Goodreads Giveaway: Technologized Desire

The Goodreads giveaway for my book of literary criticism and theory, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction, is now complete. Congrats to the winners: Josh Myers, Christopher Davis, Stan Slater, Sabra Onstott and Traci Goodwin. Signed copies will be sent to you next week.

The Goodreads giveaway for my new new novel, Codename Prague, concludes on April 31. Click here for details on how to enter. It's free.

Mo*Con 2011

I will be attending Mo*Con 0n May 20-22, 2011 in Indianapolis, IN. It will be the first appearance I make in the wake of the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour for Codename Prague, which I continue to recover from in small increments. Other guests include Andersen Prunty, Gina Ranalli, Danny Evarts, Gary Braunbeck, and Maurice Broaddus himself.

Academically Adrift

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift: Learning on College Campuses argues that students learn less and less at colleges every year and demonstrate no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills throughout their college careers. Moreover, the worst students (i.e., the most static and unchanging) tend to be Education and Business majors, whereas the best students (i.e., the ones whose minds grow, evolve, refine, etc.) major in the Humanities or Math and Science. Of course, this dynamic has a lot to do with faculty. Arum and Roksa's findings are hardly revelatory for, say, a Humanities professor like me who works closely with faculty from all fields of study. But it's nice to see them confirmed.

Prick of the Spindle

I'm part of a collective author interview in the new issue (5.1) of Prick of the Spindle. I talk about the publishers I work with and who I might cast in movie versions of my books.

The issue also contains a review of my fiction collection They Had Goat Heads.

ZDMT #35 - Kafka Museum (Prague)

This is the final entry for the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour coming at you from the Former Czech Republik in Prague. For readers: thank you for your support. For family and friends: I will be remain in Prague indefinitely and call those of you I love the most with more details. For Samuel R. Delany: with continued practice, I am confident you will become a successful writer one day. For President Obama: keep your chin up and don't let the shiteaters get you down (although try to be more attentive to the issue of education). For everybody else: wake up.

Immer ängstlicher im Niederschreiben. Es ist begreiflich. Jedes Wort, gewendet in der Hand der Geister – dieser Schwung der Hand ist ihre charakteristische Bewegung – wird zum Spieß, gekehrt gegen den Sprecher. Eine Bemerkung wie diese ganz besonders. Und so ins Unendliche. Der Trost wäre nur: es geschieht ob Du willst oder nicht. Und was Du willst, hilft nur unmerklich wenig. Mehr als Trost ist: Auch Du hast Waffen.

Wildclown Reviews They Had Goat Heads

G. Wells Taylor, author of the Wildclown mysteries, has written a very insightful review of They Had Goat Heads over at his blog. Here's a glimpse:

"The 39 stories in They Had Goat Heads sprint, machine-gun and warp the reader to places where normal rational thinking would never dare go and you begin to wonder, as things progress, whether the collection might actually cause brain damage. One thing is certain, you will come away from the experience knowing you have read a cutting-edge piece of literature: the images are stimulating and resonant, in manifold ways unique and strangely familiar ... We limbo under Freud’s cigar: realistic expectations, interactions, fetish and symbols go out the window. These are transformed into something that resembles the intimate and often ambiguous realm of dreams and the unconscious—but it is more a reflection than resemblance. They Had Goat Heads is breathtaking. The reader is swept from genre to genre as a torrent of provocative images either hurtles past or impacts and bonds at the molecular level. There’s no escaping once it starts. The stories dodge in and out of reality, touching on persistent themes of repetition, media and technology, all of it interwoven with human DNA and its evolutionary design."

Taylor used to run a great flash magazine called Wildclown Chronicle, which included an early story of mine that later appeared in Stranger on the Loose, "Professor Dyspeptical's Parrot." Check out the archives.

ZDMT #34 - Le petit diablotin à Barjac (Barjac, France)

Ceci n'est pas un symbole phallique.

ZDMT #33 - Crazyhorse Saloon (Paris)

An elegant, if not elegiac, strip show. I had seen it before, but nearly 20 years ago. I was too enchanted to go on afterwards. I slipped out the back, but the French paparazzi was waiting for me. “This is not a matter to be taken lightly,” one of them said, stealing footage of my raw surprise. I replied, “I don’t take anything lightly. Everything I choose to endure is a cosmic elephant. Frivolity nauseates me. I mean, I’m not a homunculi, for Chrissakes. I was born for the screen. Look at my face. Look at my eyes. Just one eye. Can you honestly say that my frontal lobby indicates anything less than a healthy entitlement to shit on the entire universe at my leisure? It’s not as if I lack a traumatic kernel. No. My selfhood is empowered by the repressed memories of thousands of pulsing traumas. Yes. Invariably I experience a tension between a feeling of genuine happiness and the desire to destroy myself. I’ll tell you how it happens. I get to feeling really goddamn happy—and then I recognize it. What I’m feeling, I mean. Interpellation is the problem. My happiness calls out to me: “Hey, shiteater, you’re happy!” And I realize that I’m subject to a much grander and more devious systemic morass. Or I simply realize that I’m happy, too happy, and this sort of happiness doesn’t last, so I might as well put an end to the fucker now. Depression sets in. I don’t want to kill myself. I’ve never wanted that. I just want to be tolerated. I just want to exist. Somehow existence must be enough.”

Only two more stops on the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour: Barjac, France, and finally Prague, Former Czech Republik. I can’t say it’s been a good run. I’ve sold upwards of 800,000 books, but in my eyes book sales don’t constitute success. I make six figures teaching writing and literature to rednecks in Shitsville. I don’t need this shit. The book tour, that is. I need the writing. All of us writers need it. We do it because that’s what we do. The rest is just an excuse to get drunk.

ZDMT #32 - Shakespeare & Company (Paris)

Chip Delany and my father were waiting for me outside of Shakespeare & Company when I arrived to do a reading of the final chapter of Codename Prague, “Codename Prague,” in which the code that authorizes and empowers the novel, baffling readers like a monochromatic Rubik’s cube, is unlocked, revealed, and disseminated across the universe. It was raining. They stood under tiny black umbrellas and sipped espresso from tiny paper cups. I walked up and they sort of snapped to attention, hurriedly finishing their espressos and tossing them aside as if they were illegal. Chip spoke first. He said he was very concerned, etc. My father agreed and said it was time for an intervention, things had been going on long enough, etc., etc. Back and forth, they went. I remained silent, polite, thoughtful.

A fight broke out.

Dad and I started pushing each other in the chest, and then he took me by the elbow and shirt and applied a tia-toshi judo throw, pulling me over an outstretched leg and slamming me against the slate-plated street. He’s a third degree black belt and still very limber, quick and capable despite being 68 years old. A staunch pacifist who even has reservations about theoretical violence, Chip, also 68, leaned over and tried to help me up, and Dad applied hiza garuma, placing the bridge of his foot against Chip’s outer knee and wheeling him head over heels into a stack of books covered in cellophane. His hair and beard swallowed his face like a wet mop. Panting, I crawled over to Chip to see if he was ok, and my father chided me, intoning, “Your sentiment will be your destruction.” I told him that was a line from The Shield and that he killed Samuel R. Delany, one of the greatest African-American science fiction authors of all time, despite his personality, which we could and should excuse him for. In fact Chip was a “very good guy,” I admitted, and it was my father’s son, D. Harlan Wilson, who was The Asshole. Dad agreed. Then the Sûreté Nationale pulled up and threw us all in a paddywagon (Chip was alive), or tried to; Dad deflected and flipped and swatted arresting officers out of the way like winter coats thrown at him by low-ranking children of the corn, and then he leapt behind the wheel of the paddywagon and drove us across the Pont au Double bridge to Notre Dame and then backtracked across the bridge and we tore down the Quai de Montebello, the Quai Saint Michael, etc., and in the end we were drinking table wine and eating baguettes in a café overlooking the Parc de Monceau, feeling refreshed. It had stopped raining and the waiter gave us towels to dry off. Everybody was happy, an ephemeral emotion, but we talked and laughed and drew out the emotion as long as we could before shaking hands and going our separate ways.

Review of They Had Goat Heads

There is a new review of They Had Goat Heads at House of Bizarro written by Esteban Silvani. Final judgement: "D. Harlan Wilson is a true original. Five to ten years from now, you’ll be hearing his name with reference to having pioneered a new brand of absurdist speculative fiction."

ZDMT #31 - Balmer's Youth Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland

To kill a fly, one must be alert and patient. Prerequisite: steady hands. Wait for the fly to land on a flat surface. Open the hands into flat shapes and hold them outwards, as if carrying a large porcelain cistern. Approach the fly. Gaze upon the fly and do not look away. When looming above the fly like a mountain god, take a deep, silent breath and bring the hands together into a fierce clap approximately two inches above the fly. For a fly, there is nowhere to go but up. Flies are faster than hands, and accomplishing a clap in a spatial matrix where, before the fly moves, the fly does not exist, will compensate for this crisis of velocity. The fly should be dead at this point. Deposit the corpse in a garbage can and apply antibacterial gel to hands, or move on to another fly and return to the beginning of this process essay.

ZDMT #29 - Ye Olde Cock Tavern

Outside Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet Street in London was a big poster of me in a kind of Muammar Gaddafi pose that somebody was hitting with an empty bottle. I asked what he was doing and he said it had nothing to do with me; he was just trying to break the bottle, which was made of abnormally thick glass.

The aesthetic of this pub combines cool futurism with bourgeois Victorianism. It’s as close to experiencing a Steampunk diegesis as I’ll ever get. In fact, merely sitting at the bar and looking around does more for me than reading a steampunk novel, most of which promise so much and deliver so little and are beleaguered by excessive moodiness and artiste-like behavior on the part of characters and more importantly the authors that breathe bad breath into them. I assure you, there is no drama, no flâneury in Ye Olde Cock Tavern. There is only quiet and compelling spectacle.

Chapter 20 of Codename Prague, “In Outer Space, a Ceramic Mannequin without Arms & a Cracked Foot,” is a kind of prelude to the subsequent chapter, Passagenwerk, a play on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. It reads:

“tumbled into a Disnified black hole. And Dr Hans Reinhart said, ‘Something caused all this. But what caused . . . the cause?’”

I had not read half of the chapter when I received a call from Dayton, Ohio. It was Andersen Prunty. Yes, it was. I had not spoken to him for awhile and decided to surrogate my reading with our conversation, putting Codename Prague aside, enabling the speaker function on my iphone and holding it up to the mic. Our conversation began with the usual exchange:

“Andy!”

“Fuck you.”

“Where are you?”

“Fuck you.”

“I was just thinking about you. I was going to call you. I swear.”

“Fuck you.”

From there we moved on to other topics. As always, our conversation culminated in a rant against the fetid state of the publishing industry and the suicidal ennui that results from reading virtually every book ever written. Before I knew it, the wide-eyed master of ceremonies was making a heated phone closing motion with his hand, pressing the fingers into the palm with his chin. It was time for me to go. I said goodbye, and went.