Virtual Memories Show 235:
Liz Hand and John Clute

“I think of a collector as a gardener, rather than someone who just buys books. Like gardeners, they do a lot of murdering. They cull books.”

It’s another Readercon episode! First, Liz Hand rejoins the show for a little conversation about what she’s been reading lately (it’s some creepy stuff, of course), the regenerative aspects of Readercon, why the novella is ideal for dark/spooky fiction, and whether the attendee wearing an ASIA t-shirt is doing so ironically. Then John Clute talks about the ruins of futurity and the launch of the Clute Science Fiction Library at Telluride Institute. We get into the need for visual presentation and accessibility of original books in their context (including dust jackets), his transition from book accumulator to collector, the externalization of one’s mind into one’s library, why he doesn’t write fiction, the Easter eggs he sneaks into the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, why Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie (except for Wrath of Khan), reaching a uniform degree of incompletion, generational shifts in SF/F, and the sneaky adoption of Fantastika. Give it a listen! And go buy Liz Hand’s new collection, Fire., and her Cass Neary novels: Generation Loss, Available Dark, and Hard Light!

“Most scholars, academic institutions, libraries are not interested in context. In that sense, the Science Fiction Library at Telluride is transgressive.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guests

Elizabeth Hand flunked out of college a couple of years after seeing Patti Smith perform and became involved in the nascent punk scenes in DC and New York. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She was eventually readmitted to university to study cultural anthropology and received her BA. She is the author of many novels, including The Winterlong Trilogy, Waking the Moon, Glimmering, Mortal Love, Illyria, and Radiant Days, and the Cass Neary novels, Generation Loss, Available Dark, and Hard Light, as well as three collections of stories, including Saffron and Brimstone. Her fiction has received the Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Tiptree, and International Horror Guild Awards, and her novels have been chosen as notable books by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. She has also been awarded a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship. A regular contributor to The Washington Post Book World and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she lives with her family on the coast of Maine.

John Clute is a multiple Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award winner and Visiting Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. He is perhaps best known for his editorship, with David Langford, and others, of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (sf-encyclopedia.com). As an illustrious and prolific reviewer and essayist, he has profoundly influenced science fiction writing in his time.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Marriott in Quincy, MA during Readercon on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Liz Hand and John Clute in the Soundcloud by Scott Edelman; not sure who the other/younger one is by. Either way, they’re not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 231:
Sven Birkerts

“There are thresholds or shelves where we go from having incremental change to systemic moments of transformation.”

In the ’90s, Sven Birkerts cautioned us about the impact of technology on reading with The Gutenberg Elegies. In 2017, we mute our iPhones to talk about his new book, Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age (Graywolf Press). We dive into the impact of digital technology on perception and identity, but also get into the way life becomes a thematic puzzle in middle age, why he stepped down from his role directing the low-residency MFA program at Bennington, the joy of bringing his favorite writers in as instructors (and the ones he regrets not getting), the challenge of interviewing fiction writers, his big literary 0-fer and what I’m missing about Virginia Woolf, how he’s adapting to a year-long sabbatical and how he understands his writing life, what he’s learned editing the literary magazine AGNI, and why the prerequisite for anything he’s reading is that it has to be more interesting to me than whatever it is he’s vaguely brooding about. Give it a listen! And go buy his new essay collection, Changing the Subject!

“When I was your age, I discovered the doubling over of one’s own experience. . . . Themes, recurrences and motifs in my life began to manifest. Then as if on command, the whole sunken continent of memory began to detach from the sea-floor.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Sven Birkerts is the author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age and nine previous books, including The Other Walk: Essays, The Gutenberg Elegies, The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again, and My Sky Blue Trades: Growing Up Counter in a Contrary Time. He recently stepped down as director of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and he also edits the journal AGNI based at Boston University. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts,, and he’s on Twitter as svenbirkerts and Instagram as cyberbirk.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Birkerts’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Birkerts by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 227:
Ben Schwartz

“Twitter is the best source of political humor now. It’s better than any show on TV. It’s hard to compete with a million writers.”

Comedy writer, journalist and screenwriter Ben Schwartz joins the show to talk serious laughs. We discuss his work on American humor between the wars, writing for Billy Crystal on the Oscars and his contributions to David Letterman’s monologues, the profundity of Jack Benny and the importance of Bob Hope, his amazing (but unproduced) screenplay about Bob Hope and Larry Gelbart in Korea, how Jaime Hernandez’ comics prepared him to move to LA, his take on Charlie Hebdo, and what it’s like having the same name as the actor who played Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Rec! Give it a listen!

“Part of being able to sell stories is having an idea that other people don’t have, having a point of view or knowledge that other people don’t have.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Ben Schwartz is a comedy writer and journalist whose work began appearing at Suck.com (as Bertolt Blecht) and has appeared since in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Letterman monologues, the 84th Oscars, The Baffler, The New York Times, on the radio show Wits, and with comics collaborators like Ivan Brunetti, Peter Bagge, and Drew Friedman. To what degree the work is considered journalism or satire depends on the legal circumstances of the moment and how serious your libel suit looks. He is currently on assignment for Vanity Fair and working on a history of American humor set between the two world wars, set to come out from Fantagraphics. He’s on Twitter as @benschwartzy.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Schwartz’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment in a hotel room in Quincy, MA. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Schwartz by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 225: Howard Chaykin

“I want to be loved; I just don’t work too hard at it.”

Comics legend Howard Chaykin joins the show to talk about his career, the early assignment he’ll never live down, getting clean and being boringly sober, how Gil Kane taught him how to behave as a cartoonist, why he’s never gone to a strip club, what it’s like to be a brand but not a fan-favorite, his love of television and his hatred of writing for television, the reason he brought Jewish leads (and reformed shitheels) to mainstream comics, the narrative values that led to his innovative page designs, discovering his bastardy in his 40s, the role of music and musicality in his work, why Jersey Boys makes him cry, and the influence of American Flagg! on multiple generations of cartoonists (for better and worse). Give it a listen! And go buy a whole ton of his work!

“Comic-book fans don’t like to hear about the money aspect of it, but the fact is that it’s a calling, but it’s also a career.”

“People who are successful in southern California for the most part are people who have experienced actual travail. By which I mean weather.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Howard Chaykin is a longtime veteran of the comic book business, serving as an artist and writer for nearly every publisher of comics in the past four decades, and counting. He took the ’90s off to work on mostly unwatchable television, so he missed the money and dreck that was comics in that execrable decade. He is responsible, some might say culpable, for introducing a number of previously unexplored themes to comic books. If you’re not hip to what that’s supposed to mean, there’s always Wikipedia.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Howard’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment, because I’m on the road this week. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Chaykin by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 220:
Seth

“The world of the studio is where my interest is now. . . . It’s the world of exploring ideas you don’t have to show to anybody.”

Seth returns to the show to talk about Palookaville, making a living, his changing relationship to comics and cartoonists, his retrospection on the ’90s cohort he came up with, the creative sanctity of the studio and the creation of art no one will see, finishing his Clyde Fans serial after 20 years (and what he wants to work on next, being the subject of a documentary, seeing his work animated, doing collaborative work, taking up photography, a key lesson he learned about marriage, the disadvantages of being a people pleaser, why Kickstarter may be like an IQ test, and more! Plus, he asks me some questions! Give it a listen! And go buy the new the new Palookaville and the documentary, Seth’s Dominion!

“I’m over that hump, where I’m no longer as engaged with the medium of comics as I used to be.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Seth is the cartoonist behind the long-running comic-book series Palookaville. His books include Wimbledon Green, George Sprott, and It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, all published by Drawn & Quarterly. He is the designer for The Complete Peanuts, The Portable Dorothy Parker, The John Stanley Library, and The Collected Doug Wright. From 2014 to 2016 he partnered with Lemony Snicket on the young readers series All The Wrong Questions. He is the subject of the recent award-winning NFB documentary Seth’s Dominion, and was the winner in 2011 of the Harbourfront Festival Prize. In 2017, he collaborated with the musician Mark Haney for the musical performance Omnis Temporalis, and his cardboard city installation was featured in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s sesquicentennial group show Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor on a Zoom H2n digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Seth by me from 2014. It’s on my instagram.