Oedipus Hex

Anil Menon‘s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Albedo One, Apex Digest, Chiaroscuro, Interzone, LCRW, and Strange Horizons. His most recent story, The Poincare Sutra, can be found in the utterly gorgeous Sybil’s Garage No. 7. His YA/SF novel The Beast With Nine Billion Feet (Zubaan, India) was released in November 2009. It’s been shortlisted for the 2010 Vodafone-Crossword Children’s Fiction Prize. He blogs at Round Dice and can be reached at [email protected] He doesn’t typically refer to himself in third person.
This is a story. This is a true story. This is the story by a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. This is an unpublished story by Kafka, found in the coat pocket of a dead Jew. Paul Verlaine scribbled this story on a napkin at the Le Chat Noir the night before he shot Rimbaud with a 7mm. This story is like a chess game played with a machine. This story was told by your mother the night you were conceived. This is the tale Shahryar told Scheherazade on their wedding night. This is a story never read before. This is a 2,500-year old creation myth extracted from an Egyptian sarcophagus. This story was found in Sigmund Freud’s pocket the night he died.

These stories are not part of the story I will shortly tell. In fact, to avoid testing your patience, here is the story:
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State of Today’s Mushroom

Today’s guest-mushroom has paused her reading in order to create this entry.

Today’s mushroom carries around a copy of The Third Bear. Due to constant interruptions, today’s mushroom has not even finished reading the first story.

Today’s mushroom wonders. Is the bear a hero or a villain? In this story, the bear wreaks havoc.What is the third bear thinking?

Once the story leaves the writer, the story belongs to the reader. What the reader thinks of the story, how the story affects the reader, how the reader engages with the story, these are things out of the writer’s control. Was it the writer’s intention for me to think about the third bear as the hero in his own story? I don’t know. I haven’t finished the story yet. Perhaps there are no heroes in this story, perhaps there are more than one. What is a hero anyway?  And do I really need heroes for me to like a story?

Today’s mushroom considers heroes. Are heroes tasty?  If I mixed them in with my soup, will heroes make me heroic too? Heroes and the consumption thereof . . . hold that thought. Ha, ha.

Today’s mushroom is having an attack of absurd melancholy. It happens even to the best of mushrooms. But heroes. . . yes . . . perhaps heroes have those too. Who are your heroes and if you consumed them what would they taste like to you?

Today’s mushroom wanders off to read some more. Hopefully, the mushroom will finish reading this story before more interruptions occur.

**updated to say: I finished reading the first story. A five star story, definitely awesome. Off to read more.

Does it make a difference when authors step into another’s shoes?

Guest blogger Jason Sanford often rants on his website at www.jasonsanford.com. His fiction has been published in Interzone, Year’s Best SF 14, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pindeldyboz, and other places, and has won the 2008 Interzone Readers’ Poll and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.

So a month back I wrote a snitty little post on why I wouldn’t read And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer, which is the newly authorized sequel to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I mean, dammit, I love Adam’s trilogy. I think the first three books are as near to perfect as fiction writing can be.

Then Colleen Lindsay offered to send me a copy of the book to read. When the book arrived yesterday, I opened it and read a bit and found myself laughing. Which is deeply disturbing. I mean, if I like the book does that mean individual authors and their particular creative visions no longer matter for crap?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. And I must finish reading Colfer’s book before I can say if it is good or not. But this has made me wonder. Are we entering a world where fanfic—i.e., diving into the imaginary worlds of others—is the new norm among writers?

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How Did You Find It?

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and game designer. He also blogs at Gameplaywright and The Gist. Look for him at Jeff VanderMeer’s reading in Atlanta at 8pm on December 11th at Manuel’s Tavern.

How did you find the book you’re reading now?

I first found Jeff VanderMeer’s books through this very instrument: the blog. First I discovered the writer, then I discovered his works. So I was a fan of Jeff’s before I was a fan of Ambergris. I read him, once, as the future king of Booklife, in a sense—as a writer talking about the writing life—and then, later, as a fantasist. So I don’t much remember Jeff’s work as a text alone, as stories from some mysterious stranger. I’ve always known it as Jeff’s writing.

How you discover a writer effects how you read the work, doesn’t it? Everything comes with this layer of context, and while we can relax our eyes and let it fall out of focus, so we see just the story on the page, it’s still there to be seen.

Thinking about it lately, as a I try to fathom how we find readers and how readers find us, I’ve realized that I find a lot of books by finding the writer first. It’s not usually blogs, for me, as much as it is hearing this or that story about this or that writer; catching a glimpse of an oeuvre before I go grasping for a bit of it. I read Michael Chabon’s novels because I’d read his essays here and there and thought, “I wonder how this guy builds his stories?” I read John Hodgman and David Rakoff after I heard them on This American Life.

I don’t do a lot of blind buying. I don’t gamble much with what I read. I’m not proud of that, necessarily, but there it is.

So I’m left wondering how you found what you’re reading now. How did you find your newest favorite book? And if that book is Finch, then tell me how you found VanderMeer.

Unleash the Grossbarts

S.J. Chambers is an articles editor for Strange Horizons.  Not only has her work appeared in that fine forum, but also Tor.com, Fantasy, Bookslut, and The Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog.  She is also currently working with Jeff as his Master Archivist for The Steampunk Bible. You can find out more about S.J. at www.sjchambers.org.

Mark this day, kind Ecstatic Days readers, for it is no longer merely November 16, but Grossbarts’ day.


I had planned to mark this occassion with a video outtake from my interview with Jesse at World Fantasy, which is up over at Strange Horizons. Alas, my technological prowess and budget would not allow me to edit the monster stream, so I offer up instead choice and celebratory links.

First, interested parties can procure a copy here.  Then there is, of course, the home of Grandpa Grossbart himself, which carries links of its own to all the reviews and interviews, his blog, and a gallery of Grossbart related art.   The Grossbarts’ fine home can be found at Orbit, where Jesse has been posting a nice series of Grossbart scholarship articles. Then there is a funny video interview with Jesse by the very technologicaly savvy Molly Tanzer over at Fantasy magazine. Last, but not least, Jesse waxes poetic about why it is he gives birth to such horrible, horrible men and creatures at Powell’s. And last, but not least, just got linkage (this is p.m., as opposed to the a.m. of when this was orginally written) to the funny book trailer: Grossbarts on YouTube.

Well, I know that isn’t 5 glorious minutes of hearing Jesse discuss parallels between Bush’s War on Terror and the Grossbarts, a part of my interview that was excised from the final text-cut at Strange Horizons, and will be, until I figure out how to edit for free, locked up in the vault for another 50 years.

Here’s to….

S.J. Chambers is an articles editor for Strange Horizons.  Not only has her work appeared in that fine forum, but also Tor.com, Fantasy, Bookslut, and The Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog.  She is also currently working with Jeff as his Master Archivist for The Steampunk Bible. You can find out more about S.J. at www.sjchambers.org.

Answering Questions Via Cell Phone: The Future of Interviews?

Joseph Mallozzi was kind enough to host a discussion of City of Saints & Madmen this week as part of an ongoing book club he oversees from his blog. I had agreed to answer any questions from readers, but when Joe sent them to me I had already turned off my computer. So I answered them from my cell phone. I think this improved my performance immeasurably, as typing on the tiny keyboard at one in the morning made me choose my words very carefully indeed. Please go check it out–including a cute photo of my grandson Riley.

A couple of excerpts (it gets pretty strange by the end, with references to banjo playing and county fairs):

I think I understand the squid, which seem to be inspired by Cthulhu, but what was your inspiration for the fungus and Gray Caps?
JV: The squid were inspired by…squid. The fungus was inspired by…fungus. The gray caps were inspired by…the little gray people who [I force to] live in my cellar.

What was the initial reaction to the book’s publication?
JV: Chaos. Riots in the streets. Extreme anger. Indifference. Cookies. Handshakes. Major book deal.

I was wondering what kind of jobs you held prior to your first published work.
JV: Infant. Toddler. Middle schooler. Junior high[er].

There’s Only Fun Left to Be Had

When I was a kid, my parents had a few couples of friends with whom they used to play cards on Saturday evenings. Whether it was bridge night or canasta night, we almost always had someone over for dinner on Saturday. This led me to believe that having guests was somewhat a fatality for my poor parents. At about the age my daughter Stefana has now, one of these visiting couples made the mistake to ask me what I wanted to become when I’ll grow up. I answered without hesitation: “I wanna be a guest!”. They laughed politely and my mom, knowing me, tried to move on with the conversation, but the lady who had asked me in the first place wanted to know more: “Why a guest?” And the answer silenced her (and sent my dad to the bathroom, where from we almost instantly heard him laughing histerically): “Yes, a guest, because guests always come when the house is cleaned, the food is ready and there’s only fun left to be had”.

I remembered this anecdote (one that my dad used to bring up whenever there were not so welcomed guests around) today, thinking that I have finally achieved my childhood dream. I am a guest, and a guest-blogger at that: the blog is here, the audience ready-built and eager for my words. In consequence, it’s time to have fun!

No, no more letters from my lawyer this time. Fun has become a peculiar notion for me, the almost forty-year-old publisher and reviewer (I do the occasional book reviews on my blog or for Nautilus, a webzine hosted by my fiercest rival in Romanian publishing but edited by my friend, writer Michael Haulică) who spends most of his time reading and writing about books. Fun is NOT reading books for review or publishing consideration purposes. Fun is spending time with my girls and doing carpentry work at the country house I bought this spring. And fun is also reading books for my own pleasure. I might end up reviewing them or even publishing them, but the initial impulse is, ALWAYS, aimed at having fun. I buy them from Amazon.com or B&N (they finally lifted the ban from Romanian ordering) or in the local bookstores or at bookfairs. Sometimes friends send them, sometimes I find them (on this blog, sometimes). I read them in days or merely hours. And these are the books I always end up recommending to others, even if I’m not their publisher, even if my best interest would be to push my own books. These are the ones that get pictured in my now regular bookporn blog posts, with their covers displayed to be seen by all, with sometimes even their first page being offered, scribbled with an autograph, to the salacious eyes of voyeur readers.

And, since being a guest is about having fun, I thought I’d show you some of the books I’ve had fun with this year, so far. [Read more…]

Shriek Limited From Wyrm Publishing

One last post before the next guest blogger–here’s the cover of the limited of Jeff’s Shriek: An Afterword. Complete with printer marks. The design is by John Coulthart. The art is by Ben Templesmith. (Check out a larger version here.) John also designed the interior. It will come with some short additional material in the back, as well as a copy on DVD of the Shriek movie and a CD of The Church’s original soundtrack for the book. (This is not the movie music, although it includes elements of that music. Also lyrics taken from the book.) Signed and numbered as well.

I’ve attached a very short sample from four of The Church’s songs: church-music_0001

You can order the book here. It will be out in September. Below find the original “trailer” for both book and movie (the music there is, again, in the movie, not on the CD accompanying the book). Yep, that is Tim and Steve from The Church speaking at the beginning…

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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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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…]