Podcast: Readercon 2013 – Monsters, Memories and Mythmaking

The Three Graces on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 16 – Readercon – Monsters, Memories and Mythmaking

“Readercon focuses on the literature. And the people who come here are really smart. They take science fiction and fantasy seriously as literature. It’s always interesting to be on panels. It’s also a real community, so I can talk with writers, small presses, editors. Beyond that, it’s really a good scene socially.”

–Theodora Goss

It’s time part two of our Readercon 2013 mega-podcast! I visited the 24th annual Readercon conference on literary fantasy & science fiction in Burlington, MA in July, and recorded five interviews in one day! Readercon has great panels and programming, a fine booksellers’ hall, and lots of fun conversation; if you’re into the “literature of the fantastic,” you really should make a point of attending this event next year.

First, Theodora Goss talks about her new accordion-shaped novella, The Thorn and the Blossom, what writing contracts taught her about writing stories, why most classic literary monsters were female, and the joys of coffee in Budapest. Then (52:00), Valya Dudycz Lupescu explores the joys of Growing Up Ukrainian in Chicago, the role of folklore and myths in her fiction, and how every immigrant wave has to choose what it holds onto when it lands in America. Finally (1:15:00), Nancy Hightower tells us why she gave up Colorado for NYC, how she made the transition from teaching the grotesque to writing epic eco-fantasy, and how we learn the cost of wilderness.

Enjoy the conversations! And check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guests

Theodora Goss was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States. Although she grew up on the classics of English literature, her writing has been influenced by an Eastern European literary tradition in which the boundaries between realism and the fantastic are often ambiguous. Her publications include the short story collection In The Forest Of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems; and The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), a novella in a two-sided accordion format. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List, and has won the World Fantasy Award. Check out her website, tumblr, Facebook page and twitter feed for more.

Valya Dudyz Lupescu is a writer and the founding editor of the literary magazine, Conclave: A Journal of Character. Born and raised in Chicago, she received her degree in English at DePaul University, studying with Richard Jones, Maureen Seaton, and Anne Calcagno. She earned her MFA in Writing as part of the inaugural class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied under Michael D. Collins, James McManus, M. Evelina Galang, Rosellen Brown, and Carol Anshaw. Since receiving her MFA, Valya has worked as a college professor, obituary writer, content manager, goth cocktail waitress, internal communications specialist, and co-producer of the independent feature film, The Secret. She teaches workshops around the city and online, and  helps to facilitate a monthly gathering of writers and artists in Chicago called the Chicago Creative Cooperative (“the Coop”). Her historical novel, The Silence of Trees, was published in 2010 (Wolfsword Press) in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook (2012, Iambik Audio). She has also been published in various journals, including Sentence, The Pedestal Magazine, and Doorknobs & Bodypaint. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the historic Cliff Dwellers Club and at the Everleigh Club in Chicago. Check out her website, tumblr, Facebook page and twitter feed for more.

Nancy Hightower is a speculative fiction author and poet, as well as an art critic who writes for Weird Fiction Review. Her debut epic fantasy novel, Elementarí Rising, will be published in September 2013 with Pink Narcissus Press. She has co-authored, along with Carrie Ann Baade, the Cute and Creepy exhibition catalogue, an art book of contemporary macabre and surrealist works. She reviews books for Fantasy Matters and interviews writers such as China Miéville and Neil Gaiman for DJ Spooky’s Origin Magazine (interviews can be read online here). She has a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Denver, and previously taught the rhetorics of the fantastic, uncanny, and grotesque in art and literature at the University of Colorado. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in Up the Staircase, Word Riot, Strange Horizons, Neon, Bourbon Penn, Prick of the Spindle, Liquid Imagination, Corvus, Red Fez, Prime Number Magazine, The New York Quarterly, storySouth, and Dense Macabre, among others. She now resides in New York City. Check out her website, Facebook page and twitter feed for more.

Credits: This episode’s music is Budapest by Blimp by Thomas Dolby. All conversations were recorded in a room at the Burlington Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti into my Mac Mini, at my Ikeahack standing desk. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity and all editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by me.

Podcast: Readercon 2013 – Fairies and Zombies

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 15 –
Readercon – Fairies and Zombies

It’s time for a two-part mega-podcast! I visited the 24th annual Readercon, conference on literary fantasy & science fiction (or “imaginative literature,” as it’s known) in Burlington, MA in July, and came back with a ton of interviews! Readercon is a fantastic (ha-ha) event, with great programming, a good booksellers’ hall, and lots of fun conversation; you should make a point of attending it if your tastes run toward the authors who come up in this and the following episode.

I (not-so-wisely) conducted five interviews in one day so, rather than make a 3-hour episode, I decided to split them up between boys and girls. This time around you get interviews with authors John Crowley and Scott Edelman!

“The big books I’ve written have never had a genre at all. They were certain kinds of fictional possibilities that interested and intrigued me and that I wanted to try to achieve. I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot in Little, Big that’s realistic, but there’s plenty that was based on my daily experiences of life in New York City.”

–John Crowley

John Crowley is the author of Little, Big (or, The Fairies’ Parliament), which I consider one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I’d known about it for a long time, but only read it a few years ago, after learning that my wife has been re-reading it every year or two since it came out in paperback in 1983 or thereabouts. You should go read it now or wait for the deluxe edition from Incunabula Press! (He’s also written other amazing books, like the Aegypt cycle, Engine Summer, and more.)

I talked with Mr. Crowley about readers’ devotion Little, Big, the problems he faced in writing it and how surmounting them opened the doors to his subsequent books, how the fantasy genre developed during the course of his career, what his favorite imaginary books are, why I felt unprepared for our conversation despite having read six of his novels, and what it was like to write copy for Maidenform bras when he was starting out.

“One of the most amazing things about writing to me is that, even though you’ve read, and heard, and seen thousands of stories, when you sit down to write one, you have no idea how to begin!”

–John Crowley

Even if you haven’t read Little, Big, you’ll find this a fascinating conversation about the writing process, literary reputation, and what it means to tell a story!

“You have to write the things you love. They have to be extremely important to you, to give you that tingle when you read them. Because if you’re not moved by it, I don’t see how anyone else is going to be moved by it. . . .”

–Scott Edelman


Then I talk with Scott Edelman, a longtime writer, editor and Con-goer, about his zombie-fiction, being an editor at Marvel Comics in the 1970s, his storytelling tips and his pros and cons of workshops, whether he pays attention to literary markets, what Readercon means to him, and what it was like to move from one side of the convention table to the other.

“Why zombies? Because zombies are the closest we’ll ever see to what we’ll really become. Because there’ll be that day when we’re all walking husks without memory.”

–Scott Edelman

Enjoy the conversations! Then listen to part 2 of our Readercon conversations with Theodora Goss, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and Nancy Hightower. Meanwhile, check out the archives for more great episodes!

Related episodes:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

John Crowley lives in the hills above the Connecticut River in northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of Little, Big, the four-volume Aegypt cycle, The Translator, Novelties & Souvenirs, Lord Byron’s Novel, and Four Freedoms. You can find out more about the special anniversary edition of Little, Big here.

Scott Edelman has published more than 75 short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, The Twilight Zone, Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Review and Fantasy Book, and in anthologies such as The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Crossroads, MetaHorror, Once Upon a Galaxy, Moon Shots, Mars Probes, Forbidden Planets. His poetry has appeared in Asimov’s, Amazing, Dreams and Nightmares, and others. What Will Come After, a collection of his zombie fiction, and What We Still Talk About, a collection of his science fiction stories, were both published in 2010. He has been a Stoker Award finalist five times, in the categories of both Short Story and Long Fiction. He is the editor of Blastr at the Syfy Channel. You can find more about him at his site.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fairy Tales by Style Council. Both conversations were recorded in a room at the Burlington Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti into my Mac Mini, at my Ikeahack standing desk. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photos by me.

Podcast: The Correction of Taste

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!)

Michael Dirda

Season 2 episode 13 – Michael Dirda – The Correction of Taste

“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.

Bookbuys

Since we’re building a library downstairs and adding a bunch more shelf-space, I’m no longer quite so constrained in my book-buying. I’m still on an austerity plan for 2012, so I’ll generally only pick something up on the cheap. Here’s what I’ve bought lately and why.

AbeBooks

The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon – I’m planning to read this for a Secondhand Loves podcast with one of my old college pals. I detested it the first time I tried it, complaining, “If you write a novel about comic-book history, Jews in eastern Europe, escape artistry and the golem-myth and you lose me, you’ve seriously fucked up.” We’ll see if I’m still as uninto it. It cost me $2.62, plus shipping

The Last Leopard – David Gilmour – It’s the biography of Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, who wrote The Leopard, one of my favorite novels. Cost $6.75

The Anatomy of Influence – Harold Bloom – I’m sure I’ll spend a little time with it. $8.31

Labyrinth Books

I stopped in Princeton for lunch on the way home from a client visit in Philadelphia, so I hit Labyrinth, which used to be Micawber Books. I found a used copy of Little, Big for $12.74. Amy lent hers out, and I’m hoping to interview the author soon for the podcast, so I picked that up. Still, $12.74 is kinda high for a used paperback. I balanced things out by finding a backup hardcover of George, Being George for $2.

Raider

There was a street fair in Suffern, NY last weekend, as Amy & I discovered when going out to our favorite hole-in-the-wall taqueria in town. We meandered through that, and discovered a little used bookstore in the same building as the Lafayette theater, this great old movie house where I once saw The Empire Strikes Back. The stock wasn’t really my sorta thing, but then I noticed a copy of Mr. Crowley’s Four Freedoms for $4, so I picked that up.

The Strand

While staying in NYC for a conference last week, I hit up the Strand Bookstore on my last night, since my wife & I are content to do that sorta thing. I decided I wouldn’t buy anything over $10, but managed to get by without crossing the $8 barrier:

Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor – I read it in the big ol’ Library of America collected works last year, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a portable copy. $7.95

How Fiction Works – James Wood – I generally like his literary criticism and book reviews. $7.95

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City – Nick Flynn – My pal Elayne loved this one, and implored me to give it a shot. $7.50

The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason – Praised in a recent Five Books interview, I figured I’ll read it some weekend this summer. $5.95

Role Models – John Waters – I’ve always liked John Waters in theory much more than in practice, so I’m hoping the printed page works better for me than the movie/TV screen. $7.95

And that’s my recent book-buying binge. We’re still a few weeks away from having the library finished, but once it’s wrapped up, I’ll be sure to post a ton of pix.

What It Is: 6/16/08

What I’m reading: Endless Things, by John Crowley, on my Kindle.

What I’m listening to: Hard Candy, by Madonna. It was on sale for $3.99 on Amazon’s MP3 store one day last week. Sue me.

What I’m watching: We finished the third season of The Wire, which was dramatic, but neither as fresh/exciting as the first season nor as complicated as the second (which ended terribly, but was awfully good for the first 8-9 episodes). The fourth season awaits us: No Corner Left Behind!

What I’m drinking: That Blue Point Long Island Blueberry Ale again.

Where I’m going: San Diego — this very night! — for the BIO Conference. (UPDATE: or maybe — this very tomorrow! — as a storm system has already bumped my flight from 7:30pm to 8:53pm.)

What I’m happy about: That R Kelly was acquitted, which finally gave us occasion to break out the first 12 episodes of Trapped in the Closet. It turned out to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of batshit-crazy musical artists.

What I’m sad about: Being away from my wife & dog for a few days.

What I’m pondering: The fact that I’ve lived in this house longer than anyone else has lived in it.

Bottoms up

Sorry I didn’t post earlier in the day, dear readers. I was just building up my courage for the plunge into our annual Top Companies Report, where I profile the top 20 pharma companies and top 10 biopharmas. I just have to tell myself, “Come July 2, it’ll all be done.” It used to be daunting, but the past few years of awful pipeline progress have made it awfully depressing, too.

This morning, I sat down with Pfizer’s 2007 annual report to run the basic numbers on drug revenues, and realized that two of its drugs that went generic dropped a combined $3.3 billion in revenues, while one of its biggest up-and-coming products just got banned by the FAA (in pilots and air traffic controllers) because of a variety of messed up side effects. The company’s biggest seller (the top-selling drug in history) was flat for the year, now that similar drugs have gone generic. I knew they have a tough slog ahead, but the numbers make it even starker. I thought, “I really should’ve started with another company.”

As it turned out, the next 7 or 8 companies on my list weren’t in great shape, either. The European firms got a little boost on my chart because of the exchange rate (I always put in a disclaimer that shows results in local currency, because I’m all about value), but I have a feeling I’m going to be hard pressed to find good stuff to write about in their profiles.

“Come July 2, it’ll all be done.”

On the positive side, I’m just about done with my review/ramble on the Kindle! I spent a while on it yesterday, realized it was getting way too involved, and stripped it down to a pretty good size and shape. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to finish it today, because I just got a (print) book in from Amazon: Dæmonomania, by John Crowley. It’s the third book in his Ægypt series, and I cæn’t wæit to reæd it!