I've just received an Advance Reading Copy of what's got to be either the coolest or pretty-darned-close-est original anthology of the year: Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. In Neil's intro, he emphasizes the importance of pure story as the raison d'etre. But when Al hit me up for a story (that's how I came into possession of an ARC), the nuance was slightly different. At the time, he told me they were looking for fantasy stories written as though the fantasy genre didn't exist. (Emphasis and paraphrase both mine.) Which was and is a brilliantly admirable thing to aspire to.
Why the shift in emphasis? Well, a couple of the writers turned in stories which weren't fantasy at all -- but were too wonderfully enjoyable for any sane editor to turn down. That's my interpretation, anyway, but I'm guessing it's a good one.
And what an extraordinary line-up of writers they've assembled. Roddy Doyle! Joyce Carol Oates! Peter Straub! Chuck Palahniuk! Gene Wolfe! Jonathan Carroll! Walter Mosley! And many, many more.
(I did a signing at a regional ALA conference once, sitting right next to Walter Mosley. It was a humbling experience. The librarians were pleased to get a free book from me. But they approached Mosley with expressions of stunned joy at finding themselves in his presence. When they extended their book toward him with both hands, I noticed that they all unconsciously dipped slightly, as if genuflecting before him. And yet, I am happy to report, he was gracious and genial. Somehow he's managed to keep a level head.)
So far I've only read a couple of the stories. Peter Straub's "Mallon the Guru" was terrific. Michael Moorcock's "Stories" (an admirably cheeky choice of titles) I loved a lot. And I'm midway through Elizabeth Hand's "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon." The first half of it's great -- and I'd be shocked and scandalized if the rest of it doesn't follow suit.
(I also liked my own "Goblin Lake." But then, I'm a big fan of Me, so that's only to be expected.)
The book is coming out very, very soon from William Morrow. I recommend it.
And yesterday was . . .
Or rather, yesterday would have been Akira Kurosawa's one hundredth birthday. I celebrated it by watching Seven Samurai. I once asked a Japanese friend why Kurosawa's genius is not fully acknowledged in his own country. My friend looked embarrassed and mumbled something about Kurosawa just reusing plots from Shakespeare and other writers from the West. No, no, no. Half those plots weren't original to the West. We stole them from him.
And I'm still looking for a title . . .
The search continues for a title for my Darger & Surplus novel. All suggestions are welcome. Even the frivolous ones, if they're funny enough.
Which is why I'm going to be sending Matthew Frank an autographed chapbook, as soon as he emails me a street address. My Distinguished and Only Slightly Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Judges tells me that he has to be appropriately acknowledged for his Gorky Bark.