What HP Lovecraft Can Teach Us About Programming the Reader

One of the many reasons I love pulp fiction from the early 20th century is that writers like HP Lovecraft can have a line like, "the moon was gleaming vividly over the primeval ruins" (from "The Nameless City") and actually get away with it. If I wrote something like "gleaming vividly," my teachers would have… Continue reading What HP Lovecraft Can Teach Us About Programming the Reader

On Knowing If You’re Any Good

  If you’re a writer, you’ll live your life not knowing if you’re any good.  And you’ll die not knowing.  I think John Berryman said that.  After Phil Levine published his first book of poems, people said, yeah, but can you do it again?  Then he did it again.  Then they said, yeah, but have… Continue reading On Knowing If You’re Any Good

Solving climate change one slick magazine at a time.

Read my latest in Splice Today: https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/jonathan-franzen-can-t-solve-climate-change-for-anyone-who-matters  

The Heat Death of a Wandering Star

A fortune teller in Northern California looked at my palm and said, “You’re going to lead an unnaturally long life.”  Then she slid my money back across the table and added, “I feel bad for you.”  This was in 2008 or 2009.  My memory of the year is less distinct than the mournful expression on… Continue reading The Heat Death of a Wandering Star

Writing out a few sentences by Nakamura to see how they feel.

There was something evil in the glow of the room's blue lights.  I felt the weight of the man on top of me.  He could no longer move.  His eyes were closed.  I stared long into his face.  I realized that I wanted him.  I wanted the passion he had until a moment ago.  I… Continue reading Writing out a few sentences by Nakamura to see how they feel.

The Witch!

(or: Footage of a Canadian Treeline in a Time of Goats and Perdition) I watched it last night and was going to write a review entitled, “Why Snakes on a Plane is Better than The Witch” but I realized there is no comparison. Snakes on a Plane has snakes, Samuel Jackson, and a plane. The Witch… Continue reading The Witch!

Blame the Drugs

Today, there was flooding in London. I was supposed to be there. But because I have no cartilage in my knees, I often wake up in agony on barometrically improvident days. Dark days of lying on the bed, focusing on my breathing. Days in which it's hard to think, much less write. Days of codeine… Continue reading Blame the Drugs

Kill the Beta Reader

I'm sitting in a cafe in downtown London with a show tune version of the Doors' “People are Strange” playing overhead. At some point, some focus group, some collection of sample listeners employed by a marketing concern or polled through a survey, decided that this schmaltzy cover was better than the original. Based on their… Continue reading Kill the Beta Reader

The Genius of Imitation

Creating reproductions of other works requires an extremely high level of technical proficiency.  One's subject matter will always be personal, but I want to encourage my students to deliberately acquire new technical skills by taking on the aesthetic of the writers they read. In this sense, every text is a potential writing instructor.
 
I have taught… Continue reading The Genius of Imitation