Peer into the authorly den…

…with a charming illustrated overview of classic and contemporary authors’ favorite edibles (and drinkables) while writing. (Whitman: “Oysters + meat. For breakfast!”)


…and with an amusingly obsessive infographic comparing authors’ wake-up times to their literary output and awardedness. I have quibbles with the visualization (these colors are noooot self-explanatory, or easily distinguishable), but the wake-up times alone are entertaining and informative as to character (of course Murakami gets up at 4am).

And visually, I have to assume it all works better as a poster, where you can actually see everything at once. Indeed, the graphic is available as an attractive poster print.

– E

R.I.P., E. L. Konigsburg, 1930-2013

“Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.”

E. L. Konigsburg, beloved and multiply Newbery-winning author of the wry, quiet, and brainy children’s classics From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerThe View from Saturday; Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth; and many others, passed away at 83 on this past Sunday, April 21.

I can’t count how many times I’ve read From the Mixed-Up Files…, thrilled to the furtive elegance of Claudia and Jamie’s runaway plot, and dreamed about harvesting coins from the Met’s fountains and sleeping in its brocaded beds alongside them. There’s so much to love about Konigsburg’s portraits of watchful, thoughtful, growing kids. With concise wit, she captures their probing intelligence; their capacity for nurturing odd thoughts in secrecy; their pride; and, both humorously and sympathetically, their disaffection. Her affection towards them isn’t so much the fond downward gaze of an adult, but the admiring, good-humored glance of one comrade at another. Thank you, E. L. Konigsburg.

Also, from her obituaries I’ve learned that she was a woman in the sciences (chemistry, specifically) long before it was widely accepted. I feel proud to be following her, and women like her. I would have loved to be able to talk with her about science and writing.


And see Wikipedia for a full list of her works.


– E

Aspirational reading

From Carl Sagan’s notes as an undergraduate: have a look at his list of planned “Outside Readings” for the “Autumn Quarter, 1954.” It’s an impressive sampling of scientific and Western thought; there’s Hubble, Oppenheimer, the Bible, André Gide – and also, of course, a science fiction anthology from Ballantine’s Star line. If I’m looking at the right one, it included short novels by Theodore Sturgeon, Lester Del Rey, and Jessamyn West.

– E

“Vikings will work for plunder. Geeks and artists will work for a dream. But businesspeople require… other forms of motivation.”

SF icon Neal Stephenson wishes video games with swords were more fun. And why the hell shouldn’t we help him out with that?

See: Neal Stephenson’s Kickstarter for CLANG (a.k.a. “Guitar Hero with swords”).

Basically: “Hi, I’m Neal Stephenson. I like hitting other people with sharp objects. I am dissatisfied with representation of this activity in existing virtual entertainment for nerds. I would like to make better virtual representation of this activity.” [N.B. I’m a gamer. No actual nerd-hate contained in this post; that would be silly.]

Even if you’re not inclined to contribute, make sure to watch the accompanying videos, which are delightfully absurd. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Neal Stephenson dryly comment on the current state of video-game combat, watch him recruit a Viking berserker to lure a caged CEO into fueling their failing studio’s electricity via human-sized hamster wheel, or witness the same Viking berserker testing a hipster’s reflexes, now’s your chance!

– E

Author Event: Caitlín R. Kiernan reads from The Drowning Girl

Only a bajillion days overdue (approximately), but here’s a quick event report of Caitlín Kiernan’s reading at Pandemonium Books (Cambridge, MA) in the spring of this year. The event took place on March 15th, on no less than the 75th anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s death.

Kiernan read from chapter 1 of her newest novel of dark fantasy, The Drowning Girl, from which I’d previously seen her read at Readercon 2011. Kiernan is my favorite reader of prose; she’s a sibylline presence, with exceptionally graceful gestures and voice. I didn’t understand at least a third of what was read at Readercon (which is only appropriate, as it was the chapter in which the book’s main character and narrator, who has schizophrenia, goes off her meds; Kiernan further noted that she was ill herself while writing the chapter), but was hypnotized; the first chapter of the novel was comparatively straightforward, a wry, edged introduction to protagonist India Morgan Phelps (“Imp”), her family’s history of madness, and her take on the unstable boundaries of truth and reality.

Kiernan reading from The Drowning Girl

A couple of tidbits from the Q&A following the reading:

  • Kiernan reflected on the fact that Imp represents, in some sense, “the person I wish I had become,” while Sarah Crowe, protagonist of preceding novel The Red Tree, was in part a representation of the person she had for some time become. [I’m afraid I didn’t write down as much context for this remark as I would have liked to, so if anyone has a correction or modification, I would welcome it.]
  • Deluxe dark-fantasy publisher Centipede Press has approached Kiernan about the possibility on working on a special edition of her 2001 novel Threshold.
  • There are some Very Exciting Projects in the works, which Kiernan was not at liberty to discuss. The furthest she could go was to hint that one had to do with comics (i.e. the now-ongoing Alabaster comic series with Dark Horse, which I love love love), and that the other had to do, just maybe, with a movie. She offered the summer of 2013 as a possible timeframe for more revelations about the latter.

Please see Kiernan’s website for more information about The Drowning Girl, and especially lend your attention to the haunting cinematic trailer. 

Go to:

Caitlín R. Kiernan: bio and works reviewed 

Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday at the age of 91, during the transit of Venus. I’m too stunned to feel right now, but I know I’m going to miss him.


Some articles and remembrances (you can find a far more exhaustive list at Charles Tan’s blog here):

  • New York Times obituary
  • Obama’s tribute
  • Caitlín Kiernan (one of my favorite stories of hers is “Bradbury Weather” – it’s an sf tale set on Mars, of course): “He showed me how to rub two words together and make a spark that could become a glorious and terrible inferno.”
  • Neil Gaiman in The Guardian: “Ray Bradbury was the kind of person who would give half a day to a kid who wanted to be a writer when he grew up.”
  • Neil Gaiman’s introduction to The Machineries of Joy
  • Lev Grossman in Time: “Bradbury was a fearless explorer of both outer space and inner— they were really the same thing to him. He loved innocence, but somehow that never impaired his understanding of evil.”
  • Bruce Sterling in the NY Times:“He used to speak of a mystical experience: instead of attending a family funeral, he ran off to a carnival. He found a sideshow huckster named “Mr. Electrico,” who told him that he was not a 12-year-old but a reincarnated spirit. He hit him on the head with an electrical wand and told him to aspire to immortality.

    If it sounds like a half-hour fantasy TV episode, it’s probably because Bradbury wrote so many of those, years later. But more important, it’s a metaphor for sci-fi as a way of life: departing a funereal mainstream culture to play techno-tricks with the tattooed sideshow weirdos.”

– E


Nebulas and more farewells

Been behind on award etc. news, I know, but that’s just how we roll around here these days.


Congratulations to the 2011 Nebula winners!!


Maurice Sendak passed away on Tuesday, May 8, at the age of 83.

Kakaner has a very sweet story about the importance of Where the Wild Things Are in her childhood, but I’ll leave her to tell it if she likes. Outside Over There was my Sendak of choice, tapping as it did into my embryonic love for tales of uneasy melancholy and queer nocturnal goings-on, kickstarting my obsession with changeling stories before I knew what a changeling was, and giving me exactly the best kind of nightmares in the weeks after my kindergarten teacher first read it to us. (Only a little bit facetiously: It’s a shame that most obituaries don’t seem to mention the influence of Outside Over There on Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which launched its own wave of weird childhood hang-ups.)

Below, some extracts from the moving New York Times obituary, from which I learned for the first time about Sendak’s melancholy childhood – and the fact that he was gay, and was with his partner, psychotherapist Eugene Glynn, for 50 years prior to Glynn’s death.

“A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.”

“As Mr. Sendak grew up — lower class, Jewish, gay — he felt permanently shunted to the margins of things. ‘All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,’ he told The New York Times in a 2008 interview. ‘They never, never, never knew.'”

And if you have the chance, please, please, please lend your ears to Sendak’s extraordinary interview with Terry Gross on NPR last year, in which he speaks with heartbreaking honesty about children, his childhood, aging, and death. At some point while listening, I overfilled my tea mug, and when I looked back to see it dripping onto my desk, my first impulse was to assume that it was also crying. Yeah.

(I also felt for Terry Gross: you can feel her wishing that this was a true conversation, rather than an interview during which she must maintain her radio air of pleasantly neutral inquiry.)

See also this brief and wonderful comic on children and books drawn by Sendak and Art Spiegelman (via Neil Gaiman and Caitlin Kiernan’s memorial posts).

Maurice Sendak, R.I.P.


Jean Craighead George passed away on Tuesday, May 15, at the age of 92. The only rival to the number of fantasy books and fairy tales I consumed when I was little was the number of nature and wildlife books; I was particularly passionate about Julie of the Wolves and re-read it and its sequels heaps of times. (I remember getting caught re-reading Julie… under my desk during fifth grade once – which was I think the same year that I first read My Side of the Mountain, from which I notably learned about Walden and Thoreau, whose name I was convinced had to be pronounced “Thor-yew”…) George’s works and characters embody meticulous observation and a luminous sense of wonder, speaking to a lifetime of loving study of the natural world and its inhabitants (humans included). Thanks, Ms. George, from this now-biologist, for sharing your passion with us. R.I.P.

– E

Go to:
“The Golden Key,” by George MacDonald, illus. by Maurice Sendak (1867): review by Emera

Extremely silly photos…

…of extremely serious writers.

Made my day. Click for mostly deadpan photos of Sontag, Hemingway, Proust, et al. wearing animal costumes, kicking stuff, and hugging Muppets, among other august pursuits.


Unrelatedly – I’d seen a few of early 20th-century artist Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s tales before, but never all of them in one place. Check out this post at illustration blog 50 Watts to see high-resolution scans of his terrifying, Beardsleyesque, immensely powerful work. Clarke uses black to evoke dread and suspense like no other, and his characters’ Rasputin-like eyes alone are arresting. But my favorite might be this stunning, nearly abstract piece for “A Descent into the Maelström.”

– E

The news gauntlet

Two bits of Caitlín Kiernan excitement:

  • The growing gallery of Kyle Cassidy’s photographic work based on Kiernan’s next novel, The Drowning Girl, forthcoming in March. The documentary clarity of Cassidy’s photos is unsettling in combination with the uncanniness of many of the scenes, particularly when angular, predatory Eva (as portrayed by model Sara Murphy) is involved. Other shots are intimate, introspective, rich and dusky in lighting. Prints from the collection are available for purchase, and one in particular is on sale.
  • An appetite-whetting interview over at Bloody Disgusting on Alabaster: Wolves, the forthcoming Dark Horse comic featuring Kiernan’s lonely, teenaged monster hunter Dancy Flammarion. Dancy first appeared in Threshold, and later in short stories collected in Alabaster (review).

Through all her earlier misadventures, Dancy has always been guided by an angel, this seraph, unless the seraph is only an expression of insanity, or some unconscious aspect of her that, inexplicably, leads her to these creatures. In the first issue, she breaks with her guardian angel, so to speak, and is on her own for the first time. She is reborn. Her will and her wiles become her only guiding force. I don’t want to drop too many spoilers, but Alabaster: Wolves is largely about Dancy finding her own way, and it’s a much darker road than she’s ever walked. Maybe this is a book about Dancy going sane. As to other themes, I’m really trying to address the grey areas between what we call good and evil. Dancy has always struggled with the idea that maybe she’s just another sort of monsters, and possibly some of the beings aren’t necessarily evil. You’ll see a lot of that.”

The strength (/blindness) of the earlier Dancy’s convictions made her both admirable and something of a psychological cypher, since she ultimately responded to any uncertainty or self-doubt by destroying external threats, and thereby, supposedly, restoring some measure of metaphysical order. I very much look forward to the new direction that the older and “rebooted” Dancy will take.


The Sindiecate is an artist collective (six members so far) who post tributes to independent comics, featuring a different series each week. I’ve enjoyed browsing their archives both to see art of familiar favorites (Mouse Guard, Umbrella Academy, Oglaf [link is to my favorite piece of the bunch, which is, predictably if you know Oglaf, very much NSFW]…), and to glean recommendations for future comic reads.


Check out The Open Road for a critical symposium spotlighting Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream (review). I haven’t had a chance to read all of the essays yet, but so far I’ve particularly appreciated M. G. Stephens’ reflections on the development of Selby’s voice – one of his most remarkable assets, alongside his urgently expressed compassion for suffering – and the creative milieu he occupied in bohemian New York.

– E

Go to:
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba (2008), review by Emera
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen, review by Emera
Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Petersen, review by Emera
Legends of the Mouse Guard, by David Petersen and others, review by Emera

Hey! Oscar Wilde!

– It’s Clobberin’ Time!: artists (and authors) draw their favorite literary figures

One of my favorite websites to check at random intervals, Hey Oscar Wilde hosts a vast compilation of art featuring favorite writers, creatures, characters, and places from across the literary spectrum. Artists include Kate Beaton, Marvel Comics legend Frank Brunner, From Hell‘s Eddie Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli (love for his prodigiously mustachioed Dracula)… ; subjects range from oliphaunts to Vonnegut to Pippi Longstocking to lots of Draculas and Frankenstein’s Monsters.

Some other favorites: this Madeleine L’Engle portrait by Farel Dalrymple (probably biased by my love for Proginoskes); Scott Morse’s incredible watercolor rendition of the tiger from Life of Pi.

– E