Monthly Archives: February 2010

Daryl Gregory on The Devil’s Alphabet

The Devil's Alphabet

A couple of weeks ago, after I interviewed comics writer/prose novelist Chris Roberson over at my other online home, Robot 6, we got to discussing novelists that he would recommend to feature here. One of the first names he mentioned was novelist Daryl Gregory. Roberson was kind enough to get me in contact with Gregory who was willing to discuss his latest novel, The Devil’s Alphabet. Before starting the interview, let’s delve into part of his bio: “Daryl Gregory’s first novel, Pandemonium, appeared from Del Rey Books in 2008 and won the Crawford Award for 2009. It was also a finalist for several other awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. His second novel, The Devil’s Alphabet, appeared in November, 2009, and was named one of the best books of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.”

Also, here’s some background on the novel itself: “Switchcreek was a normal town in eastern Tennessee until a mysterious disease killed a third of its residents and mutated most of the rest into monstrous oddities. Then, as quickly and inexplicably as it had struck, the disease–dubbed Transcription Divergence Syndrome (TDS)–vanished, leaving behind a population divided into three new branches of humanity: giant gray-skinned argos, hairless seal-like betas, and grotesquely obese charlies.

Paxton Abel Martin was fourteen when TDS struck, killing his mother, transforming his preacher father into a charlie, and changing one of his best friends, Jo Lynn, into a beta. But Pax was one of the few who didn’t change. He remained as normal as ever. At least on the outside.

Having fled shortly after the pandemic, Pax now returns to Switchcreek fifteen years later, following the suicide of Jo Lynn. What he finds is a town seething with secrets, among which murder may well be numbered. But there are even darker–and far weirder–mysteries hiding below the surface that will threaten not only Pax’s future but the future of the whole human race.” My thanks to Gregory for his time and thoughts.

Tim O’Shea: In addition to naming you in a manner that allowed you to avoid being called junior, do you think your parents unintentionally helped make your name more marketable for when your began your writing career?

Daryl Gregory: Wait, would my name be more unmarketable as a “junior”? Growing up, I thought it was pretty lame as it was. That’s why for my first publication — a science fiction story that appeared in “Rambler Roundup,” the Marion Hills Elementary School newsletter, when I was in fifth grade — I used the pen name “James Clark Savage,” Yes, I’d been reading a lot of Doc Savage.

We should explain to your readers that my father’s name is Darrell — note the subtle change in spelling — and that he also has a different middle name. So I’m a phonetically near-junior. The marketing genius of this — and I have to believe my parents planned it — is that it gives me something to talk about in interviews like this one.

Continue reading Daryl Gregory on The Devil’s Alphabet

Looking Forward to Cayamo: Edie Carey

In my run-up to next week’s Cayamo 2010 cruise, I am trying to focus on certain new artists I am just learning about prior to the cruise. Today I am focusing upon Edie Carey. Go to her site, listen to her music.

Given how much of a Shawn Colvin fan that I am, I’m shocked I’ve not run across Carey before. I’ve never heard anyone sound so much like Colvin–and as you can guess that’s a compliment, not an insult. She has her own distinctive songwriting style, however, and I look forward to seeing her perform live next week.

Looking Forward to Cayamo: Buddy & Julie Miller

This time next week, I will be on vacation, on a cruise–for the first time in my life. I’m not really drawn to cruises honestly. One thing might get me to board a boat. Well two things, my lovely wife being the main reason. The second reason is if that boat was loaded with damn good musicians.

Well the Cayamo 2010 cruise is going to feature an amazing collection of musicians, including Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Buddy Miller (with wife and fellow musician Julie Miller), John Hiatt, Darrell Scott, Shawn Mullins, Vienna Teng and Katie Herzig, as well as  Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen (solo), Allison Moorer, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers and Rachael Yamagata.

I had not heard of Buddy Miller until recently, when I saw Miller play with Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin on PBS’ Soundstage. Soon after that, a friend heard I was going on the cruise and he insisted I made sure to go see the Buddy and Julie Miller play together. They’ve been knocking around music circles for a number of years–since the early 1990s at the very least. Buddy Miller is also known as a producer. Be sure to go the musicians’ website as you can get a good listen to their music there, as well as an idea of all the people they have worked with over the years.

Random Thought on Snow

As I may have mentioned before, I live in the Atlanta area. To write about snow is a rare thing. We got a few inches yesterday–just as I was slamming on a few projects at my day job.

By the time I got out of the office, the light of the day was starting to fade and I had to make a trek across town. I decided to make a detour to see how snow looked falling by a river. Remember now, I’m from the South–snow does not happen here often–and when it does–it’s never close to the scale that Northerners regularly experience.

Eventually I got to the river and I am sad to say, snow falling next to a river is not as impressive as I had expected. Clearly my imagination is more vivid than reality. Or I have unrealistic expectations.

Rich Juzwiak on VH1, FourFour Blogs

VH1 Blog

I first learned about pop culture blogger Rich Juzwiak while listening to the Frenemies episode of This American Life in which he appeared. From there I started reading his Celebreality coverage on the VH1 blog, as well as his overall pop culture coverage at his own site, FourFour. I recently caught up with him via email to get his perspective on many aspects of pop culture.  Juzwiak can also be found here on Twitter. My thanks to Juzwiak for his time and thoughts.

Tim O’Shea: What kind of fortitude do you have to do the in-depth analysis of reality TV like you do on a regular basis–what keeps it interesting for you?

Rich Juzwiak: I think as a culture, we’re all quite taken with ourselves as a culture — there’s a sort of cultural narcissism that goes on with our obsessive need to report about ourselves and then report on that reporting. Bottom line: human beings are fascinating, especially at their behavioral extremes, which reality TV invites.

Continue reading Rich Juzwiak on VH1, FourFour Blogs

RIP William Tenn

I’m always eager to learn about a writer that I know nothing about. And thanks to Wired’s Steven Levy as well as Scott over at Polite Dissent, I got some insight into the late writer, William Tenn, who died on February 7.

Tenn was a pseudonym for Philip Klass, as noted in Levy’s tribute to him. I was struck by both Levy’s and Klass’ pieces due to their respective encounters with Klass/Tenn.

As a grad student, Levy studied with Klass:

I was one of those students, an English lit major in the grad program slowly grasping that I was not destined for academia. In his lengthy comment on the first story I handed in for his class, Klass began, “Well, at least you can write,” and proceeded to eviscerate almost every line of my work.

No matter — I could write! Klass helped get me an internship at the local newspaper — something not usually done for grad students. During my semester at the Centre Daily Times I covered a science fiction conclave held at the university and saw first-hand the massive esteem with which giants in the field like Frederick Pohl regarded Klass/Tenn. With his encouragement, I left State College with hopes of making a living with my typewriter. (Computers were a few years away.)

As a child,  Scott heard Tenn speak at a convention:

He was one of the last of the great Golden Age science fiction writers. He was also the first writer I ever saw at a convention. I was about twelve and had convinced my father to take me to Rovacon, a small science-fiction convention in the neighboring town of Roanoke, Virginia, where William Tenn was the guest of honor. I was having fun exploring the con and I only made it to the last ten or fifteen minutes of his talk, but immediately wished I had heard the whole speech. In the portion I heard, he was talking about the difficulties of time traveling. Not the scientific or technological hurdles, but the social ones. He mentioned how a man from just one hundred years ago would find it extremely hard to function in today’s society, and vice versa. Think of all the differences between now and 1910: Technology, certainly. Health and sanitation, too. But think of societal attitudes and how they’ve changed: Women’s lib. Civil rights. The U.N. Non-isolationist policies. A person traveling back to 1910 could quickly find themselves in trouble just mentioning some commonly accepted modern beliefs. At the age of twelve, I found this fascinating, and I still do. Now more than ever I wish I had made it the entire talk.

Scott’s recollection of Tenn’s take on time travel makes me want to read the man’s work. Fortunately, both posts direct me to good places to start my reading.

An impressive showing/collection of tributes from a number of people influenced or taught by Klass/Mann can be found at Tenn’s official website.

Final Tad Williams’ Shadowrise Excerpt

Tad Williams' Shadowrise
Tad Williams' Shadowrise

One final thanks (this week, at least) to Deborah for these excerpts. This is the third and final excerpt from  Tad Williams‘ upcoming release–Volume 3 in the Shadowmarch series, Shadowrise. The book will be released in March.

Today’s excerpt is from Chapter 11 (Cut and Thrust):

“Princess Briony,” said Lady Ananka as the servitors cleared away the most recent course, “can you tell me how children are raised in the north?”

A few whispers and quiet anticipatory laughter ran the length of the royal table. Briony wished her friend was beside her, but Ivgenia had been assigned to one of the lesser tables at the other end of the hall and she might as well have been in another country.

“I’m sorry, Baroness, but I did not hear your question.”

“How are children raised in the north?” the king’s mistress asked. “Are they allowed to run wild there, as the Marchfolk allow their sheep and other animals to do?”

Briony smiled carefully. “Not all our animals run wild, Lady, but for those who live in areas where grass grows freely it only makes sense to take advantage of the bounty the gods provide.”

Continue reading Final Tad Williams’ Shadowrise Excerpt

Deanna Caswell on First Ballet

First Ballet

Sometimes I walk into an interview situation. Such was the case a few months back when I walked into a bookstore where Deanna Caswell was promoting her storybook/picture book for children, First Ballet (Disney-Hyperion). After chatting with Caswell for a bit, she told me about her children’s book (written by Caswell, illustrated by Elizabeth Matthews), which captures a child’s first trip to the theater. Before starting the email interview, a bit of Caswell’s bio:

“…she is privileged to share her diverse experiences and love of learning through children’s books, newspaper and book articles, and posts for Little House in the Suburbs (under the pseudonym Ivory) while caring for three kids, four red-headed chickens and two miniature goats.

Deanna’s first book, FIRST BALLET (Hyperion) arrived October 6, 2009.  Her second book, TRAIN TRIP (Hyperion) arrives Fall 2010.  She can also be found in the 2009 and 2010 Children’s Writers Market.” It was a pleasure to discuss the challenges of getting published and her work in general.

Tim O’Shea: Along the road to writing First Ballet, you had several attempts at other manuscripts. To be exact, as you detail: “From February 2005 (when I started writing) to April 2007 (when I got my first sale), I wrote 30 manuscripts and had 150 rejections.”

Did you ever feel like losing track of the number of rejections to ease the sting?

Deanna Caswell: Over 100 submissions in two years is a lot to keep track of, but my crit partner and I were submitting as precisely and as often as possible. We didn’t want to send the same manuscript to the same publisher twice! That meant that we had to have spreadsheets (or handwritten notebook paper lists in her case. HA!) We had a record whether we really wanted to know the count or not.

Continue reading Deanna Caswell on First Ballet

Second Excerpt from Tad Williams’ Shadowrise

Tad Williams' Shadowrise
Tad Williams' Shadowrise

Thanks again to Deborah Beale’s kindness, here is the second excerpt from  Tad Williams‘ upcoming release–Volume 3 in the Shadowmarch series, Shadowrise. The book will be released in March.

In this second installment, we get a look at a snippet of Chapter Six (Broken Teeth):

Barrick had often criticized his sister Briony for her slovenly habits. She let dogs sleep in her bed even on warm nights, dropped her shoes wherever she took them off, and would cradle the muddiest, most disgusting creature in the world to her breast as long as it was a baby — whether puppy, foal, kitten, lamb, or chick. However, despite all the times Briony had driven her more fastidious brother into a rage, his strongest wish now was that he could speak to her again and apologize for saying that she was the most untidy thing that had ever lived…because now he knew better. No creature, not even some blind worm living in the very privies of Kernios, could be more disgusting than the raven Skurn, with his meals of frogspawn and festering mouse carcasses, his verminous, patchy feathers, and his constant smell of blood, rot and ordure.

Continue reading Second Excerpt from Tad Williams’ Shadowrise