Alice in Wonderland’s Through the Looking Glass – John Coulthart Style!

Despite having been emailed half to death by a certain editorial duo looking for things like “A Bosnian Coarse-Haired Hound eating a clown composed entirely of human kidneys” for a certain Lambshead Cabinet, John Coulthart has completed his 2011 calendar–this time a sequel to last year’s Psychedelic Wonderland. Go check out his blog post about it and order early and often.

Someone’s Ghost, Yeah You’re Haunted, But Only By…

I had a hard time getting into The National’s High Violet CD at first, but I can’t get it out of my head now, and can’t stop listening to it. “Anyone’s Ghost” is the one that gets to me the most, I think.

“Didn’t want to be your ghost/didn’t want to be anyone’s ghost.”

Keeps intertwining with the Giant Sand song that contains the lines “Yeah, this place is haunted/but only by a ghost.”

Keeps intersecting with Shearwater’s “On the Death of the Waters” for no reason I can figure out and being contaminated by Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”: “Sometimes I can’t believe it/I’m moving past that feeling again.” But that whole CD is one long haunting, with ghosts that don’t know they’re ghosts.

What songs haunt you?

Darconville’s Cat: Misanthropic Genius or ‘Orrible Self-Indulgence?

So…Darconville’s Cat. Brilliant and insanely over-the-top misanthrope’s view of love and lust and obsession…or self-indulgent sexist piece o’ crap?

Does an equivalent novel exist within the SF/F field?


Flaming Pea on Fancy Cushion: Weird Re/Searches?

It struck me today, during an email brainstorming thread with John Coulthart, Ann, and Gio Clairval that started with “Jeff, I don’t know that just an illo of a pea works” and resulted in the possibility of art in the Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities that will depict a pea ablaze atop a fancy display cushion…that most days in the book business are fairly damn hilarious, absurd in the best possible way. (For the last volume, I remember our frantic search for a translation into Spanish of a section of Nathan Ballingrud’s contribution, so it could be presented as a fake page from a supposed Borges-edited Spanish-language version. Crazy.)

But it also made me wonder who out there, in following their creative destiny or at the behest of others, has found themselves involved in strange or hilarious research/searches and not even realized how far down the rabbit hole they’ve gone until they were in the midst of it? (Please keep it PG-13, thanks.)

Speaking of which, last week it was “We need bug armor, and we need it ASAP–and give it teeth! Thanks.” And the amazing Ivica Stevanovic delivers (this is just a small detail from the full-on composition.)


Random Stuff in Our House

(Awwww, cute animals. Awww…erm, actually, there’s something kind of creepy about this image.)

Ann: So what’s your blog post called? Random Crap Around the House?

Jeff: Yessssss…

Ann: [not repeatable]

Can you tell there’s a deadline looming? Final work on the Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. So your Sunday/Monday post is…Random Stuff in My House. That’s right—when I get busy but still feel the urge to post, you’re not going to the forced content of ill-conceived rants or snark. You’re gonna just get random photos of stuff in our house. Some of it out-of-focus. Enjoy! :p

[Read more…]

Alyssa Suzumura’s Fan Art for City of Saints & Madmen

Alyssa Suzumura sent me a really nice email with photos of some fan art she’d done after reading my mosaic novel City of Saints & Madmen. What I particularly love about this is that it riffs off of the art in the book and makes it different not just in part by re-drawing and original drawing, but by changing the context and the medium. I am not an expert on the process involved, but clearly some kind of plate or etching was made to then print the Burning Leaves cover. The manual addition of color adds another layer of differentiation. I love the combination of suggesting something mass-produced but also carefully hand-made/detailed.

Given that both the text and the art in City of Saints are, in addition to mirroring the real world generally, in dialogue with specific modes of creativity—Decadent-era art and literature, for example; Borges/Nabokovian approaches—it feels right for fan art to continue this process of echoing and riffing in the micro details, while on the macro level making something that, to me at least, seems different from the source material. If the creator gave permission, I could certainly see incorporating this in some iteration of an Ambergris book, wherein it would itself be recontextualized and thus assimilated back into the city.



Eliminative Culinarism and Bad Cheese Plates

Been meaning to recommend Reza Negarestani’s blog, Eliminative Culinarism, which includes great book recommendations (like the one above, which I’m hurrying off to order).

I’ve also been meaning to tell you that I don’t go to football games anymore because the beer is crap and they don’t serve a decent cheese plate. Oh yeah—and bleacher seating next to a guy who wants to high-five after every play…exhausting and uncomfortable.

Also been meaning to tell you—yer lookin’ good. That fake hair is almost lifelike!

And, finally, please remember: use your powers for good today. That means, for you personally, probably restricting your travel to your iron bubble for the next 24 hours.

P.S. Contrary to rumor Ann and my next editorial project will not be centered on carnivorous ponies. But here’s a totally out of context “rectangle” from the rough cover design for the Cabinet antho.


Bull Spec? BULL SO!


Editor-publisher Samuel Montgomery-Blinn recently sent me Bull Spec #3, a new speculative fiction magazine that has featured writers like Joe Haldeman, Natania Barron, Lavie Tidhar, D. Harlan Wilson, Katherine Sparrow (whose work is seriously underrated), Kaolin Fire, John Kessel, and more.

Starting a magazine with a hardcopy presence is probably seen as running counter to the Evidence, but in actual fact that’s one reason why it might be a good time to use this approach—simply because most new genre mags are web-only, or web with a resulting annual anthology.

I have to admit that although I know and respect the editor, I’ve been in the field for 25 years now and I’ve seen dozens and dozens of start-up publications last an issue or two and go the way of the dodo. So I’ve been supportive but also coldly clinical about its chances of sticking around. It’s a tough, tough area of publishing.

So, encountering the third issue made me sit up and take notice. Oh, this magazine might just be around in a year—if it gets sufficient signal boost. All I know is, the little warning bells that always go off in my head when encountering something I’m not sure will have longevity have been snuffed out.

Also, Bull Spec is enjoyably and admirably eclectic. An interview with David Drake would not be the first thing I’d guess would be in the same issue with a story by Sparrow, but it works. The organizing impulse is a roving eye for stuff that’s interesting. The magazine deserves your support.

Bull spec? BULL SO!

Creative Breathing

I’m going to be posting a little more on Booklifenow over the coming months, in addition to Jeremy L.C. Jones’s heroic efforts. I just posted a piece entitled: “Just Breathe: Rejuvenating the Imagination.”

In Praise of Indie and Used Bookstores: Kramerbooks, Idle Time Books, Bartleby’s

(Two books from Kramerbooks & Afterwords, along with The Golden Age)

As the chain bookstores and, if we’re honest, the emerging popularity of e-books continue to put the squeeze on indie bookstores and used bookstores, it’s important to recognize what we’re in danger of losing. I was reminded of this issue when Ann and I recently explored Washington D.C. after the Capclave convention.

Whereas chain bookstores tend to be the same, with some variation, indies and used bookstores don’t just have their own personality—they have different books. Chain bookstores can include a lot of inventory, and they can stock some pretty esoteric things, but when we stepped into Kramerbooks, for example, I was immediately struck by the differences. One difference is in your face: what’s emphasized and what’s not emphasized. For example, the Europa Editions and NYRB Press titles pictured below were much easier to find at Kramerbooks than in the chain store we entered. Clearly, Kramerbooks valued these editions more. In the case of the two books about an Irish island pictured above, I don’t think the chain store even carried copies. In addition, Kramerbooks’ noir/mystery section was much more heavily slanted toward interesting stuff.


In another section of town, the rather awesome Adams Morgan district, we spent a great half-hour in the used bookstore Idle Time Books. I’m fairly sure we wouldn’t have found the Hama Tuma just a shelf away from the book on Ruskin in a chain store, and I’m not even sure either book is still in print to be stocked by any new store. When talking about used books, the internet certainly helps track down stuff that’s out of print. But on the other hand, we didn’t go into Idle Time wanting to buy a book on Ruskin or a book by Hama Tuma. It’s the wonderful chance encounter that created the opportunity, and the eccentricities or organizing principle of the buyer there, combined with the vagaries of coincidence or fate that brought someone there to sell those books to Idle Time Books in the first place.


Another used bookstore, Bartleby’s Books in Georgetown had a completely different feel, texture, approach. Bartleby’s had quite a good selection of antiquarian books as well as first edition fiction in fine condition. For example, a first edition of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles that I lusted after but ultimately put back in favor of two less expensive editions, pictured below. I had never heard of Vassilikos, and I’d never heard of this particular Kobo Abe novel. Even if browsing the internet, even with a sample to read, I don’t think I would’ve ordered the Vassilikos online. In fact, it took putting the book back down, picking it up again and reading in a different place, finding myself attracted to the sleekness of the design, putting it back down, and then picking it up for a final time and being convinced by a third passage…before I truly became the owner of that book. There was a similar period of acclimation to the Abe. Neither book is likely to be found in the chain bookstores, certainly both available online, yes, but only in the conjunction of our presence in that store on that day, having just read more of Gravity’s Rainbow that morning along with part of a thriller, and only in the presence of the book as physical object, did the elements come together in such a way that we now have both books.


This isn’t a mystical process, but it is a cumulative one, and it’s not so much about fetishizing the physical object as it is about the search and the role of chance and the seeming role of fate (the sense of it being meant to encounter a particular book). Physical bookstores, of which indie bookstores and used bookstores are often the best examples, also remind us that a book is part of the physical world in away that ordering on the internet or downloading to an e-reader cannot. In other words, I want the whole experience of book buying, not just the clicking and the acquiring. I know, too, that the culmination of these experiences of chance and fate have consequences, influences, on not just my further reading but also on my own writing and other book projects. That by rolling the dice in this way, I’m allowing new things and new experiences to come my way.

In short, I want to be surprised, and not just by similar groupings of books created through an algorithm. I’d much rather be influenced by the uncertain and even eccentric or crackpot algorithm of the individual bookstore owner’s or manager’s mind. I’d rather enter a memory cathedral than a department store.

Call me old-fashioned, but don’t say there isn’t something wonderful about the full-on experience of buying a good or unusual book. Am I right, half-right, or wrong? And to what extent do you as a book-lover benefit from the used or indie bookstores in your area?