politically. Bellow is interested in something much more basic: who we really are.”
David Mikics joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (Norton). We get into Bellow’s legacy, his fall from academic favor, his transmutations of life into art, David’s humorously accidental introduction to his work, what Jewishness meant to Bellow, whether Philip Roth was right when he told Bruce Jay Friedman, “Saul Bellow am de daddy of us all,” and more! Give it a listen! And go read Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art.
“Bellow once said that the reason writers had such messy personal lives is because they didn’t know what to do with the afternoon.”
We also talk about David’s experience as a professor, why writing is harder for today’s students, what it’s like to teach course called, “Is Life Worth Living?” and “The Human Situation”, which science fiction novels warped him as a youth, why we need Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, what contemporary books look like they’ll last, and why he eventually came around on Faulkner. Go listen!
“Canonicity is not where you find it, but where you make it.”
- Rachel Hadas (2014 and 2016)
- Bruce Jay Friedman
- Jules Feiffer
- Harold Bloom
- Langdon Hammer
- Edward Mendelson
- Willard Spiegelman
About our Guest
David Mikics grew up in Carteret, New Jersey and Atlanta. He went to college at NYU and earned a Ph.D. at Yale. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Victoria and son Ariel, and teaches every year at the University of Houston, where he is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English. He is the author of six books, including Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (Belknap/Harvard) and Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (Norton), and is a columnist at Tablet magazine.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at David’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Intro was recorded on the same setup. Photo of Mr. Mikics by me.
“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.”
BONUS: Science fiction writer/critic Paul Di Filippo comes in to talk about The Black Mill: Issue Zero Kickstarter that he just launched with Orion Zangara and Derek L. Chase. It finishes March 8, 2016, so check it out and help launch an innovative, gorgeous SF graphic novel!
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.
About our Guest
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.
The original version of this episode had terrible audio quality, so I went back and remastered it! Enjoy!
(And go listen to the followup episode we recorded in July 2014: Bookman’s Holiday!)
“My personal crusade has been to urge people to read books they might otherwise not think of reading. . . . There are a lot better books that have been forgotten than are being published today.”
Are you ready for a
new beautifully remastered episode of The Virtual Memories Show?
“Some very self-confident writers feel they are among the chosen, the ones that will last forever, but they’re like deluded Calvinists.'”
This time, Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda talks about his lifetime of reading and career in writing, the essence of book reviewing and the role of negative reviews, breaking free of genre ghettoes and the pretense of literary immortality, how the internet has changed the reviewing ecosystem, and why Mao would have loved the collective wisdom of the internet.
“I think of it all as ‘literary fiction,’ if it’s well written.”
We also get in some literary kibitzing, touching on John Crowley, Neil Gaiman, Marilynne Robinson and a host of other writers and books.
“One of the things I’ve lamented in the course of my lifetime is the changeover in the English curriculum in the universities. English majors will really only know the literature of their time. They will know the same 40 or 50 authors and books. Anyone off the obvious track of the times, they won’t know. They’ll know Gary Shteyngart, but they won’t know Mikhail Bulgakhov, or Gogol. It’s that narrowness, that feeling that anything not of the moment is irrelevant. That worries me.”
Listen to the conversation: Virtual Memories – season 2 episode 13 – The Correction of Taste
(BONUS: Go listen to the followup episode we recorded in July 2014: Bookman’s Holiday!)
About Our Guest
Michael Dirda, a weekly book columnist for The Washington Post, received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book, and Classics for Pleasure. His most recent book, On Conan Doyle, received a 2012 Edgar Award for best critical/biographical work of the year.Mr. Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, the online Barnes & Noble Review, and several other periodicals, as well as a frequent lecturer and an occasional college teacher.
About Our Sponsor
This episode is sponsored by Out of Print Clothing! Visit their site and check out their great selection of T-shirts, fleeces, bags and other gear featuring gorgeous and iconic book cover designs.
The Virtual Memories Show is on iTunes! If you’d like to subscribe, visit our iTunes page! If you’d like to check out past episodes, you can find us on iTunes or visit the Podcast page for all our back episodes, as well as e-mail signup and tip jar! And why don’t you friend the Virtual Memories Show at our Facebook page? It’d make my mom happy.
Credits: This episode’s music is Desert Prayer by John Sheehan. I recorded the intro on a Blue Yeti mic into Audacity, and the conversation with was recorded in Mr. Dirda’s home in Silver Spring, MD on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4N recorder. All editing was done in Garage Band, with some post-processing in Audacity. This is a remastered version of the October 2012 episode, with better sound quality. Photo by Amy Roth.
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.