Once in a very rare while, the fact that I'm continually behind writing things up for this blog winds up being serendipitous. Nearly two weeks after the fact, I am finally getting around to posting about the Litquake finale. You got it--our famous Lit Crawl! How awesome is our Crawl? So awesome that they're now holding them in New York and Austin, TX. For the uninitiated, allow me to share this quote from the New York Times about a past Crawl:
The striking thing about Lit Crawl, actually, was not the variegated writerly menu; nor was it the variety of venues—54 of them, including bookstores, bars, coffee shops, galleries and a bee-keeping supply store. Rather it was the specter of writing and literature—literature!—transforming an ordinary Saturday night in the neighborhood into a carnival of sorts. Up and down Valencia Street, crowds overflowed out of open doorways, and between readings, people hustled from one event to another or gathered on street corners clutching red Lit Crawl maps like participants in a mammoth scavenger hunt.”This year, there were a whopping 77 different venue sites all over San Francisco's Mission District. Each venue had between 3 and 9 readers, or in other words, hundreds and hundreds of authors participating. And the audience is made up of more than 10,000 lit lovers. Truly, it is a thing of beauty.
—New York Times
I've attended many Lit Crawls in my decade in San Francisco. I enjoy being a part of the scene, but don't feel as strongly these days about trying to make it to each of the three "phases" of the Crawl. This year, as noted many times, I was still sort of weak, so after a completely delightful afternoon spend with some pub crawling writer friends, I decided to just cut to the chase. I skipped ahead to phase three, and parked myself early, so as to acertain a good seat and a good snack. And with all of the dozens and dozens of readers and venues to choose from, I simply went to my favorite bookstore cafe. You got it, Borderlands Bookstore & Cafe. I love those guys! I love the store, the staff, the events they host, and in recent years, I really love their charming cafe. So that was the deciding factor, and it turned out to be an excellent way to determine the most entertaining readings.
It's a little bit funny how much I love all things Borderlands. The store specializes in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I dabble in these areas, but I'm not a hard-core reader of any of these genres. It's just a totally amazing store, and that's all there is to it. But given the nature of the store, it is not surprising that the following readings that I filmed are just the perfect little literary bon bons to share with you this Halloween weekend. Hence the serendipity! I promise you, the following readings are all treats.
First up (after Jude Feldman's charming introductions) is novelist Steven R. Boyett. The extent of my prior knowledge of Mr. Boyett was seeing him at lit events around town and asking who he was. While waiting for the readings to start, however, he handed out some bookmarks and postcards describing some of his works. His apocalyptic fantasy novels Ariel & Elegy Beach would probably be most up my alley. However, Steve read from his most recent work, Mortality Bridge. The subject matter and imagery in this reading is disturbing and horrific. The novel is a sort of Faust/Dante mash-up involving a musician who must travel through hell to save the woman he loves. So, this is disturbing, but very, very powerful stuff.
The other thing that I would note is that it does no justice to call this a reading. It's a performance. I have seen hundreds of authors read from their work, and some are better than others. Steve Boyett's performance from his novel is among the best I have ever seen. Video can't capture the full theatricality of the live perfomance, but I urge you to check this out:
Next up is genre-defying novelist Mira Grant. Here's what PW had to say about Feed, the novel from which she reads:
Starred Review. Urban fantasist Seanan McGuire (Rosemary and Rue) picks up a new pen name for this gripping, thrilling, and brutal depiction of a postapocalyptic 2039. Twin bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason and their colleague Buffy are thrilled when Sen. Peter Ryman, the first presidential candidate to come of age since social media saved the world from a virus that reanimates the dead, invites them to cover his campaign. Then an event is attacked by zombies, and Ryman's daughter is killed. As the bloggers wield the newfound power of new media, they tangle with the CDC, a scheming vice presidential candidate, and mysterious conspirators who want more than the Oval Office. Shunning misogynistic horror tropes in favor of genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters who conduct a soul-shredding examination of what's true and what's reported.I'd heard of both author and book at the time of this reading, but had no intention of reading it. In the two weeks since, I've purchased and listended to Countdown, the novella that's the prequel to this novel, and I suspect that I will probably read Feed and its sequels in the not too distant future. Great, just what I need, more books added to my list!
While Mira's novel is about a zombie apocalypse, it seems to be chock full of humor. Or at least this opening chapter is, and she does an excellent job of milking every laugh. It was the perfect palate cleanser after the heavy first reading. This is just plain entertaining, and as it's the first chapter of the book, there's not a thing you need to know:
At this point, I need to apologize to author Kirsten Imani Kasai who read from her novel, Tattoo. She was a great reader, and her novel is completely and totally original. (I may need a copy for the trashy underwater fiction collection!) I'm unable to share her reading with you because I only had a very few minutes of digital recording space left on the FlipCam. In fact, I thought I'd have to quit after Steve & Mira when final reader, Tim Pratt, announced that he'd be reading a series of very, very short pieces. So here are three of them for your viewing pleasure:
You know what's awesome? By visiting Tim Pratt's website in order to link it to this post, I realized the novel Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt that I have on my Kindle is his. Excellent! Clearly, I have some follow-up reading to look forward to after this successful event. If, like me, you feel compelled to explore the work of these writers further, I heartily encourage you to contact Borderlands Books. Their customer service is second to none, and I'm guessing they can get you signed copies of books by these authors.