March 28, 2006

Stanislaw Lem Has Died

As I wrote over at ThePublishingSpot, Stanislaw Lem has died. Ever since I read his novel Fiasco, I fell in love with his Borges-laced blend of science fiction. Every story was lovingly crafted, and it seemed like Lem had created a new set of encyclopedias alongside his skinny books. The Andrei Tarkovsky version of Lem's Solaris was the slowest and most uncanny movie I ever loved, and the novel was even better.

Book Ninja collected all the obituaries about this amazing writer. I'll never forget the first few pages of Fiasco, where he sends us crashing along the surface of a moon inside a gigantic robot. For the first time since I was a little kid, I could imagine every detail of that moon and everything around me felt unexplored. He will be missed...

March 25, 2006

Surfboards, Whining, and Ben Domenech

I'm back with some breaking news, riding the crest of the Internet news wave on the Jason Boog Show Longboard. Get this: Ben Domenech resigned over at Washington Post! You heard it here first! Pow!

My other blogging gig, my day job, and the whole web pressure to publish publish publish has delayed my Chinese Gangster Story. In the meantime, check out what I wrote about this Evil Blogging Inspired Production Schedule that might be our doom...

"Right now, the only successful writers are the ones who produce manic quantities of opinionated posts on the web. Our profession is in trouble. What if the ruined print industry actually produced blogging hacks like Domenech, handcuffing them to pulp fiction production schedules? I'm scared that ten years from now, thousands of frenzied writers will be publishing millions of disposable blog posts, all of us earning Depression-era salaries.

Before we spend another ounce of energy debating
The Fall of Ben Domenech, we should look at the work culture that produced him."

March 21, 2006

One Crazy Step

Via the supersite BoingBoing, delivered to them by one of my favorite sites, The Institute for the Future, and finally copped from ThePublishingSpot, I offer you this amazing bit of Chinese mass fiction. It's an episodic gangster story written by competing authors, like a story narrated by a bar full of brawling writers.

Check it out:

"In the following, there is the translation of the beginning of an immensely popular forum post. This is a story about a man's involvement in the world of gangsters in China. The author was probably making things up as he progressed. Periodically, some of the commentators stepped in and made up their own variations. So the popularity of this forum post is based upon different reasons, of which the interaction may play a significant role."

It's fan fiction without a canon for readers to reference, a Choose Your Own Adventure written by readers and writers who bicker over what happens next, and one crazy step for blogging and fiction and mankind. Before being boingboinged, that story had 1.7 million page views and 21,000 different episodes. I love the idea of having a space that produces a story, rather than a boring old space where you put a produced story.

By the end of the week, if it kills me, I want to write a couple paragraphs in the brand-spanking-new genre of the Chinese Gangster Story and see if anybody writes back...

March 17, 2006

We are monkeys anyway

It's Saint Patrick's Day: my parent's anniversary, the botched beginning of Spring in New York, and most importantly, the farewell party for my buddy Dan Bell is at my house tonight. If you are in New York, give me a call.

I don't feel like like writing anything fancy, go play with these people instead...

Monkeys who talk like you want them to talk!

Doctor Who fan fiction madness!

An essay that explains why I love Jesus Christ Superstar!

My Henry-Miller-Loving-Writer-Who-I-Once-Split-A-Bible-With-

While-Drinking-Whisky-Together-Buddy, Ryan Hudson is alive and writing!

March 13, 2006

Patron Saints

As much as I hate to double-post with ThePublishingSpot, I'm tired. The blogging academic Harry Heuser dropped me a line today. His sprawling website digs through forgotten archives of old time radio dramas, turning up unexpected gems that shimmer in the 21st century light--like a voodoo melodrama interupted by news reports of the Pearl Harbor attack.

I've been trying to figure out how to get radio narration to fit into my own writing style for weeks, and it's always nice to find a fellow traveler. Heuser appreciates Cornell Woolrich and the other pulp fiction writers, the patron saints of worn-out bloggers.

Here, Heuser describes the beauty of old time radio narration, a pulpy writing style mixed with dramatic delivery:

"This . . . is London," of course, was Murrow's famous introduction to his blitz broadcasts. His reports made a distant fight for survival seem real and urgent--unlike that picturesque firework display that stood in for the air raids in the recent Judy Dench-starrer Mrs. Henderson Presents. After all, radio can produce terrors far more immediate than video or photography, provided you have mind, heart, and guts enough to translate dreadful sounds into horrible images."

March 07, 2006

I Was a Communist for the FBI

Over the last couple months, I've listened to hundreds of old radio shows, chasing pulpy stories by writers like Cornell Woolrich and Robert Sheckley. I was destined to be a radio show writer like them, but cruel fate handed me this blog instead.

Recently, I've obsessed over old episodes of I Was a Communist for the FBI. This show juiced up the adventures of Matthew Cvetic, an undercover agent who infiltrated the communist party headquarters in western Pennsylvania sixty years ago. Cvetic surfaced in the early 1950's, right as the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings axed hundreds of Hollywood artists for communist sympathies. In the fallout, this bizarre FBI agent landed a book, radio, and movie deal about his exaggerated adventures.

His life story produced over 70 mind-boggling radio episodes. Dave over at the Old Time Radio Fan site has archived a few episodes, including my favorite: "I Can't Sleep." This propaganda goldmine takes listeners inside Cvetic's surveillance-heavy bedroom. In a single episode, both the Russian and FBI agents bug our spy's room at the same time--everybody struggling to eavesdrop on Cvetic's sleeptalking jags. The scene where Cvetic crawls around in his communist bunk-mate's bed groping for a "toggle switch" on a bulky tape recorder is a classic moment in American paranoia.

If that's not enough, the Freedom of Information Act released hundreds of FBI files about Cvetic in the 1990's. Click on this link, click on the PDF link labeled "Part 01," and scroll down to page eight on the PDF for a bit of Black Magic Marker Top Secret Espionage FBI File Action where Cvetic claimed to know about a terrorist plot to poison the water in L.A.-- a memo straight from the desk of J. Edgar Hoover...

"I told Hood to see BLANK and first of all point out to BLANK that while we have not made any public comment on Matthew Cvetic we want BLANK to know for his own personal and confidential information that BLANK BLANK BLANK BLANKETY BLANK BLANK secondly, Cvetic has no right to presume to speak for the FBI as is connoted by his use of the word "we," that Hood feels BLANK should know that it might be necessary for us to publicly deny Cvetic's alleged insinuations."

In a year where Good Night and Good Luck took a look at the pulpy McCarthy-era newsroom and Brokeback Mountain took a look at homoeroticism in another masculine pulp fiction genre, I think I uncovered enough material for a big winner next Oscar season. Please include your movie offers in the comments section below, figures rounded to the nearest million.

March 03, 2006

"Gimp Suits"

I recently hooked up this blog to a sitemeter, and it has given me the most awful inferiority complex. I'm haunted by this nagging sense that this is no way to make a career. After reading piles and piles of Cornell Woolrich stories, it dawned on me that blogging is just like pulp fiction in the 30's and 40's--a fast, cheap, dirty, talent-sapping and self-destructive cycle that drove writers to produce more and more and more while boozing themselves to death.

All this more and more and more worried me, until my sitemeter revealed to me that someone visited my website via Google UK after searching for the word "Gimp Suit." My legacy is assured. Knowing this, I can die happy--no pulp fiction doomed ending for me...

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March 01, 2006

Twee Twee Twee

After hearing the Polyphonic Spree song called "Light and Day/Reach for the Sun" in the movie Murderball this weekend, I went and read this review by Rob Mitchum at

"The Polyphonic Spree never directly lift up their myriad voices for God (except in an ancient Egyptian Sun/Ra worship sense), yet I can't help but think of their 20+ members as the direct offspring of the Jesus Christ Superstar movie cast."

I'm not kidding you when I say this, I immediately bought both of their albums from ITunes without listening to another word, and I have been a very, very, very happy boy ever since. The music feels like sticking your head into a warm basket of freshly-dried clothes with a television tuned to a 1970's children's show buried at the bottom. Turns out there is a name for this delusional and cheery genre, "TWEE."

The name sounds like "twit" and "Tweedy Bird" mixed, and I probably deserve it. Oddly enough, I write this during the same week I published a grim, grim interview with crime writer, Steve Huff. I don't have a "thing" or an "attitude" that guides this blog, but I know you love swinging madly between the twee bar and the hardboiled bar on my mental trapeze, baby...

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