Episode 229 – Matt Ruff

Virtual Memories Show 229: Matt Ruff

“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.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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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.

What It Is: 5/26/08

What I’m reading: Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad, and vol. 1 of Cromartie High School, an incredibly funny manga.

What I’m listening to: That new Portishead album again.

What I’m watching: Kung Fu Hustle, which remains one of the most entertaining flicks of all time, and The Big Lebowski, which I need to write about.

What I’m drinking: Blue Point Brewing Co.’s Blueberry Ale (a gift from this weekend’s houseguests).

Where I’m going: Maybe out to see Iron Man today, but otherwise, nodarnwhere special this week.

What I’m happy about: Having a nice, long, relatively relaxing weekend. (“Relatively,” because Saturday involved a lot of cleaning and cooking, as we had those aforementioned houseguests. Also, I was a nervous nellie because one of the sets of guests had a 1-year-old child, and I was afraid Rufus would get overstimulated and eat the kid. Everything turned out fine.) Oh, and taking a vacation day on Tuesday, just to get a little extra time before diving into the big Top 20 Pharma and Top 10 Biopharma issue of my magazine.

What I’m sad about: Last night, Rufus appeared to have developed a case of Ringworm in Ringwood. Fortunately, we already had a vet appointment scheduled for tomorrow.

What I’m pondering: Why the Coen Brothers use voiceovers in some of their flicks and not in others. Also, how long the natives will let the new Mars probe transmit.

What I’m updating: Rufus’ status! The vet says that they’re just “mayfly” bites, nothing that requires any treatment! Wanna see all the gories? Glad to oblige!