A Short, Sharp Shock

Kim Stanley Robinson's A Short, Sharp Shock is the last novel I'm teaching this quarter in my 20th Century American Literature course before a much-needed summer hiatus. I haven't read it since graduate school, at UMass-Boston, in 1997, when I co-taught my first college class with my advisor Robert Crossley. I remember being utterly fascinated and inspired by A Short, Sharp Shock -- its prose, its vision, its irreal, dreamlike texture. I liked it so much I began to write a screenplay for it, and I even talked to KSR about my ideas for the screenplay one night in '97 when I met him at an SFRA convention in Los Angeles. (The screenplay remains unfinished.) While the novel engages a number of KSR themes (e.g. the relationship between nature, the human condition and violence), it's unlike anything else he's written, more fantasy than science fiction, and I suspect he hasn't produced anything like it since then because of its limited marketability and returns, at least compared to his Mars and Three California trilogies. In any case, I hadn't read A Short, Sharp Shock in over 10 years, and returning to it reminded me what a powerhouse KSR was and continues to be -- as a speculative fiction author as well as a word-artist and storyteller in general. A truly remarkable thought-experiment with equal shares of action, emotion, beauty, oddity and terror. Perhaps KSR's most overlooked and underrated work.

Review of Technologized Desire in Rain Taxi

Andy Stewart has written a thoughtful review of my book of scifi/cultural/pop/literary theory, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction, for the latest issue of Rain Taxi. Here's the final verdict:

"Technologized Desire proves itself to be a rich addition to the growing canon of 21st-century critical theory and literary criticism. Wilson is an author who expresses a clear concern for the future; his book is an urgent text of keen observation and wide-reaching social commentary that warrants nothing less than a careful, thoughtful read."

Piers Anthony on Codename Prague

A few months ago, I asked best-selling author Piers Anthony for a blurb for my upcoming novel Codename Prague. He didn't like the book, and he didn't give me a blurb, but he wrote something about it in his blog, and I really liked what he wrote, if for nothing else than he connects me with James Joyce and Finnegans Wake, a book that I both love and hate. At any rate, thanks to Piers for giving me the time of day -- he's a kind of legend. Here's what he wrote:

"I read Codename Prague by D. Harlan Wilson. This novel is described by its author as slapstick and 'literary' and graphic, a pop cultural apocalypse in which schizophrenia, psychosis, idiocy, etc. have become to varying degrees normative conditions. 'I think [it] can function as a kind of morality tale.' Well, it is indeed all that. My problem is that I read fiction for maybe two reasons: to enjoy the diversion from dull mundane reality, or to assess it for an informed opinion on its merits. I am not a fan of cyberpunk, if that is what this is, don't understand it, and don't get pleasure from it. I prefer solidly plotted stories, and this is at best thinly plotted. So I can't form an informed opinion. Let me illustrate my problem with a quote, more or less random, from the novel: 'The psychophysical process of attack is not a fundament of this physionietzschean martial art. Nor is the art of defense. The enlightened scikungfi fighter will have transcended these useless tactics. Neither aggression nor protection informs her character. Or rather, these things inform her character to such a degree that they metaentropically implode into nothingness. I stand here. I blink, I breathe. I exist. And I fucking kill you and eat your gore. That is the True Way of scikungfi. Many like to think they follow and practice the True Way. But mass man is nothing but a hack bodhisattva. He always will be.' This is a statement of one of the many divergent philosophies in the novel, replete with obscure or oblique references such as to kung fu or the one to the German philosopher Nietzsche, who developed the theory of the ubermensch (superman) in Thus Spake Zarathustra. In the end he went insane, but the Nazi Germans and others were quite taken with many of his views. That's just a hint of the wider intellectual parameters of this novel. I am reminded of the works of James Joyce; Finnegans Wake is said to be well worth the two to four years it takes to properly read it. But as I said, it's not my thing. So I'm not in a position to recommend it, but that is not at all the same thing as saying it's not competent; I suspect it's a good novel of its type."

Rhys Hughes on Goat Heads

Welsh author and essayist Rhys Hughes has written a tres chic blurb for my upcoming fiction collection The Had Goat Heads.

"Funny, experimental, troubling, this brilliant collection of short stories proves conclusively that D. Harlan Wilson is a maverick author of genius. Some of his stories remind me of Barthelme: they are playful, rhythmic and utilise form in hilariously unexpected ways, and they are eminently quotable ("Conflict is an illusion without which apes and begonias would shrivel in the wind."). Other tales (for instance 'The Arrest') resemble early Calvino: absurd and light but also pithy and profound. But aside from these comparisons, Wilson is clearly a writer with his own distinctive voice. For years I have grumbled that there is too little quality fiction of this type. Wilson has persuaded me to shut my goddamn mouth."

I've been a fan of Hughes' writing for years. He's a master of the short story and the author of The Smell of Telescopes and A New Universal History of Infamy, among many others. Visit him at his blog The Spoons that Are My Ears!

Philip K. Dick Interview

This evening, before teaching The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch in my 20th Century American Literature course, I showed this clip from a 1977 interview PKD did in France regarding divergent American and French perceptions of science fiction. This divergence still exists today, if only in terms of literature that rejects The Formula. I shoulda been French.

The Laughing Yeti

Shome Dasgupta of The Laughing Yeti has been compiling a series of flash-posts about writers on reading. I said this.

Review of Technologized Desire in JFA

Amy Drees wrote a sharp review of my book of literary/cultural/sci-fi theory, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction, in the latest issue (20.3) of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Here's an excerpt:

"With or without choice, Wilson's technologized subjects explore the possibilities left them through 'science fiction texts [. . .] that can be read as technocultural phenomena as well as sources that read into the nature of technoculture." This is the fruitful outcome of Wilson's project—a series of deft and interesting analyses of the ways in which specific sf texts map the position of the technologized self within the postmodern world. . . . I would recommend the book highly to anyone interested in any of the texts under analysis and for those interested in postcapitalism or sf as a proscriptive genre. Although the level of theoretical engagement would makeTechnologized Desire a difficult text for all but the most advanced graduate students, I could easily see using it in the classroom as a model for graduate students on how to integrate multiple theories by multiple theorists into a persuasive argument."

Dark Recesses

I have a story, The Movie that Wasn't There, in the latest issue of Dark Recesses, plus a nice review of my book Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance and an interview with Esteban Silvani. The story will appear in my fiction collection They Have Goat Heads from Atlatl Press later this year.

Imagining Mars

At year's end, Robert Crossley's Imagining Mars: A Literary History will be published by Wesleyan University Press. Bob was my advisor when I did my M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts-Boston in the mid-1990s; he's the one who got me interested in the critical study of science fiction. Fans of Martian literature will find this book absolutely invaluable. Here's a description and a blurb:

For centuries, the planet Mars has captivated astronomers and inspired writers of all genres. Whether imagined as the symbol of the bloody god of war, the cradle of an alien species, or a possible new home for human civilization, our closest planetary neighbor has played a central role in how we think about ourselves in the universe. From Galileo to Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Crossley traces the history of our fascination with the red planet as it has evolved in literature both fictional and scientific. Crossley focuses specifically on the interplay between scientific discovery and literary invention, exploring how writers throughout the ages have tried to assimilate or resist new planetary knowledge. Covering texts from the 1600s to the present, from the obscure to the classic, Crossley shows how writing about Mars has reflected the desires and social controversies of each era. This astute and elegant study is perfect for science fiction fans and readers of popular science.
"I know of no other book that attempts such a vast survey, holding together the literatures of science fiction and of the scientific study of Mars. Crossley's focus allows him to analyze the relation of science fiction to the modern history of scientific understanding with a precision, authority, and textual detail that a more traditional history of the genre could never attain." (John Huntington, Professor of English, University of Illinois-Chicago

Submissions for The Pedestal Magazine

This evening I'm reading submissions for the special Bizarro issue of The Pedestal Magazine. So far I've read a lot of fine fiction, but much of it is too long. Ideally I'm hoping to acquire about 6-8 stories between 500 and 750 words. Equally as important, most of the submissions don't fall into the category of Bizarro, loosely or otherwise. FYI.

All right, back to it.

Codename Prague in Withersin Magazine

This is a black-and-white stillshot of the second chapter of Codename Prague brilliantly illustrated by Doug Draper. The chapter appears in volume 3, issue 2 ("Iodine") of Withersin Magazine.


I have a new story, Giraffe, in issue 34 of The Cafe Irreal. This piece will appear in my upcoming collection, They Had Goat Heads, coming from Atlatl Press later this year.

Words from an Inflatable Volunteer

"Past, present, futureall is one."

"In what sense?"

"In the sense that at all times you are a bastard."

Steve Aylett, The Inflatable Volunteer

Mo*Con & Lair of the Yak

This is the 100th episode of Lair of the Yak, hosted by Nick Cato. During the program, Nick received a call from some of this past weekend's guests at Mo*Con in Indianapolis. Given my healthy intake of absinthe and whiskey, I'm surprised I sound so functional.

Thanks to Maurice Broaddus for a con that truly exceeded my expectations. Please forgive my minor hugging spree on the way out: I got started and didn't know how to stop. It may have been worse had Andy Prunty and I followed through with our intentions to get hammered (again) before going over to Maurice's on Sunday morning.

Great hanging with Brian Keene, Gary Braunbeck, Jerry Gordon, Chesya Burke, Wrath James White, Rhonda Wilson, Maurice himself, and others. See you later in the year at WFC ...