Recently by Nick Mamatas:

I get emails, very occasionally, from acquaintances. They’re very short, these letters, as the subject header says it all: NEW ELLISON. Sometimes the sender betrays a faux intimacy with the author, and writes NEW HARLAN instead.

Harlan Ellison. Remember the best episode of Star Trek, the one where Captain Kirk lets Joan Collins die? Or did you ever catch the movie in which a telepathic dog bosses around a very young Don Johnson? (It helps if you’re the sort of insomniac who flips through hundreds of cable channels at two in the morning.) Or maybe you recall his pitchman spiel for the Geo Metro, or his appearances on Tom Snyder’s show or Politically Incorrect, or his segments on the early days of the Sci Fi Channel?

Nick Mamatas is the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild-nominated author of… More…

If the zeitgeist has a face, it supposedly belongs to Ayn Rand and her capitalist philosophy of Objectivism. Talk radio hosts adore the author’s demands for limited government; Congressman Paul Ryan insists that his staffers read her overstuffed opus Atlas Shrugged; picket signs at Tea Party rallies suggest that we all “READ AYN RAND.” And yet, some pieces are missing. Ayn Rand was anti-war, but spending for hundreds of military bases and two-and-a-half wars remains sacrosanct even as Congress made the debt ceiling a major issue. She found homosexuality “immoral” and “disgusting,” and yet gay marriage has regained the initiative in the public square. And Randian heroes are explicitly — nay, objectively — elitist. They are genius millionaire square-jawed heroes who walked right off the screen at the movie matinee. The average Tea Party rallier, not so much.

   

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The other week I popped into an outlet of major retail bookstore chain just to use the restroom. I walked out with Marion Meade’s Lonelyhearts and Tracy Daugherty’s Hiding Man — biographies of Nathanael West (and Eileen McKinney) and Donald Barthelme respectively. That’s me down $52. In my bag, as my commute read, I already had Misfit, Jonathan Yardley’s bio of Frederick Exley. That morning I’d just returned to the library Literary Life, the second and very gossipy volume of Larry McMurtry’s memoirs. I don’t even read McMurtry, though I did see most of The Last Picture Show and the episode of Lonesome Dove that featured a turn by pro wrestler Bret Hart. Have I mentioned having just returned from Florida? Chester Himes’ My Life of Absurdity was my airplane book. I stuck with it and was greatly rewarded despite the line “For I fell madly in love with her… More…

Certain books are better discovered than sold. On a lonely library shelf, say. Or better yet, pressed into one’s hands by the one clerk at Borders who actually reads. Or, ultimately, recommended by another writer through the power of literary broadcast. Charles Bukowski pushed a few books into the hands of a generation when he told “a little butterball…in heat” who his favorite author was:

“Fante.”

“Who?”

“John F-A-N-T-E. Ask the Dust. Wait Until Spring, Bandini.”

Those lines are from Women, and that was 30 years ago. Fante, already forgotten, had his career resuscitated when Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin asked Bukowski if Fante were real and then brought the writer’s work back into print. He even inspired Fante, blind and diabetic by that time, to dictate one last novel to his wife, Joyce. Now it is 2009 and the centenary of John Fante’s birth. He is dead. Bukowski… More…

 

I became very dizzy while watching Cloverfield in the theater last year. I sank into my seat and muttered, “Oh man, I don’t feel too good.”

“What’s the matter?” my friend Geoffrey asked.

“Taiji,” I said. “I think I may have a bruised rib from taiji.” Even the kids in front of us had to turn and see what was so funny.

Everyone knows “tai chi” — it’s that arm-waving thing old ladies do in urban parks. The Whole Foods yuppie crowd swears by it as a way of learning how to “relax.” Taiji quan (same thing, somewhat more accurate transliteration) started out, however, as a powerful martial art. I started looking for a martial art to practice a few years ago and observed a few classes. I met lots of athletic types, and a few… More…

Imagine the school board meeting — the kids are reading some dangerous literature in English class. Murder, drunkenness, torture, madness, and not even a sliver of moral instruction. If the students weren’t already so resentful, they might even like what they’ve been given to read, it’s so cool. Imagine the class discussion about the theme of, say, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and that one boy with a heavy metal T-shirt in the back finally joining the conversation with his interpretation: “Some motherfuckers just have it comin’.”

2009 marks the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe, arguably the most famed and influential writer in American history. Not only does his work entirely limn the culture, but he also created no fewer than two genres of popular fiction — mystery and modern horror — almost single-handedly. Virtually anyone in the U.S. can recite his poetry (a few lines here and there, at least)…. More…

One great way to briefly turn the conversation toward myself at a party is to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” with, “I’m a writer.” Not that most of the people I’ve met at parties have read my novels or short stories or feature articles; when they ask, “Have I seen any of your stuff?” I shrug and the conversation moves on. If I want attention for an hour or so, however, I’ll tell them my horrible secret — for several years I made much of my freelance income writing term papers.

I always wanted to be writer, but was told from an early age that such a dream was futile. After all, nobody ever puts a classified ad in the paper that reads “Writers Wanted.” Then, in the Village Voice, I saw just such an ad. Writers wanted, to write short pieces on business, economics, and literature…. More…