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Yesterday I received my lovely contributor's copies of the Interfictions 2 anthology. That would be the one that made Amazon's List of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2009. Reviews are popping up: Charles A. Tan says nice things about my story "The 121," while Strange Horizons reviewer T.S. Miller can't help wondering if the whole story isn't just a misguided joke. Ah, the schizophrenia of criticism.

The Interstitial Arts Foundation is pulling out all the stops on this one: go to their Annex and you can read free fiction by talented folks like Mark Rich, Kelly Barnhill, F. Brett Cox and Genevieve Valentine. There are auctions running this very minute for art objects based on some of the stories. Interviews with contributors like Jeff Ford and Cecil Castellucci are being posted at the site. And there are (or already have been) group readings by the contributors: you'll have to wait a short while for our local one (January 29th at Magers & Quinn), which will include myself, Alan Deniro, Will Alexander, and the aforementioned Kelly Barnhill. (Details to come as the date approaches.)

What's more, each contributor has been authorized to offer three copies of the anthology FREE to folks who pledge to review it on their blog or webpage. They suggested we come up with a nifty contest, but I'm no good at that kind of thing. If you're interested, leave a comment, and the first three who'd like a copy will get it. Remember that you are entering a contract which requires you to review the book! Interfictional lawyers will chase you down if you don't, and they can slide right through gaps in doors and windows and such.
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My novella "Escape to Bird Island" is live over at The King's English. It's sort of a road story about superhero sidekicks, bird calls, dimensional stacking, lions and spiders and agoraphobia. Oh, and they've got a .PDF option over there for easy downloading or printing. Check it out.
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I keep forgetting to plug this, but: I'll be reading from Superpowers this Thursday, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. at Common Good Books, 165 Western Ave North, Suite 14 in St. Paul. Bring a friend!

Also, if you want to keep track of events like this, I always post about them on the Facebook group for Superpowers. I have told y'all I'm on Facebook, right? Right over here. I find it so very soothing compared to MySpace.


Apr. 9th, 2008 10:10 am
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In an effort to stave off crankiness today, I am going to post nice things that awesome people have said about my novel, Superpowers, which I may have mentioned here once or twice. These are up at the book's Amazon page, so I'm pretty sure it's OK to post them here:

"A book for everyone who's ever wondered what superpower would be most fun or whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight. (And for everyone else who's ever wondered what made comic books so much fun.) David J. Schwartz has written a first novel with superpowers, smarts, and heart to spare. If you'll forgive a lame pun in the service of a swell book: Bookstore patrons, online browsers--may the Schwartz be with you."

Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners

"A thoughtful and convincing blend of magic and realism. I believed in these ordinary, recognizable college students with their extraordinary abilities. As their powers change and fail them (and vice versa), Superpowers tells us a story both soaring and sober."

Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Wit's End

Forgive the bolding. I thought about posting these in 72-point type, but I thought people might protest.

In recent weeks both Kelly and Karen have visited the Twin Cities (Karen was here just Monday promoting Wit's End, which I can't wait to read), which was good because since I'm a little in awe of them both it was hard to believe that they really said these things about my little book. Which I am hugely proud of, but come on. I could die happy now. (I would, of course, die happier if everyone on the Internet pre-ordered a copy of the book. WELL?)
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So here's some good news I've been sitting on for a while: my novella "The Sun Inside" is going to be the first release from the Electrum Novella Series, done by the good people of Rabid Transit Press (formerly Velocity Press). I can tell you this now because pre-ordering is live (via PayPal). That's right, for the low, low, price of $9 you can have a slick, perfect-bound book with roughly 18,000 words all guaranteed written by me. It comes out in late May, and if you're going to be at WisCon, you can reserve a copy to be picked up there. Perfect for people who like words!

Seriously, I'm very excited about this, for a couple of reasons. First, because I'm very proud of this novella. I'm not going to say too much about what it's about, because there are some surprises in it that we want to let the readers discover. (You can find out a little bit at the ordering link, above.) I can tell you that it contains (among other things): Internet dating, psychic powers, hidden worlds, zeppelins, hyenadaons, and the Iraq war. One thing I'm always trying to do with my stuff is to marry the holy-gosh-wow feel of pulp genre stuff to real-world concerns, and I think "The Sun Inside" may be one of my best efforts in that regard.

The second reason I'm excited about this is that I love what Rabid Transit Press is doing here; novella-friendly markets are few and far between, and I love the idea of a long-running series of them, published individually. I believe their plan is to do two a year, for now, and I'm already picturing them lined up on my shelf in a few years. Little packages of awesome. (If I do say so myself.) I'm excited to see where they'll take this, and I'm so very pleased to be in on the ground floor.
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Upon the occasion of the U.S. cover finally going up on Amazon. Compare with the UK cover, seen here.

You may be looking at those covers and wondering what the benefits of buying Superpowers by David J. Schwartz (which comes out on June 5th in the UK and June 10th in the United States) might be. You may be thinking, "Gee, it seems like the economy is in a downturn, and I may have to limit my book-buying." You may be thinking, "I haven't read a book since I bought World of Warcraft." You may be hungry. You may be thinking about taking a vacation.

I would like to respond to these musings.

However, I would first like to state UP FRONT that Superpowers by David J. Schwartz does not contain dragons. Neither does it contain robots. I have no good excuse for this. I do, however, have a bad excuse: I was drinking, a lot, when I wrote this. (No, not dreaming. You're thinking of Prince.) So, when it came time to add in the dragons and the robots, I was busy arguing with Grover Cleveland about the gold standard. The fact that President Cleveland turned out to be a couch cushion is beside the point. I apologize to everyone for the dragon/robot deficit, and to my liver for all the drinking.

Superpowers by David J. Schwartz also does not contain elephants, a fact for which I apologize to myself.

Superpowers by David J. Schwartz does, however, contain:

- Underage drinking
- Premarital sex
- Conspiracy theories
- Head injuries
- Flying without the benefit of aircraft
- A car crash
- References to Stone Phillips
- Vigilantism
- Lasagna
- A young man named Jack Robinson who does things quicker than you can say "Jack Robinson"

If that does not convince you to pre-order Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, perhaps the following numbered list will do the job (NOTE: if you have already pre-ordered Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, please stop reading now):

The Benefits of Buying Superpowers by David J. Schwartz (Either Through Pre-Order or By Speaking to Someone Helpful at Your Local Bookstore)

1. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is colorful. You may find that waving Superpowers by David J. Schwartz about will distract small children. Be warned, however, that small children often have powerful grasps, and may seize Superpowers by David J. Schwartz in order to suck on it. Do not worry; this is unlikely to harm the text, as children have relatively small mouths and will be forced to suck on the corners of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, where nothing but the page numbers may be lost or damaged. (Please see point 4.)

2. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is humorous. You may feel the urge to read certain hilarious passages to friends, co-workers, fellow train passengers, and small children. I urge you not to resist this urge. Your friends and co-workers will enjoy your enthusiasm and will not be at all annoyed, particularly if they have plans to read Superpowers by David J. Schwartz themselves. (A related note: please do not loan your copy of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz to your friends. That way they will have to buy their own, and my publishers will make more money, some of which they may decide to give to me if I cooperate.) You may notice your fellow train passengers moving away from you if you persistently read them passages from Superpowers by David J. Schwartz. This is not because they are not enjoying your recitations. On the contrary, they wish to improve the acoustics in your immediate vicinity. Please make an effort to project as you read. Finally, small children are known to have wonderful senses of humor, but you may wish to use discretion in which passages you choose to read them, especially if they are not your own children. You may wish to pretend to be reading from a copy of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, while ACTUALLY reading from a copy of Green Eggs and Ham, Goodnight Moon, or The New England Journal of Medicine which you have hidden between the pages of my book. Be sure to hold Superpowers by David J. Schwartz so that the cover is clearly visible; this way children will be prompted to ask for their own copy of this colorful volume. (You will obviously be unable to lend them your copy because of the need for my publishers (and hopefully me) to make more money.)

3. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is affordable. You can pre-order it from Amazon for $10.17 OR £6.39. That is such a low price! You should probably buy several copies, one for each of your family members and friends. If you do not have friends, Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is a wonderful way to make some! Give it to small children on the train, or to the transit police, or to the taxicab driver who picks you up when they bar you from the trains. You've probably noticed that there are people in your neighborhood who talk to themselves; this is a good opportunity to approach them, introduce yourself, and give them a copy of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz. This way they can talk to Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, or even read Superpowers by David J. Schwartz aloud to the people around them, and the circle of life will be complete.

4. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is edible. Most books are, it's true, but Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is especially delicious. Here is a recipe:


1 bell pepper (preferably red), diced
1 copy of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, read
Extra virgin olive oil
24 pounds fusilli pasta

Shred all pages of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz except for 43/44, 151/152, 177/178, and the endpapers. Sautée pages and diced pepper in olive oil. Be certain to have a fire extinguisher within reach. In a large pot or small garbage can (preferably new), boil 6 gallons of water. Add pasta; cook until al dente. Salt to taste. Remove from heat and mix in peppers and pages. Serve with two gallons marinara sauce.

This is one of hundreds of mouth-watering ways in which you can serve a copy of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz. You will probably want to try them all, so buy several hundred copies. (Please see point 3.)

5. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is just like a vacation. When you read Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, you will be transported to another time and place. (Please note that the ability of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz to transport you is dependent upon your physical location. If you are in Madison, Wisconsin, you will not be transported very far, but you will move around a fair amount. Also you will find yourself in the DISTANT PAST of the summer of 2001, a time when Britney seemed relatively normal, The Show With the Girl Who Fights the Vampires was still on TV, and people only suspected that George W. Bush was going to be a horrible president. You know, the good ol' days.)

6. Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is just like World of Warcraft, WITH SOME MINOR DIFFERENCES. Some of these differences include: Superpowers by David J. Schwartz will not enable you to gain levels, to kill monsters, to act as a "tank," to ride strange animals, to support Ron Paul for president, to "rez," to run a gold farm (whatever that means), or to shriek at your fellow Guild members over a headset. (For a full list of differences between Superpowers by David J. Schwartz and World of Warcraft, please see Appendix One of Superpowers by David J. Schwartz.) HOWEVER, Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is just like World of Warcraft in that it will allow you to neglect your health and your significant other(s), assuming that you read it while you should be sleeping, exercising, and/or interacting with those you love.

7. Finally, Superpowers by David J. Schwartz is actually good. No, seriously. I've read Superpowers by David J. Schwartz a bunch of times, and I still like it. I think you'll like Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, too. Just, please, remember to read it before eating it.
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So, I'm good to announce that Superpowers is going to be published in the UK by Vintage Originals. Check out those covers! Gorgeous stuff. I'm going to be working with Beth Coates, who has great taste, obviously. W00t! Thanks to Beth, to Shana, and to our UK agent consult Will Francis, who gave the book my favorite tag description yet: "Superpowers is the weirdest, saddest, funniest, bleakest coming of age novel I've read in a long time."

As an aside, I must note that it's been slightly odd to have everyone involved with the book refer to it as a "coming-of-age" story, since I wasn't thinking of it like that as I was writing it. I was pretty much thinking it was just a story, about people, who did stuff. Not that I have a problem with the description, at all. It's just strange how perspectives differ.
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My copy of the latest Locus arrived yesterday, with my ugly mug right there on the Deals/Announcements/Milestones page, right next to Ted's. Woo-hoo! I need a better picture, though.

Go here and light a candle; the evil pharmaceutical company will donate money to AIDS research when you do. Maybe that makes them non-evil? My head hurts.

Back in my college/lost years I kept Capcom in business pumping quarters into Street Fighter II. I think I finished with all the characters except one, but I can't remember which one. Dhalsim, maybe. Which is apropos, since Dhalsim is one of the stars of Street Fighter: The Later Years. Hilarious stuff, and more to come.

Flashback video: the Cowboy Junkies cover of "Sweet Jane." Fucking gorgeous. I'm going to go watch it again.
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Firstly, it must be noted that Justin Morneau is now the AL MVP. WOO-HOO! In your face, every person at ESPN! There is justice in the world. Sorry, Jeter, maybe next year. OR MAYBE NOT.

Secondly, my long-ish short story "Oma Dortchen and the Pillar of Story," a fairy-tale about ethnographers, swans, ash-lads, trolls, men in top hats, a crone with a leak* and, um, fairy-tales, will be part of the 2007 exhibition over at Farrago's Wainscot. I'm very proud of this story, and I'm glad to see it at a good home; Farrago's has a classy look, and they've got a helluva lineup shaping up over there. So far they've collected pieces from, well, too many people to list. Here's the list. They've also got a livejournal for keeping track of what they're up to. Details as they develop.

*Not like that.
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Although I haven't seen an official notice yet, other people have announced it; so I thought I'd let you all know that my story "The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons," which originally appeared at the inestimable Strange Horizons, will be appearing in Prime Books' Fantasy: The Best of the Year, edited by Rich Horton. May I just say WOW. My first reprint! Yay! I can't wait to see the full TOC for this one.

In book news, I just finished Valiant (I know, I know; I'm way behind the curve on this one) and as much as I liked Tithe, Valiant was a step above. Awesome, awesome book. Now I'm reading Hope Was Here. (Yes, I'm still reading Emma, but it's a long book and I need breaks.) I really kind of love Joan Bauer. Her books maybe wrap up a little neatly at times, but her protagonists are so, so wonderful.

It's been awhile since I gave y'all any elephant links of note. This just came out yesterday: elephants know themselves in a mirror. In other words, they are self-aware. I know this is science and all, but I can't help thinking . . . duh? Good to have more evidence, I guess. Also, lots of buzz around this NYT article about rogue elephant behavior, which also points towards elephants as susceptible to trauma, frustration, and despair; not to mention malicious intelligence. Again, not to paint myself as an expert, but this all seems pretty obvious to me based on the reading I've done. F'r instance, they've found that this sort of aggression in young males can be related to the culling or poaching of older bulls in the population; if elder bulls are reintroduced into an area, they act as mentors for the younger ones, teaching them to curb their aggression. But there has been a notable escalation in elephant attacks against humans, as the article notes. Mainly this is true in areas where there's just not enough space for both. Humans think of all land as their own, to cultivate and settle, but there's no universal truth that makes it so.

So . . . is it just me, or does this Borat thing not look in the least funny? I saw him on SNL over the weekend, and on Letterman last night, and at neither point did he make me laugh. (The dude in the background during the SNL open made me laugh at one point, but I'm not sure that counts.) I actually caught a fair amount of Yakov Smirnoff back in the day (I watched a lot of "Night Court"), so maybe it's just that I've seen the material before. So it's conceptual humor, eh? It's not making fun of Kazakhstan, but of the geographically and culturally ignorant Americans who take the act at face value? OK. It seems like a bit of a reach to me, but fine. But while I get the conceptual part, I think they forgot to add in the humor. Peppering one's talk with phrases like "the sexy" and punctuating it with a grinning thumbs-up isn't cutting it for me. I don't know. I'm not really sure why it's rubbing me wrong, but it is.

And finally, I'd like to end on a serious note. Today is Halloween, and you all know what that means. Please, please take all necessary precautions to prevent any undue pain and suffering. I'm speaking, of course, of dogs in costumes. Just don't do it. Pretend your dog is a wolf or some other such beast if you must--imagination is a powerful thing--but do not put him or her in a hat, a wig, or anything with sleeves. Your dog puts up with a collar; asking more is unreasonable and rude. Thank you for your support.
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So, I've checked with all concerned about whether it's OK to go ahead and announce this, and even though I'm afraid that talking about it out loud like this will just make the whole thing evaporate, I can't contain myself anymore.

I sold a book.

Yes. Thanks to the efforts of superagent Shana, Superpowers will be appearing as a trade paperback sometime in or around the Spring of 2008. The deal is with Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Crown, which is a division of Random House. (I think I've got that right.) I'm going to be working with Jason Pinter, who's a writer himself (his debut crime novel will be out next year), and who sounds really excited to be working on the book.

What is the book? Well, here's the description that went out on Publishers Marketplace:

David J. Schwartz's SUPERPOWERS, dubbed "The Incredibles" meets THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY, in which after a night of heavy drinking, five friends wake up to discover they have superhuman abilities, but lacking super-villains they find that the ramifications of their new powers are more complicated than they anticipated, to Jason Pinter at Three Rivers Press, by Shana Cohen at the Stuart Krichevsky Agency (NA).

That's more or less the book, all right, at least the capsule description.

They're paying me, too; and they're paying me well, particularly for a first novel. It's more than I've ever made in a year, in fact aside from a couple of my years bartending it's easily twice what I've made in any given year. (Keep in mind that I've never made a whole lot. Still, this is very nice.) To me this says they believe in the book, that they believe it can be a big seller. I plan to prove them right.

It hasn't really sunk in yet, not completely. But I've been in a transitional stage for a while now, since finishing my Master's, and this will give me some freedom to make the decisions I need to make. And now I can call myself a novelist without feeling like I'm not being entirely honest. Holy shit.
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I received Feeling Very Strange, the Slipstream Anthology edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly, in the mail the other day; the spoils of a mad foray into a debate about literary classification a little over a year ago. (Other recent treasures in the mail: my contributor's copy of Twenty Epics (Yay!), and a copy of this book from someone who thinks, with some justification, that I owe Hemingway another look.) In other words, John and Jim enjoyed the debate, and pulled out a mess o' quotes from it. Witness me talk myself into completely reversing my original position! See me get pwned by Ben Rosenbaum! Shed tears at the birth of Infernokrusher, which was left to die of exposure only weeks later!

Far better, though, are the stories. I say that not yet having read this volume, but having read most of these stories previously in various places. If you're at all interested in the weird intersection of genre and not-genre that is rather inadequately labeled "slipstream," you will want this book, because in addition to the wonderful stories there is a great introductory essay by Messieurs Kelly and Kessel.

There's a point in that essay which particularly struck me, since it's something that I've been encountering a bit lately. Jim and John write that "slipstream's cavalier boundaries towards boundaries can lead to a lack of rigor. A failed slipstream story can seem like idle noodling, a grab bag of uncommited allusions to genres without any investment in characters or the ideas behind them, or acknowledgment that genre tropes are anything more than pawns on a chess board."

I know we've all read (and I know that I, for one, have written) stories like this. Stories that read as playful and clever but never actually coalesce into something meaningful. I fully consider the greater part of the burden in these cases to fall on the author. And yet I sometimes feel that it's my failure as a reader when these stories fall flat for me. I like to be challenged, and sometimes it feels like I'm not quite up to that challenge. Maybe I'm not picking up on some symbolism or other subtle cues the author is giving me. Some stories are like that; they ask more of the reader, and while this may limit their audience, it can also mean a greater payoff for the right person. Some may argue that this is elitist or snobby, but I don't think so (at least, not most of the time). Sometimes the elitism is in other readers, who may treat a certain text as though it contains secrets meant for a privileged few. Here on genre (or perhaps, as Lois Tilton argues in an insightful essay over at Deep Genre, generic) street we're particularly sensitive to this kind of nose-in-the-air bullshit, so we tend not to invite those people to our parties anyway. (Savor the irony!) (Ignore the possible connection between this impulse and my distaste for Hemingway!)

What I'm rambling about is that there is a fine line between the writer's failure to portray his or her vision with clarity and the reader's--well, failure isn't the right word--let's say, reluctance to engage with a work with the amount of effort which might lead to a rewarding exchange.

As Ms. Tilton says in a follow-up to the above essay:

More serious readers, that's what I think genre fiction needs: readers who don’t mind doing some work, readers who can appreciate the stuff that a writer puts into her work below the surface story, the stuff like symbol and metaphor and allusions, complex sentence structure, or techniques like [the] unreliable narrator.

Based on that snippet you might be forgiven for thinking that Lois's essay sounds like the sort of thing that self-considered literary geniuses like to do: blame the reader. It's not so simple as that, of course. Lois's point, in the end, is that even readers who are willing to work hard at other types of literature don't want none of that crap in their fantasy. She's arguing, in fact, that too many fantasy readers don't respect the genre. And I think she's got a point. I think many people are quick to dismiss something as just "too weird" to be meaningful. It seems as though many fantasy readers want their fantasy to be rigorous in a very non-fantastic way.

I'm under no illusions that I'm saying something new here. But while I'm not going to get specific (every time I start talking around it I sound like a whiny bastard), this has been a matter of much frustration for me recently.

In conclusion: buy Feeling Very Strange and Twenty Epics. And watch some Raspberry Beret while you're taking orders. ("Wendy?" "Yes, Lisa.") Oh, and some Elastica too. (Yeah, I know they stole that riff from Wire and that's not cool. But Justine Frischman's sneer is still teh sexay.)


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