“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.
“When I was young, I always wanted to be a writer, but I thought that one could write science fiction and then also write ‘serious’ literature . . . that I could be Samuel R. Delany, but I could also be F. Scott Fitzgerald. That I could be Dorothy Parker, and I could be Angela Carter. But I found that you tend to get pigeonholed.”
Award-winning author Elizabeth Hand joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about her new novel, Wylding Hall! We also talk about her need to try different genres, that pigeonholing process, how abandoning the supernatural for her Cass Neary novels was like working without a net, how her success at writing may be attributable to the Helsinki Bus Syndrome, what it was like to be at the punk scene in the mid-’70s, how she learned to strip down her prose for her recent (and excellent) noir crime novels, just how she ended up in coastal Maine, and more! Give it a listen!
“In the ’70s, I really wanted to be a photographer. I wanted to be a lot of things that I wasn’t. I wanted to be Lester Bangs. I wanted to be Patti Smith. I wanted to be all these things, but I had no talent for any of them. I was in the position of being the fan, the participant observer.”
The conversation also covers the changing models and markets of genre writing, the importance of fan interaction, why she loves coming to Readercon (where we recorded this episode), why it ultimately paid off to opt in favor of experience over college classes, and why her protagonist Cass Neary is like her “if my brake lines had been cut when I was 20 years old and I’d never been able to come back.”
We talk about a lot of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em:
- Elysium – Jennifer Marie Brissett
- The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain – Julian Cope
- I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie – Pamela Des Barres
- Afterparty – Daryl Gregory
- Wylding Hall – Liz Hand
- Generation Loss – Liz Hand
- Available Dark – Liz Hand
- Mortal Love – Liz Hand
- Glimmering – Liz Hand
- The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
- Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Twentieth Anniversary Edition – Greill Marcus
- Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs – Sally Mann
- Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk – Legs McNeil
- Tapping the Source – Kem Nunn
- Edie: American Girl – Jean Stein, George Plimpton
- The Red Pony – John Steinbeck
- The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again – JRR Tolkien
- Find Me – Laura van den Berg
- Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Rob Young
- John Crowley, Scott Edelman
- Michael Dirda, part 1 and part 2
- Theodora Goss, Valya Lupescu and Nancy Hightower
- Maria Alexander
- Brad Gooch
About our Guest
Elizabeth Hand is the bestselling author of 13 genre-spanning novels and four collections of short fiction. Her work has received the World Fantasy Award (four times), Nebula Award (twice), Shirley Jackson Award (twice), International Horror Guild Award (three times), the Mythopoeic Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, among others, and several of her books have been New York Times and Washington Post Notable Books. Her recent, critically acclaimed novels featuring Cass Neary, “one of literature’s great noir anti-heroes” (Katherine Dunn) — Generation Loss, Available Dark, and the forthcoming Hard Light — have been compared to those of Patricia Highsmith. With Paul Witcover, Hand created DC Comic’s early 1990s cult series ANIMA, whose riot grrl superheroine dealt with homeless teenagers, drug abuse, the AIDS epidemic and racial violence, and featured DC Comics’ first openly gay teenager (the series also once guest-starred Conan O’Brien). Her 1999 play “The Have-Nots” was a finalist in London’s Fringe Theater Festival and went on to play at the Battersea Arts Center. She has written numerous novelizations of films, including Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and a popular series of Star Wars books for middle grade children. She is a longtime critic and book reviewer whose work appears regularly in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Salon, the Boston Review, among many others, and writes a regular column for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Her books and short fiction have been translated into numerous languages and have been optioned for film and television. She teaches at the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing, and recently joined the faculty of the Maine College of Art. She divides her time between the coast of Maine and North London, and is working on the fourth Cass Neary novel, The Book of Lamps and Banners.
Credits: This episode’s music is Three Hours by Nick Drake. The conversation was recorded at the Boston Marriott Burlington 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. Hand by Norman Walters.