“I don’t think I would write the kind of science fiction I write if I hadn’t had the experience of eating deep-dish pizza with Strom Thurmond during the Clarence Thomas hearings.”
Science fiction author Christopher Brown joins the show to talk about his first novel, Tropic of Kansas (Harper Voyager), and the redemptive possibilities of dystopian fiction. We get into his SF pedigree, living in Austin and its influence on his ecological themes, the multivalence of Texas, his attempt at subverting the post-9/11 technothriller toward emancipatory ends, his background in business law and politics (and the role of power in both those milieux), his affinity for edgelands and the dysfunctions of time, the storytelling advantages of growing up in the midwest, his cynicism about humanity and optimism about nature, and working on Capitol Hill and realizing Ted Kennedy looked just like a certain Marvel character. Give it a listen! And go buy Tropic of Kansas!
“I’ve always been attracted to these little pockets of interstitial wilderness that still exist in the landscape.”
“Texas, more than any other part of the US, is manifestly colonized territory.”
Eshkol Nevo is the author of five novels, all best sellers in Israel. Four have been published in English: Neuland, which was included in The Independent‘s list of Books of the Year in Translation; World Cup Wishes; Homesick, a finalist for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; and Three Floors Up. In 2008 Nevo was awarded membership in the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. He is the owner and co-manager of the largest private creative writing school in Israel and is mentor to many up-and-coming Israeli writers.
Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. After graduating with a Masters Degree in Law from Christ’s College, Cambridge, he spent a year and half in the USA, mainly in New Mexico, contributing to Albuquerque’s local public radio and television stations.
In the early 1980s, he started the Fast Fiction table at the bi-monthly comic marts and mail order distribution, inviting anybody to sell their homemade comics from it. Out of this came his first job in comics at pssst! magazine, a brave but misguided attempt at a British version of the sort of a luxurious monthly bande dessinée magazine popular in France. He worked in a variety of positions in 1982 and 1983 at pssst! – as promotions man, traffic manager, coordinating artwork and interviewing potential contributors.
In 1983 he launched Escape Magazine, which he co-edited/published with Peter Stanbury, showcasing the cream of the alternative cartoonists of the 1980s. Escape lasted for 19 issues before closing its doors in 1989. For six years, Escape helped to promote an evolving bunch of distinctive British creators, including now major names like Eddie Campbell, Jamie Hewlett, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.
Between 1992 and 2001 he was the director of The Cartoon Art Trust, a UK charity established in 1988, dedicated to preserving and promoting the best of British cartoon art and caricature and to establish a museum of cartoon art with gallery, archives and reference library. As Project Director of The Cartoon Art Trust, he worked on numerous exhibitions, including tributes to Carl Giles and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and The 100 British Cartoonists of the Century.
Among the exhibitions of comics art he has curated in Britain and in Europe, ‘God Save The Comics!’, in 1990 was the first major survey of British comic art at the National Comics and Image Centre in Angoulême, France. In 2004, he curated the first exhibit devoted to British writer Alan Moore and his collaborators at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium.
Paul has also organised retrospectives on Jack Kirby, Tove Jansson and Posy Simmonds. In 2008 he curated ‘Manhua: China Comics Now’, the first exhibition in Britain of contemporary Chinese comics at the London College of Communication. In 2010, he curated ‘Hypercomics: The Shapes of Comics to Come’, at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park.
Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, instigated by him and John Harris Dunning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Since 2011, Comica has been an independent not-for-profit organization running both the annual festival and other events and exhibitions throughout the year.
On television he has been a consultant and interview subject on The South Bank Show’s programme Manga Mania (2006) and BBC4’s documentary series Comics Britannia (2007). Also, he appeared as interview subject in the DVD documentary The Mindscape Of Alan Moore (2007). He is regularly interviewed for radio and television documentaries, discussions and review programmes. He also lectures in art schools, museums and galleries and is a judge for several prestigious prizes including the Embassy of Japan in London’s ‘Manga Jiman’ Award and The Observer / Jonathan Cape / Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.
He continues to write about comics for various periodicals, including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, ArtReview, ArtReview Asia, The Comics Journal, Comic Heroes, Time Out, Blueprint, Neo, The Bookseller, Dazed & Confused, New Internationalist, Third Text, 9eme Art and The Jewish Quarterly.
His recent books include Comics Art, published by Tate Publishing (2013) and Yale University Press (2014), and Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK (2014) with John Harris Dunning, published by The British Library. This accompanied the exhibition of the same name which Gravett and Dunning co-curated at The British Library, the largest exhibition of British comics ever held in the UK, which attracted some 60,000 visitors, almost half of them first-time visitors.
In 2016, Paul co-curated the exhibitions: Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics at House of Illustration, London; The Story of British Comics So Far…: Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! at The Lightbox, Woking, Surrey; and Land Escapes: Contemporary Comics from the United Kingdom at Fondazione Benetton, Palazzo Bomben, Treviso, Italy.
For 2017, Paul completed a combination of a major new book for Thames & Hudson and a related exhibition for The Barbican Centre. Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics is the first exhibition to explore manga or Japanese comics in a wider Asian content and survey the comics cultures of nearly twenty Asian countries. Mangasia opens in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and continues to other venues in 2018 including Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France, followed by a further global tour of Europe, North and South America, Asia and elsewhere, for a maximum total period of five years.
“Writing has made people feel unsafe and uncomfortable since, oh, the Bible.”
One of my favorite authors, John Crowley, returns to the show to talk about his “final dress novel,” the wonderful Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (Saga Press). We talk about the sense of his various endings, writing a talking animal book that’s actually about an old man dying, the challenges of reaching a broader audience and why he returned to fantastika, his retirement from teaching at Yale and his thoughts on how students have changed, his Catholic upbringing and how it informed his writing, the pressure of new rules and norms on writers, the radical challenge of sympathy, and more. But first, I call Michael Meyer to talk about his new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up (Bloomsbury). We get into what Americans really need to know about China, how the country has changed in the 20+ years that he’s been working and living there (on and off), and why Pittsburgh is the Beijing of the US. Give it a listen! And go buy Ka & The Road to Sleeping Dragon!
“We will figure out how to write exactly what we want to write, but within a coded system where we can speak to one another as adults, while people who want to check it against the present rules can read it that way, but we’ll know better.”
John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies and found work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel The Deep in 1975, and his fifteenth volume of fiction, Four Freedoms, in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2006 he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print.
“I did some hard-hitting cartoons during the Bush administration. . . . I kind of wish I held back a little because now it’s like, ‘Where do we go from here?'” –Ann Telnaes
It’s a double-Pulitzer-winner episode! First, the great editorial cartoonist, animator and essayist Ann Telnaes joins the show to talk about the role of satire against the abuse of power, her political awakening, her present sense of urgency and her upcoming Trump’s ABC (Fantagraphics), the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders, the images editors won’t print, and the sanctuary of the Alexander Calder room at the National Gallery. Then past guest Matt Wuerker returns to the show (here’s our first ep.) to talk about The Swamp, the loss of comity and the growth of tribalism in contemporary DC (characterized by that weekend’s dueling rallies between Trump supporters and Juggalos), the problem with having easy targets, bringing conservative cartoons into his weekly roundup for Politico, taking up fly-fishing in his dotage, and more! Give it a listen! And go preorder Trump’s A B C!
“It hasn’t been this good for political cartoonists since Nixon and Watergate.” –Matt Wuerker
Ann Telnaes creates editorial cartoons in various mediums — animation, visual essays, live sketches, and traditional print — for The Washington Post. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for her print cartoons and the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year for 2016.
Telnaes’ print work was shown in a solo exhibition at the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in 2004. Her first book, Humor’s Edge, was published by Pomegranate Press and the Library of Congress in 2004. A collection of Vice President Cheney cartoons, Dick, was self-published by Telnaes and Sara Thaves in 2006. Her work has been exhibited in Paris, Jerusalem, and Lisbon.
Telnaes attended California Institute of the Arts and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in character animation. Before beginning her career as an editorial cartoonist, Telnaes worked for several years as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. She has also animated and designed for various studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Taiwan.
Matt Wuerker is the staff cartoonist and illustrator for POLITICO. He likes to cross hatch… a lot. He was the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. He was a finalist for the award in 2009 and 2010. He has also been awarded the 2010 Herblock Prize (presented at the Library of Congress) and the 2010 Berryman Award by the National Press Foundation.
“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.”
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.