In the early 2010s, I wrote a play called True Believers that was kind of a send-up and a love letter to comic-con culture. The play had a full production in Boston in 2012 (closing on the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con, when they first announced the Guardians of the Galaxy, which totally ruined the meta-level "I Am Groot" gag in the script), as well as staged readings at fringe festivals across the country, from New York to Chicago to Valdez, Alaska.
I later tried to turn that script into a novel. It was an interesting writing experience — trying to adapt your own work across mediums, from one that's explicitly external to one that's largely internal is a weird challenge, to say the least — and ultimately, nothing really came of the manuscript.
But now that we're all quarantine, and now that comic books themselves have also been quarantined for the foreseeable future, I've decided to serialize it on Medium, broken down into digestible chunks. The first 10 chapters are out now, and they each take (by Medium's calculations) about 4-9 minutes to read. I'll be adding new chapters every day through the end of the month. If you're looking for some nerdy laughs and nostalgia, it could be a delightful way to pass the time right now.
Here's a fuller synopsis of the story, in case you're not convinced:
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It's the weekend of the big annual comic book convention, and Chad Mailer is a young professional comic book writer who hit his career peak five years ago with a series that he never actually finished, and he now wishes to re-ignite his career.
I’ve known Richard Kadrey for a number of years. We generally mouth off at each other about technology, injuries we acquired while we were young/dumb, barbecue, tiki drinks and movies. There’s not much jibba-jabba, however, about what either of us does for a living. He writes constantly. So do I. It’s nice to talk about anything but your gig, from time to time.
That said, the rent must be paid, so here we go.
On August 28th, the tenth book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, Hollywood Dead, will be available in the United States. Last last week, after reading an advanced copy that was sent out to me, I got on the horn for a chat with him about the new book, his plans for Sandman Slim and what he’s got cooking beyond the massively popular urban fantasy series.
SB: I read Hollywood Dead over the weekend. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about the new book is how the tension ramps up as Stark came to understand how screwed he really was.
RK: I really wanted him off-balance. He felt off-balanced in The Kill Society—Stark was basically hiding who he was. But I wanted him to be genuinely fucked up in this book. He thinks everything’s going to be fine now and nothing is fine. Everything is fucked up. There’s no problem he can solve by punching it. Yeah, there’s bad guys, but his overall situation can’t be solved with violence. In the book, a lot of the truth of what[Stark]is comes out of Kasabian’s mouth, the way it always has. Read the rest
Katherine Dunn, the author of the incredible macabre comedic novel Geek Love, about the strange shenanigans in a circus sideshow, has died at age 70 from lung cancer. From a Los Angeles Times profile of Dunn at the time of the book's release in 1989:
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As Dunn's tale goes, Aloysius Binewski, proprietor of a traveling circus called Binewski's Fabulon, gets the notion to breed mutant children who will perform as sideshow freaks. His theory is that, along with boosting business, he will be bestowing upon his children "the inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves..."
Dunn said she got the idea for "Geek Love" in 1979 while she was walking in the experimental rose gardens in Portland. Admiring the hybrid roses, she conceived Papa Al and his hybrid children.
She was thinking about her son at the time and the whole issue of "the things we do to our children--most of the evil in the world is not done with bad intentions but with the best intentions ever," she said.
Dunn said "Geek Love" also reflects her concerns with "the volcanic and terrifying possibilities of genetic mutation and the whole issue of the cult." (In the book, flipper-boy Arty starts a cult in which converts have their arms and legs amputated so they can become more like their leader.)
At first, Dunn was shocked by her own terrifying characters. Now and then she'd read a passage to her son, who invariably shook his head and responded: "Weird."
Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors (1965), has died. The novel -- which in 1979 led to the classic cult film of the same name -- was inspired by Yurick's experiences working in the New York City Department of Welfare.
“Some of the children of these families were what was then called juvenile delinquents,” Mr. Yurick wrote in an introduction to an edition of “The Warriors” published in 2003. “Many of them belonged to fighting gangs. Some of these gangs numbered in the hundreds; they were veritable armies. This social phenomenon was viewed, on the one hand, as the invasion of the barbarians, only this time they came from the inside rather than from the outside.”
"Sol Yurick, Author of ‘The Warriors,’ Dies at 87" (NYT, thanks Gil Kaufman!) Read the rest
Rasputin's Bastards is David Nickle's latest book, an epic novel from one of horror's weirdest voices. During the cold war, the Soviets established City 512, a secret breeding experiment intended to create a race of psychic supermen. It worked far, far too well. The dreamwalkers of City 512 may have given lip-service to their masters, but in truth, they were occupied with their dreaming, the sleeper agents whom they could ride like loas, the succesive generations of dreamwalkers, each more powerful than the last, and their own power-struggles.
Now the cold war is long past, and the final act is upon the world. The Babushka, one of the great powers of City 512, has established a stronghold in a fishing village in the remotest northern reaches of Labrador. Her enemies are legion, and some of them don't even know what side they're on. The dreamwalkers have always had the power to trap their enemies in false identities and false memories, and the main characters of Rasputin's Bastards are never quite sure who they are, what has happened to them, what is real, and what is poisonous illusion.
Nickle's book is an enormous tale, bewilderingly complex, but with lots of twists and turns that reward close attention. It is grotesque, violent, and exciting, with a supernatural tinge that is his hallmark.
Rasputin's Bastards Read the rest
Adam Christopher's debut novel Empire State is a noir, Philip K Dick-ish science fiction superhero story about a pocket universe that's created when two battling New York superheroes open a vent through spacetime. New York City is reflected through this vent into the pocket, and in the distorted surface of the pinched-off bubble of reality, the city is reflected back in strange, existential form. The new city is called Empire State, and it is a grey, washed-out version of New York, perpetually shrouded in mist, perpetually at war, and the brave lads of Empire State are forever being wired into the bodies of robots and sent off in seagoing Ironclads, warships that never return.
New York and Empire State are imperfect mirrors of one another, and only a handful of people in either city know or suspect of the existence of the other. Some people are mirrored in the new world, versions of themselves that are either convincingly like the original, or their polar opposite, or something in between. The year is 19, nineteen years after the creation of Empire State, and the war slogs on, and the strange, violent bureaucracy that runs the city and persecutes the war tightens up the rationing and prohibition that make life even darker in Empire State.
This is a novel of surreal resonances, things that are like other things, plot turns that hearken to other plot turns. It's often fascinating, as captivating as a kaleidoscope, especially if you don't spend too much time trying to figure out the mechanics of the setup, the physics of the worlds. Read the rest
Math Girls is Hiroshi Yuki's immensely popular series of fiction and manga about math geeks ("Like Glee for math nerds"), and the stories themselves are a potted education in all sorts of mathematics. The first volume of Math Girls is to be published in English shortly by Bento Books, and they've posted a brief excerpt in PDF form. The site is short on actual details (publication date, ISBN, etc), but I'm looking forward to the book becoming reality nevertheless.
(Thanks, Sohagan!) Read the rest
If you are a fan of hardboiled fiction, you probably know about Hard Case Crime, a pulp-noir book imprint founded by the founder Juno Online Services, Charles Ardai. Recently, Titan books has become the publisher, and their slate of upcoming books looks great.
Here's an exclusive excerpt from Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence, by veteran crime novelist Lawrence Block.
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The fellow’s name in Kansas City was Lucas. She’d taken note of him early on, and his eyes had shown a certain degree of interest in her, but his interest mounted when she told the group how many sexual partners she’d had. It was he who’d said, “Five? That’s all? Just five?” When she’d confirmed her count, his eyes grabbed hers and held on.
And now he’d taken her to another bar, the lounge of the Hotel Phillips, a nice quiet place where they could really get to know each other. Just the two of them.
The lighting was soft, the décor soothing. A pianist played show tunes unobtrusively, and a waitress with an indeterminate accent took their order and brought their drinks. They touched glasses, sipped, and he said, “Five.”
“That really did it for you,” she said. “What, is it your lucky number?”
“Actually,” he said, “my lucky number is six.”