decomP Review of Codename Prague

There is a review of Codename Prague in the latest issue of decomP Magazine written by Jessica Maybury. Here's an excerpt:

"The novel blasts you like the glass that was sandblasted in my old house. It grates against you, sloughing off all your lazy thoughts and unrealised dreams. It wills you to live. It fills you full of something like the joy people vaguely remember to have experienced at least once as a child."

ZDMT #28 - Waterstone's Bookstore

I was rerouted to Lagos, Nigeria, on my way to Waterstone’s Bookstore in Picadilly Circus. Drinking Turkish coffee with Ernie Hudson, who keeps a place in the Oshodi-Isolo district. It is always night here and everything is illuminated by ominous red lights. There is no air conditioning. Still planning on appearing at Ye Olde Cock Tavern tomorrow afternoon.

ZDMT #27 - The Lobster Pot

I lived in a 1-bedroom flat (£89/week) above the Lobster Pot, a fish and chips shop, for a year while I did my M.A. in Science Fiction Studies at the University of Liverpool (Class of 1998), so it was a special treat to make a pitstop here on the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour.

It’s quite narrow inside the Lobster Pot. Basically the place consists of a spot to wait in line and a spot for the owner – Nick Vassapolous, also my former landlord – and his sizable Greek family to serve customers. There’s also a small back room full of large evil-smelling silver pots of sick green and puke red slime. The laundry units are in the basement of the building, and I used to have to step through, between and over the pots to get to the stairs that led to the basement and do a wash. I don’t know about the function of the slime, i.e., I’m not sure if it’s detritus or something used to cook the fried shit that the Lobster Pot sells. I don’t want to know – that shit tastes good.

Whenever I regard Mr. Vassapolous, I’m amazed by the hair. He looks like a fat Wolfman in a dirty wifebeater and apron. Each of his pores must anchor ten or more follicles. He’s a very nice and jocular and utterly alarming man.

Because of spatial constraints, and because it was so busy, Mr. Vassapolous allowed me to read from Codename Prague on the condition that I serve customers while doing so. Luckily I had memorized several chapters, prepared for this kind of mishap. It was an unruly scene. A lot of people literally fell into the shop drunk from the pubs across the street following a football match. I didn’t know if they were excited to see me, excited that I was reading to them, or just hungry. Or just drunk. I’d like to think it was a healthy combination of all of these things, but realistically, the catalyst was probably drunkenness. Whenever there is a question of a catalyst, is not drunkenness always the answer?

There’s more, as always, but I’m on a train to London and I’m very tired. Next appearance: Waterstone’s Bookstore in Picadilly Circus, Feb. 24.

Alien Redrum on Codename Prague

Here is a superterrific review of Codename Prague at Horror Talk written by Steve "Alien Redrum" Pattee.

Big Moose & Mota

A former Wright State University-Lake Campus student of mine, David Frericks a.k.a. Big Moose, is a rapper in Lima, Ohio. He's laid down 150 or so tracks with another rapper, Damon Ortiz a.k.a. Mota, and they're in search of a label. Check out some of their tracks here. "Dumbledore's Grave" is a favorite of mine - still can't get it out of my head.

Review of Peckinpah

STC Literature has reviewed my short novel Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance. The crux:

"It's wild and sporadic and violent and funny. It's genius."

Read the entire review here.

ZDMT #26 - Dove Cottage in the Lake District

Great Britain is different than the United States. I lived there for a year, doing a M.A. degree in Science Fiction Studies at the University of Liverpool, but it’s been over a decade, and I’ve forgotten things.

“All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the corniest asshole in literature,” I said to my audience by way of preface. The lighting crew had set up chairs in Wordsworth’s bedroom and there were about 100 people crowded together, sitting and standing. A few people sat on other people’s laps, and there were a number of children. More babies than I can ever remember at a reading of mine. Nobody cried, though.

The audience didn’t understand my assertion. They had expected me to read a poem – I had promised a Pride & Prejudice & Zombies version of The Prelude – but I figured since the purpose of the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour is to promote Codename Prague I might as well say something about it.

I changed asshole to wanker: “All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the corniest wanker in literature.” This garnered more acclaim, but I still detected a considerable degree of confusion. I suspect the audience didn’t like the juxtaposition of corniest with wanker. They may not have known what corny meant. Full of corn? I was unsure of its etymology.

According to the OED, corny means any of the following: “Of or pertaining to corn . . . As grain or meal . . . Of such a type as appeals to country-folk; rustic or unsophisticated . . . Of ale? . . . Abounding in grains of corn . . . Intoxicated, tipsy.” It says nothing about humor, bad or otherwise, or a lack of savoir-faire and stylishness. I prefer the Urban Dictionary’s definitions: “Trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing.” First definition. Others include: “Something presented as fresh or original, which is actually tired and/or lame, especially when its lameness derives from being obvious or done to death . . . Really stupid, or using ironic situations . . . Obviously stupid. Usually enacted by people who are desperate for attention . . . Achieved when something picks up old and overused fads just to ‘fit in,’ falsely believes it is cool, and then takes itself too seriously, resulting in a complete destruction of its social life [most accurate definition re Vincent Prague] . . . Stupid to the point that may cause laughter . . . George Lopez.”

As always, the Urban Dictionary speaks more pointedly to us twenty-first century hipsters. Death to antiquarians.

Third time’s an alarm. I changed corniest to dumbest: “All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the dumbest wanker in literature, ever.” But Vincent Prague isn’t dumb. He isn’t a wanker either. He’s an asshole. A corny asshole. Nobody beats him . . .

Preliminary Blurb for The Kyoto Man

Award-winning author of The Pilo Family Circus, Strange Places and Pilgrims has this to say about The Kyoto Man:

"Believe the hype this time. D. Harlan Wilson has more talent than you can throw an axe at."

Check out the latest edition of Pilo, which includes an introduction from Katherine Dunn, best-selling author of Geek Love, among the finest novels written in the postmodern era.

Response to Anti-Promotional Rhetoric

My publicist and the managing editor of The Dream People, Stanley Ashenbach, has been promoting Codename Prague by emailing press releases to folks who have submitted to The Dream People in the past. Information on the novel is preceded by this disclaimer:

"This is a promotional message for D. Harlan Wilson's new novel, Codename Prague. If you are offended by messages of this nature, look away. Here is a press kit. Thank you for your cooperation."

Many recipients send short replies expressing interest; most don't reply at all. Occasionally somebody emails this message:

"Remove me from your mailing list."

Stanley's response to these messages is pointed and unambiguous:

"No. The Dream People exists in part as a medium to promote the works of D. Harlan Wilson. By submitting you subjectify yourself. Grow up."

For the record, I am not responsible for how Stan chooses to manage my career; he insisted on autonomy when he signed the contract and I gave it to him. And he hasn't let me down yet.

MBR Review of Codename Prague

Midwest Book Review has this to say about Codename Prague:

"When technology lurks everywhere, it's all too easy to come out missing a few limbs. Codename Prague follows Vincent Prague, assassin and special agent of the Ministry of Applied Pressure. After his latest hit, he finds himself with more attention than he wants, and in the city of Prague, he has to tread lightly in a world where technology has gone way too far and Vincent only has his mind to save himself, with a few toys of course. Blending spy fiction with science fiction, Codename Prague is a fun read that should prove hard to put down."

I'm not sure if the review is a joke. I've been informed by several reliable sources that my novel is not fun and extremely easy to put down, not to mention humorless and dumb. But I appreciate the kind words.

ZDMT #25 - Jesus Christ Superstar Books & Music

From Montreal, Quebec . . .

Codename Prague as authorial excess, abandon, intoxication, obesity, profligacy. Lynchian Harkonnenism. And so the entire sckikungfi trilogy. It is not about science fiction or kung fu. It is not about the human condition. Or rather, it only about these things insofar as it is about writing – the process, the product, the rubberneck at the console and the so-called ideas/ideals s/he constructs and disseminates. The trilogy is a writing manual. Follow it and you, too, can fail. Don’t follow it – and you have already failed.

Mind you, friends: my assholery is not a consequence of fame. I emit the same stench as one might expect from the orifice of infancy.

ZDMT #24 - Bouquinerie Rock'n livre

I forgot how enlivening being outside of the United State of Amerika feels. Usually not an hour passes during which I don’t experience a profound feeling of unhappiness, dread and idle loathing. Not so in French Canada. I feel good. I feel free.

Strumming an air guitar between sets, I read the following passages (trans. into French by Stanley Ashenbach):
Né dans une famille de la bourgeoisie noire de Harlem d'un père qui était propriétaire d'une entreprise de pompes funèbres, il épouse à l'âge de dix-huit ans la poétesse Marilyn Hacker, qui a le même âge. Ils ont une fille et divorcent en 1979. Dans son autobiographie de 1988, The Motion of Light in Water, Delany ne cache pas qu'il préfère les relations sexuelles avec les hommes. Hacker et lui sont désormais connus comme militants homosexuels.

Il publie son premier roman à l'âge de vingt ans et obtient rapidement plusieurs récompenses littéraires : le prix Nebula pendant deux années consécutives, en 1966 pour Babel-17 et en 1967 pour l'Intersection Einstein; le prix Hugo en 1970 pour l'une de ses nouvelles, Le temps considéré comme une hélice de pierre semi-précieuses. Il est alors unanimement présenté comme l'un des meilleurs espoirs de la nouvelle science-fiction américaine. Il rend hommage à des auteurs comme Theodore Sturgeon et Robert Heinlein.

Il se détourne néanmoins peu à peu de la science-fiction pour se consacrer à une carrière universitaire. Il enseigne l'écriture à de jeunes auteurs, d'où sortira Vonda McIntyre. Il publie encore quelque œuvres mineures, notamment une incursion dans le domaine de la science fiction pornographique en 1973 avec Vice-versa, qui est pour lui l'occasion d'affirmer sa bisexualité.

Il accomplit son retour en 1975 avec Dhalgren et montre le résultat de ses recherches formelles. Retour confirmé avec Triton puis Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand. Il poursuit parallèlement un cycle de fantasy, Nevèrÿon. Il se dit alors plus proche d'auteurs comme Joanna Russ ou Ursula K. Le Guin.

Dès 1977, il publie des essais sur la science-fiction, comme The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, et plusieurs recueils d'articles sur la paralittérature ou les queer studies. Il devient titulaire d'une chaire de littérature comparée à l'université du Massachusetts en 1988. Depuis 2001, il enseigne à la Temple University de Philadelphie.

ZDMT #23 - Voodoo Nightclub

As always, Newfoundland has refreshed me. Once again I am a healthy and functional tabula rasa prepared to endure the (re)imprintation of the glacier monkey of culture. There’s a spa on the coast that never fails to do the trick. I don’t want anybody to know about it so I’m not going to say it’s name or where specifically it is. It’s mine, so to speak.

Now I am in Canada. Other than the cold weather, I don’t know why it gets such a bad rap. I think South Park is too hard on this country. But I’d demean and deride and denigrate the entire cosmos for a million dollars an episode. I do that anyway, for free.

Note to self/world: Writer’s block is an Ovidian myth. One writes in slowtime, realtime or fasttime. Any idiot with half a lexicon can squeeze a sentence out of his ass. Sometimes a sentence is all it takes . . . I made this note as I entered the Voodoo Nightclub. As a graduate student at Michigan State University, I had been to Windsor on countless drinking and gambling sprees, but I had never been here. It is what it says it is. Liturgical attic tragedies unfolded across multiple stages as weird vodouisants and black magicians and wicker people and Adobe LiveMotion devil-dolls performed their respective rites of passage and damnation. Incense burnt in the corner. So forth.

I opened with the following caveat: “I’m tired of stories that tell stories. We all want something acausal and counterintuitive. Ergo: the hand grips hard on the pavement.” The Haitian owner had situated me on a “floating stage” that as far as I could tell was actually floating. I can’t remember how I got up or down – temporary scotomy – but I took “drugs” before the show in order to “fit in” and I can’t hold myself accountable for anything.

My father was in the audience again. I had successfully evaded him for the past two months (or vice versa – more scotomy). Unlike his former screenings, he made no effort to disguise himself. He had on Monday clothes.

I read a chapter 44B from Codename Prague: “Daikaiju Blues in the Bruce Lee Funpark.” I didn’t provide context other than the aforementioned caveat because there was too much to tell and I couldn’t summon the perspicacity and endurance to do it. Basically, my protagonist chases the antagonist to a Bruce Lee-themed amusement park in Hong Kong and there’s a big fight. Such an amusement park is actually being built in China, complete with screaming rollercoaster rides and Bruce Lee mannequin robots, but I’m proud to say that Codename Prague marks the first appearance of the park in any diegesis, fictional or otherwise.

Lately I seem to be producing a certain disenfranchisement in listeners. My attitude – i.e., the raw theatrics of my onstage schizosophy of selfhood – no doubt contributes to this effekt. I can assure you, however, that I am a good husband and father. In the end, that’s all that matters. Everything you do outside of your family dies with you.

An overweight blonde woman with an unnaturally red face had this to say about chapter 44B: "Yes, Dr. Wilson. You have a great talent for writing action, adventure, universe and characters. But your attempts at humor fall short, sometimes so much so that I feel embarrassed for you. At times, I feel that the story's legs are cut out from under it by your inability to be funny. Why?"

I might have responded in harsher tones had I not been on “drugs” and recently come from a Newfoundland spa. In a very friendly tone I said, “I don’t know. Humor is subjective?”

The fat, red woman had more to say, but to everybody’s surprise, my father, a former marine and Vietnam veteran, stood defiantly and barked, “Leave my boy alone, hog! Shut your hole, scum! Don’t even look at my boy, eggplant! Don’t you eyeball me, clump! Make like a tree, dirtworm! Do it now, mudbump! Do it!”

So forth.

Kugelmass #1

The inaugural issue of Kugelmass, a journal of literary humor, is now available. The issue includes my story "Class Reunion" as well as short fiction by Larry Doyle, Larry Gaffney, David Galef, Kurt Luchs, Teresa Milbrodt, Thomas Mundt, Dan Pope and Curtis VanDonkelaar. There are also essays by Steve Almond, Mike Birbiglia, David Kirby and Simon Rich. Read Simon Rich's essay "Sensei" online here. Congrats to the editors. The journal looks sharp, and I'm happy to be aboard.