The Maker: a Remake

This will be a short post, alas, since I must go to work soon – classes will start next Monday here in São Paulo, so I will go to a teacher´s meeting this morning. (That doesn´t mean I can´t write another post later, but first things first.)

Two years ago, I began writing a short story about a person (gender not clear) who would start republishing books of other authors with his/her name. I called this person a “Remaker” – that would be also the title of the story, based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges, The Maker (El Hacedor). But, after a few pages, I simply reached a dead end, and couldn´t bring myself to pick it up again to finish it.

Then, less than two months ago, I read a very interesting post in Larry´s blog on another Borges´s story: Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. Menard is a ficticious author who has published a revered academic work, but who also has an underground production that not everyone is aware of. In his story, an eulogy for the recently dead scholar, Borges points out the rewriting of parts of Miguel de Cervantes´s Don Quixote by Menard. The rewriting wasn´t “merely” an updated version, or an original work inspired by Cervantes. Not at all: what Menard did was to rewrite the Quixote word for word, as if he was Cervantes himself. Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote is a brilliant, witty criticism of sorts on the Modernist movement.

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On Conrad and books I like to read again now and then

Right here on this blog, last week, Michelle Richmond wrote about those wonderful books that:

“we read over and over again, books that call to us repeatedly over the years. And despite the fact that we think we know the story backwards and front, we crack the spine once more, because we know that we’ll find something familiar inside, and something beautiful, but we also know that each reading renders something new.”

I posted the following comment:

“As for revisiting books, this is a habit I only acquired recently (maybe because of that feeling impending of impending doom which strikes us when we get 40 – careful, Jeff!!). I´ve been reading again Brazilian classics, as Guimarães Rosa´s Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands is the English title, though it doesn´t carry out anything of the beauty and strangeness of the original).”

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On Being The Other

Recently I read an excellent interview that K. Tempest Bradford did with Justine Larbalestier and Ekaterina Sedia. Bradford put both in a chat room so they could interact, and she begins the interview saying that she wished they could both be in the same room in the flesh, explaining:

“Not because they both write fantasy or were both born outside of the US (Sydney for Justine, Moscow for Ekaterina), but because they often had very similar reactions to American reactions to them.”

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Fabio Fernandes: Guest Blogging at Ecstatic Days (July 21-25)

I’m very pleased to introduce Fábio Fernandes as this week’s guest blogger on Ecstatic Days. Fábio Fernandes, 42, is a writer living in São Paulo, Brazil. Also a journalist and translator, he is the responsible for the Brazilian translations of several SF novels, such as Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. He published more than two dozen stories in fanzines and magazines in Brazil, Portugal, and Romania. Currently working as Creative Writing teacher in the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Fernandes also published a non-fiction book on the work of William Gibson, A Construção do Imaginário Cyber (in Portuguese). He just finished his first SF novel, BACK IN THE USSR; he is currently writing short stories in English and starting what may be his first English-written novel. He can also be found at his English-language blog, the Post Weird Thoughts, which he shares with Brazilian writer Jacques Barcia. Fernandes also reviews fiction for The Fix, among others.

Catching Up–Czech New Weird, Pirate Antho Art, Shared Worlds and Proof My Husband’s Still Alive

Ann here, just posting briefly to say thanks to Michelle Richmond for such great guest blogging. Next week, Fabio Fernandes!

I also wanted show off the cover of the Czech edition of The New Weird, pictured above. The first foreign edition of anything with my name on it. I’m very excited. Laser Books (Martin Sust, editor) is the publisher. And, here is the cover art for the pirates antho, design still forthcoming:

Also note that the International Horror Guild Award finalists have been announced. I’m a judge and can tell you we worked very hard in coming up with this list.

In other news, Shared Worlds is happy to announce that Will Hindmarch will be joining the guest lecturers (including Tobias Buckell and Ekaterina Sedia). For those readers not familiar with Will, he is a Chicago-born freelance writer and designer with experience on more than fifty books as an author, developer, or graphic designer. In 2007, Will co-founded the gameplay-and-story outfit, Gameplaywright.net, with Jeff Tidball. He is also a proud contributor to the book, Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, available from MIT Press. Will’s writing has appeared in The Escapist, Atlanta magazine, Everywhere magazine and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. In 2007, he was a judge for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition. In 2004, he and his wife moved to Atlanta, sight-unseen, like carpetbaggers, so he could become a professional lunatic for White Wolf Game Studio, serving as the developer of the flagship World of Darkness Storytelling Game, Vampire: The Requiem.

In connection with Shared Worlds, workshop director Jeremy Jones interviewed Jeff, mostly about Steampunk.

Finally, just so you know Jeff’s still alive, here are some photos he took recently to chronicle his recent activities. (He heads off to Shared Worlds Saturday and I get some well-earned peace…Remember that he and Buckell are reading at Malaprops on July 31.) Some of these photos may be cryptic. I’m happy to provide context if you have questions… (Also, thanks to Matt Staggs for many, many things.)

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Writing…a dangerous profession?

Sometimes I feel like a housewife. Take today, when I’m at home at 10:00 a.m., chatting it up with the dishwasher repairman, who moved here from the Ukraine twenty years ago and, God love him, keeps dropping the kind of hints for which dishwasher repairmen are so justifiably famous, as in, “Does your husband treat you good? I can treat you very good. You need anything, you call me. For you, I give a very good price.” I ask if I can pay with a credit card. “My dear, you can pay with anything.”

After he leaves, it’s over to the couch with notebook and pen and, of course, coffee, to try to get a handle on the novel-in-progress. And this feels very much like playing hooky. No matter that the book is sold, my editor is waiting, the publisher has a calendar on which it is quite firmly penciled in; no matter that writing this book is technically my job, I cannot help but feel that the very act of staying home to write is akin, somehow, to spending my day eating bon-bons. Shouldn’t I be out in the world, providing a service, replacing a lung, building a bridge, repairing someone’s dishwasher?

Writers have said some pretty self-important things about writing over the years. Take Frederick Busch’s A Dangerous Profession: A Book About the Writing Life. A dangerous profession? Really? [Read more…]

The thought crossed my mind that I might have slept with him…

Last night I did a reading at The Depot in Mill Valley, CA. Five minutes before the reading was scheduled to begin, there were only three people in the room, all of whom I knew.

Then a gentleman wandered in, very tall and broad, dressed in a motorcycle jacket. Because readings always breed in me a certain brand of desperation, I walked up to him and said, “Are you here for the reading?” He looked confused for a moment, then told me he wasn’t, at which point I sort of jokingly begged him to stay. One wants to fill the seats, of course, even at the price of one’s own dignity.

By the time we began we were up to ten or eleven. Much to my surprise, the stranger in the motorcycle jacket was among them. Because of the small group I decided to forgo the formality of the podium and sound system and do the reading sitting down. It happened that the person sitting closest to me was motorcycle man, and I quickly realized how awkward it is to read to another grown-up face to face, so close one’s knees could almost touch. It’s very intimate, uncomfortably so, more like a date than a reading. In this case it felt like a first date, the kind where you’re hoping you don’t say the wrong thing, and I could feel myself blushing as I read the scene in which the narrator encounters someone in a café in a foreign place and realizes that she knows him, or has known him, although she can’t place the context: “The thought crossed my mind that I might have slept with him. There had been a period following my sister’s death when I slept with many men.”

I worried for the gentleman in the motorcycle jacket, whom I had accosted, and to whom now I felt I had exposed myself completely. After all, there is always some element of truth in the fiction. [Read more…]

Strange readers, we begin again

Michelle RichmondWe all have those books that we read over and over again, books that call to us repeatedly over the years. And despite the fact that we think we know the story backwards and front, we crack the spine once more, because we know that we’ll find something familiar inside, and something beautiful, but we also know that each reading renders something new.

For me, the two books at the top of my read-again-and-again list are Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer and Lars Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper. I read The Moviegoer whenever I’m traveling south (I’m an Alabama girl by birth and upbringing), which is rarer and rarer these days. As for The Death of a Beekeeper, I find myself diving in every couple of years, usually when I’m winding down from the writing of a novel or gearing up to write a new one.

The physical and mental impact of pain, the intricate workings of beehives, the frozen landscape of North Vastmanland, are all detailed lovingly. So too are the mysterious ways of a fictional galaxy called Aldebaran—a galaxy which our narrator constructs for the amusement of two local schoolboys who come to visit him at his cabin. [Read more…]

Come on down the rabbit hole with me

When I started writing my new novel, NO ONE YOU KNOW, I knew that I wanted to write a book about storytelling, about the blurred line between fact and fiction, about how literary ambition and the desire to tell the perfect story can cause a lot of grief. I knew what sort of trouble I wanted to get my characters into, but I had no clue how to get them out of it.

Enter real life. About a year and a half ago, my husband Kevin and I met legendary rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres and his wife Dianne at the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Laureates dinner. The four of us immediately hit it off, and because Ben and Dianne happened to be into the same Bravo shows we’re into, we spent a few evenings in one another’s homes, watching Project Runway and Top Chef, while I secretly fondled Ben’s Emmys. [Read more…]

Michelle Richmond: Ecstatic Days Guest Blogger (July 14-18)

I’m very pleased to introduce Michelle Richmond as this week’s guest blogger on Ecstatic Days. Michelle Richmond is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Year of Fog, the award-winning story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, and the novel Dream of the Blue Room, which was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her new novel, No One You Know, will be published by Delacorte in July, 2008. Her stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, Playboy, Oxford American, The Believer, Salon, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2006 Mississippi Review Fiction Prize and the 2000 Associated Writing Programs Award.

Check out my extensive Amazon book blog interview with Richmond.