Friday, October 28, 2011

LITQUAKE 2011: The Lit Crawl... Just in time for Halloween!

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.”
—New York Times
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.

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.


  1. I've read T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason novels. Excellent books. I kept him in stock (along with Seanan McGuire) so I could recommend the series. *sigh* I'm going to miss that.

  2. Ohmygod! This is totally awesome. And here I am wondering why we don't have something like this in the Denver-ish area!? I love Mira Grant. I'm a zombie fan to begin with and all her attention to detail is fabulous. She did a great podcast interview for Orbit with some really great stuff on viruses and zombie plague stuff.

  3. Oh, Becky, you are so hating that you weren't in San Francisco the other night. The following event was held at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, though I just noticed that Mira Grant who had been billed earlier, is no longer listed on the schedule. Still, it would have been fun, and I would have gone--had I not been jolted from sleep at 5:36AM that morning by an earthquake. The City giveth, and the City taketh away...

    Zombie NightLife
    Just days before Halloween, NightLife will be overrun with zombies! Take a crash course in zombie neuroscience with Zombie Research Society advisor Bradley Voytek and neuroscientist Patrick House of Stanford University, and learn how zombie-like symptoms would manifest themselves in real life. You won’t want to miss horror maven and hostess Peaches Christ and her Zombie Drag Show and Costume Contest (un-dead attire encouraged! For safety’s sake, please note, masks are not allowed to be worn inside the building). And dance the night away at Miss Misery’s "Zombie Prom". Undead makeup artists will be on hand for those who want to channel their inner zombie. Plus, check out real brain specimens, hear from Academy Researcher Brian Fisher, sample the latest in zombie video games, even go on a zombie apocalypse adventure through the museum. In the planetarium, catch the Life and Death of Stars at 6:30 and discover how some stars live on as “zombies” in the after-life, followed by two showings of Life: A Cosmic Story. Music by DJ Tomas Diablo. Zombie NightLife is a Bay Area Science Festival event. It's going to be a night to dismember!

    Event Schedule

    6-8pm Rainforests of the World (Last entry at 7:30pm)

    6-8:15pm Zombie Make-Overs/ Swamp

    6-10pm DJ Tomas Diablo/ East Pavilion

    6-10pm Zombie Prom Dance & Photo Booth/ Children’s Gallery & East Pavilion

    6-10pm Go Game Zombie Survival Challenge- download instructions below/ Throughout

    6-10pm The Zombie Cocktail Tour/ Locations Below

    6-10pm LIVE 105 Street Crew/ Lobby

    6:30-9:30pm Brain Specimens, Go Game Zombie Survival Challenge, Dead Island Video Game Demos/African Hall

    6:30pm Life and Death of Stars/ Planetarium

    7pm Academy Researcher Brian Fisher talks about Zombie Ant Fungus/ Forum (2nd Floor)

    7:30 & 8:30pm Life: A Cosmic Story/ Planetarium

    7:45pm Zombie talk with Bradley Voytek & Patrick House/ Forum (2nd Floor)

    8:45pm Peaches Christ's Dead Drag Queen Review!/ Piazza

    9pm Peaches Christ's Costume Contest/ Piazza

  4. And, Penny, you sound so whistful, but you're going to be an awesome librarian now, recommending great books all day every day. And now not even money is an issue for your "customers." It'll be even better!

  5. That sounds like a blast! Glad I missed the earthquake, though :)

  6. You are so right in saying that it's injust to call Stephen Boyett's presentation of "Mortality Bridge" a reading. It was a performance, live art, a trip to the underworld and classic mythology, and much, much more.

    FYI, I organize the Borderlands book group and we're hoping to get Mortality Bridge on our reading list and bring Boyett back to make it sing!