Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fast Forward, Rewind, Fast Forward

My friend Eric Spitznagel is quite a character. I first met him in the early 90s in Oxford, when the two of us were studying theatre in a summer program run by the British American Drama Academy. He was determined to be the next Woody Allen or Hunter S. Thompson - he later managed to somehow combine the two influence. Eric favored wearing t-shirts with slogans like "Men Suck" on them, and his idea of a good time when riding the subway was to pick some unsuspecting stranger, sit next to them, and act crazy, wiggling his bushy eyebrows like a deranged muppet and muttering "Ga goongee goongee goo"at the unfortunate and increasingly uncomfortable commuter.

A year later, we were rooming together in Chicago, writing and directing small black box late night comedies in a run down little theatre in a less-than-salubrious neighborhood - the playhouse was across the street from a crack house. Most of our output was pretty amateurish (Eric has a play titled "I love you so much I want to tie you up with chains and beat you with warm squash" or words to that effect), but it was a wonderful/terrible time of cutting teeth and making huge mistakes, fraught with clashing egos and strong emotion. We both left theatre and pursued parallel careers in journalism (each doing a little time in Hollywood as well). We've stayed in touch on and off ever since, managed to live in the same town at the same time once or twice, and have even worked together on occasion. Eric provided me with a fantastic interview with Neal Pollack during my brief tenure as a magazine editor, and he returned the favor by commissioning my own interview with China MiƩville for the Believer magazine, where he currently serves as an associate editor. (His Interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, conducted with the "assistance" of Hawaiian psychic and trance medium Arthur Pacheco, is not to be missed, while his out-of-print The Junk Food Companion: the Complete Guide to Eating Badly, which among other things charts Cookie Monster's lifelong love/hate relationship with chocolate chips as detailed through his songwriting, is a rolling-on-the-floor funny book if one can find it.) Although we work in different genres - science fiction and Hunter Thompson-style gonzo journalism respectively, I've always had a feeling we were connected in some nebulous ethereal sense, that our disparate paths would go on to intersect and intertwine on and off at various odd junctions across the decades.

As an email announcement from Eric revealed yesterday, it turns out that connection is still going strong. Early next year, I have an anthology of original, unthemed science fiction stories called Fast Forward, the title being a nod to the accelerated pace of technological advancement in the 21st century. Well, synchronistically, Eric has a Fast Forward too. But, far from being a science fiction collection dedicating to our rapidly encroaching future, his is something else entirely. Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter, details Eric's all-too-brief career as a screenwriter in Burbank, California's porn film industry. I've read multiple chapters from this work while it was being produced, and can honestly say I've never laughed as hard at anything in my life. Now, let me be clear, I'm not exactly recommending this book, which is guaranteed to have something to offend just about anyone. This book is absolutely and on no uncertain terms not for everyone - not for the priggish, and certainly not for the PC - but if you think Boogie Nights is great cinema then this is the book for you. As Eric says, "It's about my attempts to write The Great American Porno. During my year spent as a porn scribe, I somehow convinced myself that I could write a script so funny and campy that no amount of bad acting or poor production values could ruin it. Of course, I failed miserably, and this memoir provides all the messy details of my rise and fall as porn's hot young writer of the moment. (The title, Fast Forward, refers to an industry term commonly used for a porn screenplay. Scripts are called "fast forwards" because audiences are expected to reach for their remotes whenever the actors stop having sex and start talking.) In a way, this book is less about porn than one's writer's search for relevance in an industry designed to be irrelevant. It's about how when life hands you lemons, it's not always possible to make lemonade, especially when the 'lemons' in this particular metaphor are enormous cocks."

But why Eric's word for it? As adult film star Asia Carrera (Nympho Newlywed, Thunder Pussy) says: "Despite his protests, Spitznagel may very well be porn's answer to Kurosawa. And not unlike Rashomon, you probably shouldn't believe a word he says. Fast Forward isn't the most flattering portrait of the adult film industry, but it's hands-down the funniest."

Meanwhile, you can catch Eric on his very-limited booktour on the following schedule. If you stop by, tell Eric I sent you:

Saturday, May 6
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave.
7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 9
City Lights
261 Columbus Ave.
7:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 11
Powell's Books on Hawthorne
3723 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 13
Elliott Bay Book Company
101 S. Main St.
7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 24
Shaman Drum Bookshop
311-315 S. State St.
7:00 p.m.

Friday, May 26
Barbara's Bookstore
1218 S. Halsted St.
7:30 p.m.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More Kindling for the Pyr

My apologies for letting the blog lie fallow for a couple weeks. There has been a host of Pyr related news accumulating while I've been away too. Worth noting:

First, our Fall/Winter 2006/7 catalog is now available, and you can download a pdf of it here. I'm very proud of this season, which includes works by Justina Robson, John Meaney, Sean Williams, Alan Dean Foster, Martin Sketchley, Mike Resnick, Jack Dann, and a brand new anthology from Yours Truly. (Check out the cool Picacio cover at the right. Note that the final contributors list for Fast Forward is not set in stone, though most of those listed on the cover at the right have already turned in their stories and the roster in the catalog shouldn't differ by more than a name or two. I'll post an update when I have the final TOC in a few weeks.)

And for those who don't want to download a pdf, here is a handy Amazon list of our fourth season. (Amazon is an amazing resource, but let me pause and plug the need to support the independents. Borderlands Books, for instance, is an amazing San Francisco-based store that carries our titles and can ship anywhere. Their Jude Feldman knows how to pack books for shipping with real care and is one of the few people in the world I trust to put jacket protectors on my collectible hardcovers! Hey Jude!)

Meanwhile, slipping in between seasons, John Meaney's Paradox - called "a landmark work" by's SciFi Weekly, compared to Dune by Entertainment Weekly, and chosen in B&N's Editors Picks as the # 2 SF&F Book of 2005 - is now available in trade paperback.

Tobias S. Buckell wrote to let me know that he thought Joel Shepherd's upcoming Crossover, for which he kindly provided a blurb, was "a [expletive deleted] blast" - wish I could put that on the cover!- and Publishers Weekly has just issued a glowing review of David Louis Edelman's upcoming novel Infoquake:

"Slick high-finance melodrama and dizzying technical speculation lift Edelman's SF debut, the first of a trilogy. Centuries in the future, humans rely less on machines than on upgrading their own nervous systems with nanotech bio/logic programs. Natch, a gifted young code programmer-entrepreneur obsessed with clawing his way to the top, jumps at the chance to merchandise a major new technology, MultiReal, even though he doesn't know what it is. Natch soon becomes a target for not just his business rivals but also totalitarian governmental agencies and more mysterious groups. Natch's being a borderline sociopath makes him extremely creative in business tactics and personal manipulation (and thus fascinating to read about). The world in which he operates is also fascinating, with awesome personal powers being sold on a frantic open market. Edelman, who has a background in Web programming and marketing, gives his bizarre notions a convincing gloss of detail. Bursting with invention and panache, this novel will hook readers for the story's next installment."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Picacio Has Got You Covered

Yesterday, I came home from my daily Starbucks run to discover a package on my doorstep which contained - to my tremendous delight - my copy of Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio. I cannot begin to tell you how gorgeous this tome is - you'll just have to experience that for yourself. But what I can tell you is how much heft and content it has over the average single-author art book. It's 200 pages long, and each illustration is graced with John's thoughts on their creation - not technical choices, but a detailed look at the inspirations behind the brushstrokes. This is an insightful glimpse into the mind of one of the premiere artists of his generation. We all judge books by their covers - which is why I'm grateful to have worked with John as much as I have. But with this book, trust me when I say you have got to crack the spine to believe what is inside. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! And already my top choice for the Best Related Book Hugo for 2007.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Geeking Out

The latest issue of Publishers Weekly has a piece from Ron Hogan called "Too Geeky for Its Own Good?," concerned with a number of SF professionals' reactions to that now-infamous Dave Itzkoff review "It's All Geek to Me."

For those who came in late, in his debut SF review column for the New York Times, Itzkoff says that David Marusek's Counting Heads was "one of my favorite books of last year in any category." Yet he bemoans the fact that he can't recommend the book to his fellow commuters on the train because it is "too geeky," complex and technical for someone reading The Kite Runner or A Million Little Pieces to comprehend.

In response to this, Hogan's article, in the April 3rd issue of PW, quotes Diana Gill, Jaime Levine, yours truly, David Hartwell, David Moench, and Itzkoff himself, who again assures us that he loves SF while paradoxically stating that the opinions of those who produce it matter little to him. (This is in odd contrast to the self-styled "outright advocacy" of his Times piece.)

Meanwhile, Hogan has found himself with more material than column inches, and so he has posted more thoughts online. "Outakes from This Week's PW Cover Story" is more than it sounds and constitutes a second article in its own right. In addition to yours truly, Hogan quotes Tor's David Hartwell, BL Publishing's Vincent Rospond, and Tachyon's Jill Roberts on the matters of smaller press publishing.

(A related PW article, "Fantasy Goes Literary" by Gwenda Bond, is also worth noting.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Revenge of Winston Smith

It is a shame that Alan Moore has chosen this moment to distance himself so far from Hollywood and to so publicly disavow this film, because V for Vendetta is the most faithful, respectful, and successful adaptation his work has had to date. Andy and Larry, I finally forgive you for the Matrix Revolutions. And while my absolution matters little, I suspect that millions of other filmgoers will too. Yes, the Wachowski brothers have returned to smart and daring movie making. Surprisingly light on action. Heavy on complex dialogue and plot. A truly uncompromising film. Everyone should see it.