A few people have written me in recent days, wondering about the short story that eventually became my first novel, One for Sorrow, I’ve posted the story under a Creative Commons license on this website for the curious. The story originally appeared in Kelly Link’s Trampoline, which is still one of my favorite anthologies to read through four years later. If you haven’t read it before, you should order it and check out the many great stories Kelly collected for that anthology. You can find “Dead Boy Found” by clicking on its title on the sidebar, and there’s also a link on the One for Sorrow page as well. Happy reading!
Today in class one of my freshman writing students raised his hand to ask me a question and started his sentence by calling me Mr. Chris. For one brief moment, I was in a classroom of Japanese junior high kids. Then I blinked and asked him to repeat his question.
Elizabeth Hand (Elizabeth Hand!) reviewed One for Sorrow in the Village Voice:
One for Sorrow, Christopher Barzak’s lovely, melancholy, offbeat first novel, affectingly captures the emotional centrifuge that is adolescence, with sex and longing the fixed axes around which everything else spins. Fifteen-year-old Adam McCormick’s classmate Jamie is too weird and too much of a loner for Adam to befriend—until Jamie is found murdered by the railroad tracks. In the wake of his death, Jamie’s ghost attaches himself first to Gracie, the geeky rock-hound girl who discovers his corpse, and then to Adam, whose grief and guilt are further tangled up with his lust for Gracie.
You know, I knew Matt Cheney had declared there would be a Barzak World Domination Day, and that he had contacted some people to blog with him about it. But I spent most of this afternoon between class and gym and class and tv interview seeing that list of links on Mr. Cheney’s Mumpsimus grow and grow. This is me in my office at my computer earlier today: jaw slowly drops, eyes wide, flush of heat in my cheeks, so I know I’m blushing even though there’s no one around to see me, and then, well, you know, I got a bit teary eyed about some of those posts and all the love in general. I’m speechless. I really really don’t know what to say, but you guys…you guys! I love ya.
Over at The Swivet there’s a reallllllly long interview with me, and is also giving away copies of One for Sorrow if you answer one question for Colleen in the comments. Hey, free books, what’s not to love?
And the so-called Barzak World Domination Day has begun, thanks to the evil machinations of one Matt Cheney over at the Mumpsimus, where there is also a Q&A with me (much shorter than the one at the Swivet). Matt will eventually be collecting links to the various factions, religious sects and militias that he contacted over the past week to participate in this world domination day, and so will Brooke over at the Stage’s blog. Until then, you can also check out Gwenda’s blog, where I’ve written something essayist (jeez, am I long-winded!) and Colleen’s blog, where she has really cool photos! There are others I’ve run across already–wow, you guys are fast!–but I’m almost late for school, so later!
Just off to bed. Tomorrow the book releases. My car broke down. But tomorrow my book releases. So all is really really good. Off it goes into the world. Although apparently it’s already arrived at Japan’s doorsteps, according my Japanese mom Fusako, and in London bookshops, according to my friend Graham. Really, I’m still somehow a little bit not believing any of this. I recorded a half hour radio interview today, and tomorrow I’m on a local television station for a half hour talk about my book. Book party on Saturday. I can’t wait. I saw some of the art that local artists have made for it today, and it was one of the most emotionally fulfilling experiences to see art people made because of something I wrote. I had no clue publishing a novel could be as cool as this. Why didn’t anyone tell me!
And to top the night off, I ran across this really cool reading group guide and list of discussion questions for the book on Bantam’s site. Again, the disbelief thing. Never in a million would have thought there’d be a reading group guide about something I wrote. Life is really great in the weirdest ways.
The Lutheran church across the street from my apartment building set up a little performance area tonight, with a backdrop cloth that said “Elvis Lives”. When the sun went down, fifteen cars showed up, then people got out of their cars with folding chairs and arranged them about fifty feet across the parking lot from the Elvis Lives platform. Someone turned multi-colored lights on the backdrop, and then Elvis came out and sang Elvis karaoke. Everyone sat in their chairs. No one clapped or got up and danced, except for one heavy-set woman who kept venturing out, shaking her booty, clapping, who would occasionally turn around to the other audience members and try to encourage them to come closer towards the parking lot Elvis. No one did. Elvis complained a little in a light-hearted way about their bad manners. He sang a few more songs. I was sitting on the front stoop of my apartment building, catching a breeze and watching the surreality occur across the street from me. A black girl carrying a plastic sack of groceries in her grip was walking down the street toward me. When she came to the spot on the sidewalk in front of me, she stopped, looked over at the Elvis impersonator and the zombie crowd of Lutherans watching him, then turned to me and said, “There goes the neighborhood,” and carried on her way.
I am a sucker for this song for more than one reason. 1.) I’ve been sucked in by Corinne Rae Bailey’s bluesy voice, and I love bluesy voices. And 2.) The way I was introduced to her was just the other day when my friend Paul forwarded me this video because it has part of the counting crows rhyme–the rhyme that I derived the title of my novel from–as part of its lyrics.
I wish I could find the original video for it, but until then, watching this version, made of clips from other Corinne Rae Bailey videos, will suffice.
Doug Cohen, slush reader for Realms of Fantasy, is having an ongoing discussion over a series of posts on his livejournal about the status of speculative short fiction magazines, focusing on the one he knows best, the one he works at, which has led from a post about the slow death of short fiction venues to a retrospective look at the beginning issues of Realms of Fantasy, and has brought him to the question of asking readers what, in fact, they want in a speculative fiction magazine.
I think it’s very cool that Doug is journaling about such issues so publicly. You won’t see something like this being done very often, and it’s because there are really far too many people with far too many varied tastes to actually give every single person what they want in a magazine. In one post, Doug talks about how some people accuse genre magazines of publishing too many stories that would mainly only be appreciated by other writers. But as I’ve said in a comment to Doug already, if this were true of Realms of Fantasy, whoever says that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. From its inception, Realms as been focused on fantasy, and fantasy of all varieties, publishing in each issue high fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, mythic fiction, and more. In fact, I’ve heard this same argument before, that magazines publish too many stories of interest only to writers, but usually when I hear this it’s not in connection with Realms. If there are people who would accuse the editor of Realms of that, they really don’t know what they’re talking about, as if this were true, stories from that magazine would appear on the Nebula Award nomination list more regularly. The Nebula Award is voted on by the writers of the genre, and sadly the writers often ignore the stories in that magazine. So if anything, perhaps Realms of Fantasy is more of a magazine for readers than writers, if you want to use that as a measurement.
Having said that, I would also like to say that the whole reader/writer story debate is a little silly, in my opinion. Writers are readers, and many readers are writers. When I write, I write stories I’d like to read. And because I’m aware that as I’ve aged and matured and gone through many phases in my own life, I sometimes write stories that I know my 18 year old self would love versus my 24 year old self, or my thirty year old self. There’s that saying about how some books and stories you have to read at certain ages, and I think that’s true. And as a writer, being aware of that, I know not everyone of every demographic is going to like every single thing I write because sometimes I’m writing for different age groups, or different audiences. The thing is, there’s room for all of those audiences under one roof. And I think Shawna McCarthy at Realms of Fantasy has done a really great job of selecting a wide variety of fantasy that people of diverse backgrounds will enjoy. I know I have since I was 19 years old and came across issue 3 of the magazine, the first issue I found, and discovered Charles DeLint for the first time. His story “The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep” excited me. I’d never read urban fantasy much before that. And I went out looking for his work at the bookstore later on that afternoon. I haven’t read a lot of Charles’s fiction since around age twenty or so, but it was really essential to me when I did find it. It opened up new doors. And that’s because I found it in Realms of Fantasy. They’re having a subscription drive right now, and you can get a free issue by subscribing, so why not check it out for yourself?
My friend Brooke is helping me do a lot of the local promotion and publicity for my book. The girl knows virtually everyone you need to know around this place to get things noticed, and so my publicist at Bantam sent her a box of books the other week to help when getting in touch with reporters and reviewers etc. The day she got them, a bunch of my friends and I got together for dinner, and afterwards we went to the Italian Festival in the downtown. When we were done, I walked Brooke back to her car, and she got the box out and said, “Let’s see if we can cover the trunk of my car with them!” So, with lots of night glare, we proceeded to take silly pictures. It’s already one of my favorite memories that I’m making with this book coming out. I’ve got lot of angels in my life, and it’s nice to be reminded of that. They’re all swooping around to help me in so many ways right now, and that was a really unexpected gift that’s come out of making a book. Brooke is one of my main angels. And the way the glare is in these silly photos, she even glows a little like one.