Former People YouTube Broadcast #2 – Weird as the New Modern

Transcription by P.H. Higgins 

Blog Link: https://formerpeople.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/former-people-speak-episode-2-the-weird-as-the-new-modern/

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeUfa4XGZ4A&feature=emb_title

00:48 

Steven Michalkow

Hello everyone! Welcome to Former People’s second podcast – or vidcast, I should say – on our third issue: “Weird as the New Modern.” I am the co-editor of Former People Steven Michalkow, I am joined today by my co-editor C Derick Varn, and today we are going to discuss a variety of topics regarding the whole question of Weird, its relationship to Modernism, some views on contemporary weird fiction, and then some thoughts on some of the other pieces we have in our magazine. So, I think what may be the first question that I think we should probably discuss, even though it may come across as the most banal, is how are we actually defining Weird fiction? What makes a story “Weird,” let us say. Derick do you maybe want to walk us through that?

01:37 

C Derick Varn

Weird fiction is an interesting thing. I read an anthology by Jeff Vandermeer, Jeff and Ann Vandermeer I believe; it was called The Weird, and they date weird fiction beginning with the fin de siècle movement in the UK and France, which is a lot of proto-surrealist stuff and a lot of late gothic material. But the thing is, the Weird as a [comprehensive] definition doesn’t really hold if you try to come up with something but are like “oh, but is this just not a Horror story?” or “oh, is that not just Gothic fiction?” or “oh, is that not just really dark Magical Realism?” or whatever. I tend to define the Weird as a sensation that’s related to terror and wonder at the natural universe. Or a sensation dealing with the horrors of the natural universe, or the weirdness of everyday life, you know? And that’s a broad definition, and with that definition you can put a lot of different authors from Lord Dunsany to Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, you know, into the mix. The Weird sort of gets sort of clarified in the United States by a mixture of a pulp magazine that comes out of the turn of the century, and sort of the development around H.P. Lovecraft. The Weird then takes on a definite tone that it kind of just vaguely had, because before then anything that you wanted to call Weird fiction belonged to another genre, or it was just considered Literary fiction. So, like, Poe had elements of Weird fiction, but his stuff can be generally characterized as Gothic or Detective stories. Algernon Blackwood – late Romantic stuff. Lord Dunsany could also be considered late romantic. It’s not until really the writers that emerge out of Weird magazine that you get the genre sort of more defined.

04:00 

S

It’s interesting how Weird fiction sort of in a way is a manifestation of a certain moment in literary time. Admittedly, it’s not perfectly the case since we have contemporary weird authors which I don’t think anybody would have any anxiety calling Weird. But there is something to be said about the particular moment in time in which it comes. It could be as banal as just Weird magazine coming to fruition in the turn of the century through the… I forget, I know that it folded and then came back, but let’s say the first twenty to thirty years of the century…

04:41 

C

It’s interesting, that. Because it comes back in the seventies and eighties, and then it’s really come back again in the last ten years. What’s interesting to me, for example, is the relationship between Weird fiction and Gothic fiction. Because you can see both… We use “neo” in a lot of things here and I’m sorry for the neologism, but neo-gothic fiction, which is really big in the late eighties, early nineties, mid-nineties, and is a really big part of pop culture. It’s easier to see how that was related to standard Gothic fiction. If you look at Anne Rice and then you look at The Monk from seventeenth, eighteenth century British literature you can see direct parallels: an obsession with sexuality, an obsession with the antiquarian, the supernatural. Weird fiction is a little different because it’s not as easily categorized in the same ways according to the supernatural; its mood is much more cosmic, and a lot of the things you encounter in it are utterly alien. But it’s interesting to think about how those two genres in contemporary culture sort of cycle back in genre literature whether or not it’s the Weird being predominant or the Gothic being predominant. I don’t really have a theory as to why they cycle. I mean, it’s like the theory of “why do vampire and zombie pop-culture ephemera cycle through?” But it definitely cycles through. Some authors that are sort of borderline between them, like say Caitlín Kiernan, will be labeled one [in] one decade and the other another decade. So, take that as you will. That’s something to consider and I think it has an interesting relationship to modernism because the relationship of Dark Romanticism, Gothic stuff to Modernism is really well explored. You know, a lot of your first Modernist poets are really moved by Browning, Robert Browning, that’s almost like fin de siècle, like, late Gothic literature. There’s all the obsessions with Gothic romances and stuff that come out and you see a lot [of that] in the early modernist’s work. You also see it in the way Baudelaire likes a lot of early Gothic fiction, and Rimbaud and a lot of the French fin de siècle writers who are also early modernists have a relationship to it. But the relationship of Weird fiction to early Modernism really only came to be explored, like, recently. For one thing, even though a lot of Literary writers can be seen as writing Weird fiction – things that are clearly Weird fiction – were generally considered so pulpy as to not get serious literary merit until probably about ten years ago.

07:34 

S

It’s interesting though, that we had in our issue a discussion on a lot of these topics with S.T. Joshi, and he brings up the idea that somehow that’s a little bit different depending on what context you’re in. He seems to think that the sort of “pulp” vs. “high-literature” divide is something you more often see in the United States vis-a-vis Weird literature, that Weird got relegated to the pulp; whereas somehow in Britain it just was more or less accepted into the mainstream. So maybe that’s something that we should consider – are we perhaps excluding ourselves to a US phenomenon?

08:14 

C

I don’t know about that. I mean, I don’t think a lot of the Weird fiction writers who even came out of Britain have survived British literary taste. But they may have contemporaneously been considered Literary. You can think of, like, Lord Dunsany or Algernon Blackwood or Robert W. Chambers. Robert W. Chambers’ “The Yellow Sign,” for example, starts off basically in the realm of … oh yeah, he’s an American, excuse me. But he writes in faux-Victoriana! So I easily get it confused. And this is also a problem! Because a lot of the pulp writers in the States and a lot of the Weird fiction writers in the US are so derivative of Late Victorian writing styles, probably because of the influence of Blackwood and Dunsany. But it’s harder to, you know, to really make a clear case. And I’ll put another character out on the wall that will complicate that thesis: Ambrose Bierce was sort of always considered a Literary writer. He’s American, about as American as you can get, but he’s definitely highly influential on Weird fiction. Some of his stuff is straight Realism, some of his stuff is psychological Realism, some of his stuff is Gothic fiction, and some of his stuff is definitely in the realm of Weird fiction. And he was pretty much a major contemporary Literary figure.

09:52 

S

It’s interesting that you would bring up Bierce by virtue of Bierce’s Realism. Because I think that is some of the, or one of the core details in Weird that rightly needs to be explored, especially when you think of Weird’s relationship with the previous Romantic and Gothic [movements]. Which I think to everybody who reads – particularly the canonical Weird fiction – it’s clearly, obviously the case it’s there. I mean, keeping it really simple, obviously Lovecraft unquestionably admitted and practiced a certain fidelity to Poe for a long time. But what was an interesting sort of wrinkle to this whole kernel is this whole idea of Realism. Now, there’s a certain element where Realism was becoming or had been, the dominant tone of writing sort of in the contemporaneous time to Weird…

10:44 

C

I would complicate that by saying that Poe is a pretty realistic writer. I mean, the only elements of the supernatural that you find in him are not unquestionable. For example, you know, the possible presence of a vampire in “The Fall of the House of Usher” is not an unquestionable instance of the supernatural being there. And the only thing where the supernatural for sure shows up are in allegorical works, usually like, say, “Masque of the Red Death.” So even Bierce’s there, and he’s not that far out of the tradition. I think our want to make demarcations that are cleaner is complicated by the fact that American Gothic literature was never as divorced from Realism as its European counterpart. And so, the transition to Weird fiction wasn’t hard. Another example of that would be the anti-Transcendentalist writers. So, Melville and Hawthorne, also sometimes called the Dark Romantics, and yeah there’s supernatural in there but it’s very rooted in the culturally real. So, like, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the ominous presence in that is the veil!

12:08 

S

Well I guess one of the reasons why I bring up Realism was not to necessarily find strong demarcations, but it’s more or less a signaling of some of the differentiation you are arguably going to see which is, shall we call it, not necessarily anti-religious, but sort of like religion …. midwifed by certain… call them advances if what you will, but certain developments in science, in the culture, which sort of goes along the way of moving us a little bit away from the notions of, say, Transcendentalism or certain notions of Christian morality, if you will. You know, for example, like the idea of a ghost story it’s like, to sort of echo Stanley Kubrick’s attitude which is: in a way ghost stories are optimistic because it posits life after death; it posits some sort of ordering principle that’s somewhat positive, or arguably positive in the world. Whereas a lot of Weird fiction, particularly in Lovecraft but in others [too], doesn’t even grant itself that sort of ordering principle anymore. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have an ordering principle, it’s just not necessarily a positive ordering principle.

13:26 

C

So, to push back against you a little bit there, kinda, is to say: what would be the big difference between, say, Ambrose Bierce and Poe if you want a real demarcation between sort of American late-Gothic literature and Weird fiction? [It] would be that Poe has a pretty unsupernatural worldview, his relationship to religion is ambivalent just like the relationship to religion that you see in Hawthorne and Melville, those are also ambivalent. But it’s not clear if they veer away from it, in the way that the transcendentalists don’t, and even if they are religious, they have a darker view of it. So, again, that strong demarcation isn’t there; but what is there that maybe you can really pull out if you’re going to use Poe and Bierce as the example cases: Poe has an aestheticized universe, Bierce doesn’t. It’s darkly aestheticized but there’s an aesthetic principle, you know, there’s the beautiful woman who dies young and all that. Bierce doesn’t have any of that. I mean, call it the experience of the Civil War, but that’s just lacking in his literature. And you know, his war literature is brutal, absolutely brutal. It’s not aestheticized at all. It’s like the difference between a Quentin Tarantino film and Sam Peckinpah. Where the brutality in Quentin Tarantino is obviously just made pretty, and in Sam Peckinpah it’s not that pretty at all.

15:01 

S

Well, in a way we can think of that… well there’s a couple of ways to unpack that. One way of thinking of that is, in the case of Poe or Tarantino or some of the more Gothic-Romantic types that aestheticized universe is in some ways an ordering principle. The idea of sort of tropes, and sort of almost musical ideas of leitmotifs, repetitions, what have you. That’s a sort of structured, organizational type. Whereas it seems like Bierce, as you pointed out, either through the war fiction, but also some of the later writers in the aftermath… [of] World War One, World War Two, but even just with the sort of advancement of, shall we just say the development of the new or things that a lot of the Modernists would have responded to, the old ideas of ordering principles are slowly being questioned. Maybe not even slowly being questioned, they are being questioned. And I think this is why we, maybe coming at it from different angles but ultimately coming at it, are looking at Weird and Modernism as somehow dancing around each other. And I think a lot of it may have to do with things you’re sort of alluding to in the demarcation between Poe and Bierce, at least as a sort of talking point. Which is that idea of: what in the world was happening to really question some of these ordering principles?

16:30 

C

Right I mean, you have the progressive distrust in language that you see in the Modernist writers. Even though they’re some of the most beautiful writers you have a progressive distrust in the logic of the language. So, [let’s] take an example from Irish literature. Look at Joyce, who’s like the writer of language, like, Finnegan’s Wake is basically a 600-page prose poem. And you look at his prime protege Samuel Beckett, and all that’s stripped out and distrusted, and the language itself is distrusted, and you can feel it. You also see that in Hemmingway – the language is stripped down and distrusted. And it’s interesting because that was really avant-garde at the time it was written; it’s totally accepted as like standard style now. So, we can’t feel it as anything really revelatory. Conversely, the Weird fiction writers don’t have that distrust of language. They do have distrust of aesthetic principle. The one thing you can say about most of the Weird fiction writers is they loved their language, as baroque as it can get sometimes. You know, if you try to come away with any ordering principle of the cosmos in Lovecraft, you’re not going to get one. Even the Cthulhu mythos is not actually a mythos – that development happens later by other writers who systematize what he did, while he’s not systematizing it. He’s putting in little jokes and references and puns that feed back into real things, that feed back into fake things, but there’s no real system there. It’s to create the feeling of a very big universe that makes no sense.

18:16 

S

Right. I would even go so far as to say the Weird… above and beyond the Weird fiction writers being anxious about aesthetics as such, I would say they are anxious about the universe, period. I think it is that grand. If there is sort of, like, cosmology at play I think that sort of anxiety is being manifested. And I think you can definitely make that case with Lovecraft, particularly as Lovecraft over his life definitely expressed interest in astronomy and the various sciences of the time. It’s in a weird way a reflection also of the past to the degree which he thought of himself as an 18th-century figure. There’s a couple ways of reading that, arguably there’s a way of saying he may have been an arch-Enlightenment type even though arguably he has manifestations that are very hardly anything we might call enlightened.

19:08 

C

A disbelief in human reason is generally not something you would consider part of the Enlightenment project, but yes. I mean, Lovecraft goes from like a… I have the distinction of having read and/or listened to every single thing he’s ever written and he does go from like a basic romantic – if you read his early poetry, some of which he wrote when he was like twelve,  it’s basically romantic pastiche – and that goes away over time. His interest in science and stuff increases over time. But, let’s be fair, again we seem to be arguing that Weird fiction is dealing with cosmic dread, and it is, but from a particularly materialist, modernist worldview. But a lot of the early Weird fiction writers in England were Catholic.

20:01 

S

Right.

20:02 

C

So it’s not… I tend to think that’s skipped over when people make generalizations about Weird fiction. I mean, it’s interesting that they were Catholic writers and English, so that they were sort of out of their natural habitat, so to speak… In Protestant [England] Catholics are barely tolerated for most of its Protestant history… But it’s still, we’re still dealing with religious writers, and after Lovecraft that changes significantly, although August Derleth I do believe was religious.

20:40 

S

Well, let’s definitely press on this issue a little more. I guess it’s the whole question of, what are we to make of either the religion of these writers or the lack thereof? So certainly, I am definitely on the same page as you, particularly in the British context, so not only just the English writers but the Irish writers that are writing in English, that religiosity is I think a little bit clearer in them. Lovecraft in a way, in his non-Literary writing, expresses anxiety at the very least over Christianity, but it’s a point of contestation: what sort of, even if it’s not organized Christian writing, what is, [or] is there, some sort of cosmological element to his writing? Or at least, is it touching upon these issues?

21:32 

C

Well I mean, inasmuch as he has a cosmology it’s a naturalized cosmology because every Elder God or whatever is actually pretty much an alien, and it’s hostile. Humans are not… the things in Lovecraft by and large aren’t even after human beings, human beings are just completely incidental. In his early stories they’re kind of after human beings, but in his later ones it just seems like you just happen to be interested in the wrong thing.

22:05 

S

Yeah, wrong place at the wrong time kind of affair. Or you just are unfortunately in the way of something so grand it really isn’t even considering you.

22:15 

C

Right, I mean, you know, you run into the great isle of dreaming Cthulhu and it doesn’t have a personal problem with you.

22:23 

S

It’s interesting we bring that up because that is where I would agree that it’s in that conception of the universe that Lovecraft was definitely not a Christian. If he were a Christian the primacy of Humanity, even if Humanity is insignificant compared to the Deity, Humanity would still be the core element – it would be the locus of the drama as it were, but it’s not in Lovecraft. But in some of the other Weird writers, maybe not so obvious…

22:57 

C

Well I think Derleth tries to make a cosmology out of Lovecraft that’s much more in line with traditional religious conceptions. And it’s interesting because in some ways Lovecraft puts some pressure on the idea that Humanism would be the dominant mode of relationships. Lovecraft is more like the 19th century Naturalist, who he does not write like at all! Bierce writes like them because he’s almost one of them, but Lovecraft does not [though] his philosophy is much closer to that. A lot of the naturalist writers, even some of the ones that we more know from Regionalist writing like Bret Harte, their conceptions of human beings in the grander scheme of nature is kind of sad. You just don’t stand a chance. Zola is another writer that’s like that, from France. That’s really interesting because that comes out of Social Realism, but the Naturalist writers take Social Realism to a very uncomfortable place. And I think Weird fiction does that in an almost reductio-ad-absurdum way when we’re talking about the American Weird fiction writers, but it’s very important to point out that even though the American Weird fiction writers are aping the British context. I mean, let’s be honest Lovecraft is aping Victoriana…

24:35 

S

Well Lovecraft…

24:37 

C

Particularly the early Lovecraft…

24:41 

S

It’s a good point to raise because this is another example of where Lovecraft definitely reminds me of one of our core figures, at least for our conception of modernism: Eliot. Like, Lovecraft and Eliot are definitely alike in one particular realm, they’re alike in many realms, but in this realm they’re both Americans who wanted to be English, one was more successful.

25:05 

C

Right. But it’s interesting that you have that, whereas the American context of Lovecraft though I  think is underplayed, because his relationship to the Social Realists and to the Naturalists is clearly there, his interest in science, his interest in removing human beings from the center of the picture, [of] the narrative; particularly in relationship to the Naturalist writers. Like, Sarah Orne Jewett or the early Harper’s realists, yeah social relations are all important, that’s why the socialists like them so much right? They were writing Realist fiction for change and you have stuff like Sinclair Lewis, whereas the Naturalists aren’t … they don’t seem to be as interested in change, and in fact they might doubt that it’s possible. Now, remember all of these categories we’re placing onto people who would not have thought of themselves that way. Naturalism was a movement in France, and it’s kind of a movement in the United States but not really. It’s hard to break it down exactly. Weird fiction is a movement now, but at the time it was more of an advertising label or a way to market your fiction. Until Lovecraft’s essay on it, it wasn’t really a movement at all!

26:38 

S

It was, I mean, you could be as crass about it as simply saying that Weird fiction was that which was published in Weird magazine.

26:46 

C

Right. And people who influenced them. Whereas, in his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” is really is where Weird fiction is defined both retrospectively and as sort of a thing to emulate. Before him it’s just like, a discombobulation of Horror writers, some Gothic writers, and some Realists. And it’s interesting though because a lot of the supernatural fiction that Lovecraft mentions in that essay do have tangential relationships to Naturalism – there’s a lot of regional Horror that he mentions from the Americas. Now from Britain it’s very, very different, it’s much more in a particular vein that doesn’t have as much to do with Naturalism, as we were talking about. There’s a very different field from say, Lord Dunsaney or even Algernon Blackwood, to some of the other writers that he [Lovecraft] mentions. That’s telling, but I think the American context is there.

27:48 

S

I will push back a little bit on Algernon Blackwood, in the sense that, especially if you read “The Wendigo” and “The Willows,” I think the Naturalism in there does spring forth. I think, in a weird way, those two stories remind me, “The Willows” not so much but “The Wendigo” definitely feels, not just because of its setting, feels like an American story.

28:11

C

Oh yeah. Okay, I’ll agree with you there. “The Wendigo,” parts of it read like you could be reading a Bret Harte story about people going up to the wilderness and encountering something strange, except in a Bret Harte story you’d die of cold exposure. But, you know, that’s the primary difference: instead of encountering the weird, nebulous spirit of a cannibal you would just freeze to death. But it’s definitely there. I think Weird fiction, if you want to periodize it in a particular way, could be seen as the natural combination of Naturalism with Romanticism. Which seems like two things that wouldn’t really go together, but Weird fiction proves that they do. You know, particularly in the case of Lovecraft there’s not a lot of Social Realism involved, I think S.T. Joshi misinterprets… There’s not a lot of Social Realism involved, but there is a lot of, like, psychological, scientific, and cosmological realism involved.

29:19 

S

So, let’s also press on this: why do you think that the social element is missing? Is it a question of was it consciously not there? Or is it accidentally not there?

29:32 

C

You know, in the case of Lovecraft I think it’s consciously not there. Lovecraft’s political ideas change over time. He starts of really, really conservative and he sort of dies a moderate socialist. Not a Marxist or anything, but definitely a moderate socialist. He talks about how, towards the end of his age, like before he died, that like the New Dealers were right about most everything. Also, his racism depleted a little bit, which is not to make apologetics for it, he remained a racist his whole life and a particularly virulent one in the early part, but it became a less and less crucial element of his stories and of his ideas. Which is interesting because it’s almost the opposite pathway that you see in Eliot. Now I don’t think that Eliot was an active racist, I’m not accusing him of that at all.

30:24

S

No, like, I won’t say he didn’t express antisemitic elements in his fiction, but I think if you stack those two gentlemen together Eliot is far more an enlightened figure [on] that front.

30:36 

C

Although I don’t think antisemitism really plays much of a role in Lovecraft, he doesn’t seem to like black people.

30:41 

S

Well, he also doesn’t like Slavs. He basically doesn’t like non-Nordic individuals.

30:47 

C

Yeah, I forgot he’s actually got a problem with the Dutch.

30:50 

S

It is interesting, but even when we think about his approach to socialism, let’s press on this more because I think there’s a lot of things in it that could be worth unpacking, even his late-life socialism reminds me of a sort of aristocratic socialism. Something you’d kind of see in, sort of veering away from literature, but you sort of saw it in Visconti – the great Italian film director.

31:15 

C

Or de Maistre.

31:17 

S

Right, exactly. It’s like a socialism they respect, and [they] flock towards socialism because they consider socialism the best critique of the sort of Bourgeois business figures who are fucking up their idea of an aristocratic society of gentlemen.

31:35 

C

Plus, like, “take care of the poor so they don’t get too crazy.” It’s a paternalism towards the poor. Yes, I would say that Lovecraft’s socialist ideas are more in the line of that. Which is not to say that all Weird fiction writers are that reactionary, I don’t think most of the current ones are. A lot of them are standard Liberals and some of them may be to the left of that. They’re not, it’s not… you don’t have, I don’t think in any of the Weird fiction writers, you don’t have the history of a… the bizarre relationship with Marxism, for example, that you do with the Modernist writers. Or in the Realist writers! So many of the Realist writers were socialists or communists. Not as much in France, weirdly, but definitely in the United States. At the very least they were Liberals. The Naturalists are harder to place. They tended to be left-wing-ish? But they also tended to be pretty misanthropic, and that makes dreams about socialism a little bit harder.

32:45 

S

I think though, what I would say about Weird fiction writers, not universally, but I think fairly commonly, this is one other connection I would have with certain Modernists, is that they are reactionary. Not reactionary in the sense of the political arch-right-wing sense necessarily, but reactionary in the sense that whatever was happening in their society, could be political [or] social, whatever was happening there was some sort of upheaval for them that they were responding to.

33:17 

C

Right. I think the standard Liberal is a reactionary, and I don’t mean that as a condemnation of Liberalism. I mean that as, most of what you read in the Liberal blogosphere from Liberal authors is reacting to such and such crisis or whatever. I think most writers are reactionary. Even when they try to fool themselves that they’re not, because writers are usually reacting to things, that’s how they have their social context. Utopian writing, you know, usually ends up being satirical, even when it doesn’t start off that way. One of the most interesting things about, for example, Brave New World is originally that novel was not really supposed to be a dystopia. It just became one as he wrote.

34:07 

S

Yeah, that’s the interesting thing about [it]. Brave New World’s dystopia is the dystopia of the utopia. To be weird about it. But that is an interesting thing. I mean, arguably in the point of “scientific” progression… Various tools are getting developed, scientism arguably is growing up in the world, various mechanisms are being designed which would arguably conceived to have made the world either more manageable or easier to live in or more understandable, [and] interestingly enough [that] creates more and more anxiety!

34:49 

C

It’s also interesting in that Lovecraft’s primary point is that the more you understand about the world, the less you understand it. That the more facts [you have] you just realize that humans aren’t that important and there are things that you really can’t understand. I mean, it’s interesting to me too because, for example, if you look at patterns of Lovecraft’s popularity, he was never unpopular, but at the time of say the 50s when science fiction – and when we do our science fiction and Modernism we’ll really talk about this more – but science fiction was super optimistic about the future. With the exception of the nuclear war allegory apocalypses, but everything else was super optimistic, as a general rule. Lovecraft’s not as popular then. But, it’s interesting because he’s just as scientifically minded, and in some ways maybe more.

35:48 

S

Right, I mean, compared to a lot of his fellow writers he actually went out of the way to study it. Admittedly he probably didn’t do as well as he thought he was going to do, but he at least studied it.

35:59 

C

Well, he’s also in a time where what was passing for legitimate science would strike us as ludicrous. But the scientific methods as we understand them, particularly in the United States, weren’t as developed. I mean, we didn’t have a world society, so it took a while. I think that’s… that to me is a very interesting and fascinating problem. You know, Joshi really writes about this a lot, and you see a little bit in Robert Price’s work on Lovecraft too. That’s where you are! But we haven’t really talked about anything we’ve published we’re just talking about Lovecraft, so we should probably move on.

36:38 

S

Right. So, one of the things I was interested in moving on to, especially since we talked a lot about the “canonical” Weird fiction writers let’s say of the early 20th century, let’s push forward to, for lack of a better term, the contemporary context. So, in our issue you discuss at least three books of note and sort of what they’re… either in their mode of expression or in the content of their stories, how are they sort of thinking about somewhat similar questions now? Where are they doing things different? And how again do we see a “New Modernism” coming out of here?

37:17 

C

Well, one thing I’ve noticed about the turn to Weird Fiction is that at least right now it’s one of the genres that’s most comfortable with literary experimentation. Although, I should be careful saying that because it’s also true of science fiction now. I mean all of the genres seem more comfortable with literary [experimentation]. But it’s definitely something to consider because if you look at writers like Laird Barron or like John Langan there’s much more obviously the influence of working outside just genre fiction. The writing standards have gone up even if the editing standards of publishers haven’t, but the writing standards have gone up. The three books I reviewed, none of them are marketed as Weird fiction per se: John Langan’s The Wide Carnivorous Sky, Ogawa’s Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, and Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters. All of them have Weird elements in them, and Langan’s work it’s more directly Weird, I mean, and there’s more direct references to genre fiction. In Ballingrud the monsters, be they Weird monsters or just traditional Horror monsters are sort of just emphasizers for normal fiction – they’re there as tension heighteners. In Ogawa’s work the Weird is more a pervasive feeling of Fairy Tale that’s just incredibly bleak and dark. They’re all sort of interested in the ways humans get caught-up in things much larger than themselves, in some ways very anti-human, and still how much immersed in their own lives they are. And unlike Lovecraft, at least Ballingrud’s extremely concerned with social relations, poverty in the South, the very strained relationships between men and women, the way money affects that: it’s all a backdrop to the pace. And Ogawa’s concerns are also similarly rooted in tragic loss of children, the inability to state yourself, the inability to speak plainly, the inability to really understand, and there’s all sorts of identity overlaps and stuff in it. All of the works except for Ballingrud have metafictive elements, which is interesting… You would not normally have considered [that] in modernism.

40:08 

S

Let’s think about that a little deeper. Because I think what’s interesting and a way of sort of thinking about these newer Weird writers, opposed to the old Weird writers, is the whole question of how they sort of are responding to literature in the aftermath of Postmodernism. So, for example, when we think of these Weird fiction writers, we mentioned that they’re sort of mixing genres – either the Weird fiction as sort of Pulp fiction, or the Fairy Tale or what have you – they’re having a conception of literature where [they’re] using sort of genre elements as a vehicle to explore something greater. So arguably they didn’t necessarily have to do that, that’s the way they’re going. As opposed to some of the original Weird fiction writers who wouldn’t have even considered themselves that way. They may have been Pulp writers but they didn’t think they were playing in the Pulp milieu as the means to reaching something higher, they just were relegated to Pulp. So I think that’s an interesting sort of self-referential or self-reflective view on their writing that may be different in a significant way to how the core or canonical Weird writers were thinking about these things.

41:16 

C

Yeah, I think so. And you just have to put people in the historical context of their time where people are reacting to late Victorian literature when Weird fiction really shows up, and to Dark Romanticism and all that. Contemporary writers might be pulling from that, I can promise you they are, but they have to respond to Postmodernism. They also have to respond to a lot of changing market conditions. Pulp writing is not as lucrative as it used to be. It’s actually a lot more like when Lovecraft wrote. There’s sort of a weird period of time – basically about from like 1950 to like 1990 – where Pulp writing can make a lot of money, but now with the Internet things are actually going back to a historical norm. More Pulp writers can make money, but not much. And so, to really stand out you really need to be a good Literary writer too, and there’s a lot of that right now. I also think there’s an exhaustion with even experimental Literary writing. I mean, it’s interesting that even someone who writes straight-ahead Horror like Steven Graham Jones started his writing career as a experimental fiction writer. So you see a lot of that right now, and I think some of that right now is partly because of the market.

42:49 

S

I think that may be going into one of my questions, which is: why even play with being in this genre at all? So conceivably they could, I would say it’s going to depend on each writer, but they could conceivably just do it “straight.” All of the books you mentioned, maybe with the exception of Ogawa, I think the stories could in some sense be told without the so-called Pulp elements or the Weird elements in them. You’d change it a little bit, [but] so like, why…?

43:24 

C

And Ogawa[‘s book] was not originally written to be a Weird book. Ogawa’s book was written in Japan eleven years ago and has only just been translated recently [in English] and marketed as Weird fiction. And it is, I’m not going to say it’s not; it meets most of the criteria, but it’s not exactly the same thing as the other two books. I actually don’t think Langan’s book would work as straight fiction. Langan can write straight fiction, he’s a solid writer, he’s a good Literary professor, but he actually seems very much interested in the limitation of genre itself. Each of his stories seem to be written from the perspective of picking one genre limitation and one formal, experimental limitation and working out from there. So, that’s pretty important. As for the rest of it, I mean Ballingrud’s stories particularly could be straight stories. You know, they read a lot like Raymond Chandler stories. If you took the supernatural elements out, you would still have those sorts of straight stories; they actually wouldn’t be as good though because it is the intrusion of something from the outside that makes the melodrama understandable. That would be one reason is that the tension, the additional restriction gives you an ability to play with things it’s harder to play with otherwise. It puts people in extreme situations, it’s like a prop. The other thing is, I think [it] has to do with readership and even though none of this makes money a lot of people feel like straight Literary fiction has fallen into a rut. I mean, I even heard at AWP [Association of Writers & Writing Programs] ten years ago someone talking about Literary fiction essentially just being a Realist genre of literature.

45:27 

S

And this sort of brings us back to something we discussed earlier, or at least something I brought up earlier in various other formats, which is this notion of… if you really think about it Literary fiction, in and of itself, is becoming a sort of genre. By that I mean it has, as a genre, certain tropes that it needs to finish, complete, manifest, what have you. And as a result of that, rather than trying to do something above and beyond that it just simply is delivering on the genre, and thus is subject to as much critique as some of the pure, you know, mediocre genre fiction you can encounter day in and day out. And I think this is actually a particularly interesting segue to one of the reviews we had published in the journal, which was S.T. Joshi’s review of Laird Barron’s latest short story collection; and I think an interesting comment which Joshi made – which I think probably, and quite rightly, garnered the attention of our readers – was a critique of a certain element of Laird’s writing as famously “high falutin’.” And this brings me back to the main issue at hand which we just discussed a few seconds ago which is the idea of literature going above and beyond genre, or more specifically genre literature going above and beyond the limits of genre. Let’s talk about that, and I think we can even think about the specific story. I know Joshi in particular seemed to have trouble with “Vastation” which I  believe is a story in a collection that asked writers to posit “what if the Lovecraftian Gods had managed to take over the Earth?” And it seems that Barron’s story seems to produce certain complications, for Joshi at the very least [and] maybe [for] more people.

47:37 

C

I know, the central character in the story, for example, actually is literally the only person on Earth; there are other things on Earth, but they’re the only human being. And that presents a lot of challenges, and the thing is with Laird Barron is there’s a lot of poetry in his writing, he has also worked as a poet, and there’s a lot of influences that read to me more along the line of, say, someone like David Markson where perspective’s really important. And calling that “high falutin'” just seems like kind of a frankly lazy criticism and I generally think S.T. Joshi is an excellent critic, and he’s a hands-down great scholar, but when I read that line in the original review I was like… really? You’re going to go there? I mean, it’s like “I don’t like stuff that reads like complicated modernist literature, I don’t like complication for its own sake.”

48:48 

S

Right…

48:50

C

In fact, I don’t even think the complication is even for its own sake!

48:53 

S

No. So I mean there are conceivably two ways of reading that statement and wanting to respond to it. One way I think is more what he meant than the other. If he simply means a sort of arch language, purpleish prose, well then that sort of then begs the question of what do you make of Lovecraft? Lovecraft is not known for his simplicity of language, or even the simplicity of what he’s doing in his literary style. Or, to your point, if we are concerned with literary archness, I read that, maybe I’m aggressively reading that, as an anxiety over genre literature which is seeking to look past its own genre. And that I would actively and aggressively say no, that is not my mindset. I think we’ve discussed it in many of our interviews in podcasts. The idea of somehow being bound by genre and the genre rules and the genre dictates seems a little bit too claustrophobic inducing to me as a reader and most definitely someone as a writer who’s interested in doing it a little bit more. And I don’t hold that against anyone for doing that; in fact, I think they’re trying something much more interesting than, say, reproducing Lovecraft stories. Which even Joshi says he wouldn’t want to see anybody do.

50:24 

C

Right. I think there’s a lot to that. It’s hard to say, you know, that every story works, exactly. But I don’t think that “high falutin’” is a particularly strong criticism. You know, it’s basically accusing someone of pretentiousness without actually going there.

50:49 

S

The unfortunate predicament we’re in is that the claim comes at the end of the review without a detailed discussion of what it was. So, unfortunately, we don’t really have too much of what Joshi was referencing in particular to go off of; we have the discussion earlier of a particular story in the book he was sort of frustrated with, but I don’t think it’s related.

51:17 

C

It’s also like… there’s some crypto mentions, there’s some things if you read the authors that he praises, and some authors that he sort of complicates, you see some tendencies. For example, he seems to take a sort of swipe at Thomas Ligotti a little bit in the review. Or at least a lot of people perceived that he did. I don’t think he actually ever directly does so. But that’s what a lot of people read him saying this week. And then he also praises Ramsey Campbell and Caitlín Kiernan who are both excellent writers on a word-by-word level, don’t get me wrong, but they’re very hard-boiled and direct. So, it’s also the list of names he mentions as a standard of comparison that gives you an indication of what he means. In the Lovecraft world you can almost divide the camps into two, [you can] almost divide the camps amongst the Modern American Weird writers [based on] whether your favorite famous one is Thomas Ligotti or Caitlín Kiernan. So there’s more than just the immediate aesthetic judgment at hand, there’s also a vague polemic against a camp. But it’s vague, it’s not the point of the review, the review is overwhelmingly positive and very well thought out. And I think the fact that he threw that off at the end as a sort of a caveat just to let people know there are things to be critical about the book… which I think is a fine thing to do, because it’s about setting the tone of a positive review where you have caveats – if you dwell on the caveats the positive review actually reads negatively. So, I get that, but it just seems… We could argue all day about what he even means by it!

53:15 

S

Right, so there’s a couple of reasons why I was interested in discussing it. One, on a sort of lower level, I did notice in a discussion of the review the attention seemed to really direct itself towards that end, towards that caveat section, and it would be important to at least raise the issue on our level as editors. But I think on a higher level, again it relates to the questions of certain aesthetics that you and I share, have talked about regularly, and why I think this is a good example of manifesting why we think the way we do, and why it’s not necessarily… identical to everyone else, or … per se identical even with all the people that we publish. We don’t believe in a uniformity of all thought.

54:07 

C

Well I… I just think criticizing something as high falutin’ is not a particularly useful criticism at the end of the day. Because it’s, like I said earlier, it seems specific but it’s actually quite vague. But dwelling on that can get us lost in a lot of things, and so I think it’s to be avoided. But obviously, yes, it was the most highly debated part of the review. Conversely, I distrust overly positive reviews myself. So, having a criticism within there, even if I disagree with it, is an important thing.

54:44 

S

Right, well, I have a little bit a different attitude toward that. I agree definitely in general with that idea, but I know from my own review of Doug’s book I did not choose to go too, too deeply into certain criticisms, largely because I didn’t have… The criticisms I did have I didn’t think were detailed enough to really go into, and ultimately the main criticism I had wasn’t so much a criticism as ultimately: do I or do I not agree with Doug’s vision of the possibility for a certain type of imagination? And I think I do go into that, how I ultimately don’t have an answer.

55:28 

C

Yeah, I don’t know man. It’s hard. It’s hard to say exactly. I can say that I did not particularly like that particular criticism [by Joshi]; I can also say that I don’t think that was the main point of Joshi’s review, and I think maybe people are looming too much on it. Perhaps for the very reason that you said why you didn’t include some of your criticisms of Douglas Lain’s book, because you didn’t have time to fully develop them and they may not be aesthetic as-such. But this one is definitely aesthetic as-such, it may just be purely aesthetic and thus a matter of taste.

56:15 

S

Right. I mean, I think that’s fair. I mean, I think everybody who thinks a lot, or is thinking a lot about the negative portion of the review, should probably go back and read the top eighty percent of the review which is very strongly in favor of the book. We always have to keep these things into perspective. But I agree, it’s … the point you’re talking about seems more of a preference than a pure sort of structured criticism, if you will.

56:47 

C

Which to me that’s fine, it just doesn’t … I don’t know if that’s illuminating or in-illuminating to anything but Joshi’s opinion. Which he gave us on it. I think we all have personal judgements. In my review of Nathan Ballingrud, John Langan, and Ogawa, I said some pretty harsh things about Ogawa. Although I don’t know if it’s [actually] more towards the translator. It’s a book I quite like, but it had some effects in reading aesthetically that I thought just didn’t go anywhere. The voices became really similar, a lot of the description was flattened out, and even though it sort of helped the overall message of the book – which had a very particular theme – [it] didn’t necessarily make it easy to even distinguish who was speaking all the time. So…

57:41 

S

Right, and admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve done my Japanese, but it could conceivably be the structure of the language and how they decided to translate it. I mean, there [are] certain pronunciations that differentiate depending on who you’re talking to, but if you don’t have a really sharp translator, you’re going to lose that.

58:03 

C

Yeah. I know that from Korean, the particles at the end of the sentence – particularly at the last verb – really determine formality and social context and gender, all of that. That doesn’t… that is not translatable into English. So, you know, dealing with non-Indo-European languages, and I am well aware of that. Although, there are some comments in the book itself. Like the author makes some offhand comments to some of the characters about stories in the book that indicate she actually is aware of the criticism that’s going to be leveled at her. So it must also be partly something in the Japanese itself. Because she talks at one point about the stories being interesting but the characters not being well developed and the description being kind of bland. In the book, about a person reading a book, that is supposed to be the book, in the book.

59:04 

S

So postmodern effects are happening there. It actually would be a good idea, if anybody listening is aware of the Japanese response to the novel and can maybe pull up and tell us what the response was in the native language.

59:21 

C

Yeah, I would actually like to know too. The other thing about that book in particular it that it took nine years to get it translated! So, like, it came out in English last year, but it’s actually quite an old book in Japan. It’s almost a decade old.

59:42 

S

Now that’s interesting. I guess it’s my assumption that it did not take nine years to figure out how to translate it, it probably took nine years to get attention.

59:52 

C

It took nine years to get attention, and I think it got attention for other things. Like, her work is more known for two Literary novels that she wrote, not her Weird interconnected short stories. I also think it was hard to market this book because it was in-between a lot of genre considerations. So, it’s marketed as a Literary book by the publisher, so it didn’t go to a publisher like Tor, but it’s marketed as a … it’s also very obviously being marketed like a Suspense-Thriller book the way they did the cover and stuff, which it’s not.

1:00:39 

S

Well I guess that’s… this is the interesting conundrum we’re in, again, related to the aesthetics that you and I like. Which is the difficult-to-place story or novel. In some ways we are very strongly beholden to the capability of the people that market it or even – if I get even bleak – people to even receive it. Like, if people take a book [and] they say, “oh, I thought it was this, but it turned out to be something I don’t know, I don’t know how to respond to that.” I’ve actually seen some responses to Doug Lain’s book where they go in seeing it as a Fantasy and are surprised to which its Fantasy is unlike a Fantasy they were anticipating. As I’ve said in my review, there’s nothing physically challenging in the Fantasy of Doug’s book, it’s an alternative “what might have been” Fantasy; don’t get me wrong, there are a couple moments where it is true Fantasy but they fall into the background fairly quickly. But it is interesting. How… if people don’t even know how to respond to it as consumers, how are we going to even market it?

1:01:55 

C

It’s hard to say. Doug’s book is not selling as well as we would like. It’s his first book from Tor and he’s a critically well-received author, but it’s hard to say on these things. I would say that the analogy to Magical Realism holds, I also think that Doug’s book is in a way an Alternate History. They didn’t want to market it as that – I don’t know why they didn’t want to market it as that, actually. Because it is an Alternate History with some Magical Realist elements and also very Literary concerns; and it seems if you’re someone like a Margaret Atwood you can get away with that pretty easily, but if you’re not it’s much harder.

1:02:46 

S

Right, I mean… The ultimate question… It seems like we’re leaning more towards Tor Books. So why does Tor Books have an anxiety over this book? There are potential stories as to why this might be the case. Who knows?

1:03:06 

C

Yeah, but then why would you accept it to publish it? Because if you’ve read any of Douglas Lain’s fiction this is actually some of the more normal stuff. His stuff veers almost into … maybe what would be considered Magical Realism but [could] probably and more profoundly [be] considered Bizarro fiction. And those things have cult followings in their own presses, but they don’t have… one thing they do not have is a lot of representation in genre presses like Tor. It’s very hard to market any of that. Our missions increasingly is to market that stuff and to put it in context.

1:03:50 

S

Yeah. My working theory, and again related to why we have an interest in publishing this, is that there’s the notion outside of genre fiction that if you’re in genre fiction you can’t be taken seriously. Or, from the people who publish genre, if you are in genre fiction and you try to do something seriously, there’s a concern over that either that you’re ignoring the genre or you’re talking down to your audience. Neither of which I think are true…

1:04:16 

C

But also I don’t think… I will say, in my experience, I have not seen that very much in certain genres now. For example, I would actually say Science Fiction does not have that concern anymore. It did, but if you see who’s writing Science Fiction right now you don’t see a lot of people haranguing over the genre restrictions of Hard Sci-fi or Soft Sci-Fi anymore and there’s a lot of Literary writers writing it. And that’s also definitely true for Weird fiction, people can get away with a whole lot. But genres that are harder to deal with in that way would be like Alternative History or Fantasy where it seems like the parameters and scope and focus of the genre are much more limited. I think a lot of the hostility comes from the Literary world itself which has a hostility to genre fiction and an inferiority complex to it because traditionally genre fiction has been easier to make a living at. Although that’s not necessarily true anymore. But y’know…

1:05:29 

S

Right, I mean, you and I have thought about this before. There was a certain period of time when people made that transition a little bit easier. So, we talked a bit about Margaret Atwood, but also Kurt Vonnegut – very obvious example. I wouldn’t say Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick is this weird anomaly that I don’t even think can be described as much of anything, but there is a certain degree of certain mainstream element that he was able to achieve at one point in time. It is an interesting point: is this going to be a cyclical response? Where like, it’s easier to sell something odd that can sort of float in space, and then is that going to go away? Who knows? But at the very least we can act as a force at least with some noise – maybe not a loud noise – but some noise able to promote this and publish it to the best of our abilities.

1:06:26 

C

Yeah, you know, that’s what we wish to do. It’s interesting because we’re also trying to do… our missions are various. And people might think we have a hard genre focus and if you look at our next lineup of issues that’s just frankly not true, I mean we have one more genre issue in six months. The other concerns are about world literature, Eastern European literature in translation, Russian literature in translation, what is the avant-garde now. These are not things that are typically questions you’d get.

1:07:02 

S

Right, if our exercise was simply resurrecting genre, or raising genre, we’d just have every issue be about that. Admittedly, we are doing it a little bit, but we’re always putting it in context of other questions. I think at the end of the day what that really means is that we’re taking it seriously. Taking them seriously to the point where we can have the Weird fiction issue next to the avant-garde issue next to the Eastern European issue and not feel like “oh, they’re all over the board!” There’s a certain degree, yes, we’re wide-reaching but there’s a relationship between all these.

1:07:40 

C

Right, you know, which is why in these same issues we go back and talk with people on all the various things prior too. And particularly once we start getting into, like, the Eastern European literature I think you’ll find that… and a lot of the Russian contemporary literature that I read such as Victor Pelevin and Vladimir Sorokin… all these authors write about things that would be definitely into the realm of almost-Weird fiction, they’re the biggest Literary authors in Russia right now and, you know, we’re going to have to talk about that. Furthermore, you know, we have an interest in poetry. There’s not a lot of Weird poetry; Joe Pulver writes some poetry that would arguably be Weird fiction. You know, we have a very broad mandate on what we’re trying to do. Another thing we might want to mention though is, to expand on that broad mandate we’re going to need more people to come on board as reviewers. And interviewers. So, we’re going to be welcoming people to send us samples of their work if they would like to do this for us. It’s volunteer work, it’s not paid, we don’t pay ourselves either – at least not yet – and when we start paying ourselves, we’ll pay you too. But it would be a good way to get your thoughts out there. And we need this because we wish to actually review all the books, and it’s not so much writing the reviews, though that takes time, it’s reading the books and writing the reviews and holding down regular jobs. So…

1:09:19 

S

Right. To give the book a level of criticism that it’s due, I know professional reviewers can do it in, like, a couple of days, what have you, but I mean for the level that we’re thinking…

1:09:32 

C

Professional reviewers don’t do anything else either.

1:09:34 

S

Yes, exactly. They don’t have jobs outside of their professional reviewing and a couple of other essays that they write. So, it is difficult to do it. More importantly than the time factor, I mean, don’t get me wrong it is important, is … the two of us can only read so much at the end of the day, is the issue. And we have certain tracks we try to go down, but I think what we’re both interested in is being pleasantly surprised. And it doesn’t [mean] pleasantly surprised along the lines of “oh I wasn’t thinking this was good and now it is good!” and maybe that is true, but just things that we weren’t even thinking about. And ultimately, I think that’s best served by having people outside of us thinking about these questions. And again, to an earlier point about this being something of a community feel to it, that’s essential to the matter. So I would echo Derick’s point simply saying that, yes, to the extent to which you’ve read a book that you think is very important, or if you think it’s related to us, or whatever is crossing your mind, feel free to tell us! Send the samples over. Our submissions are pretty wide-ranging to begin with, so if you’re writing a review of a book that’s more than welcome, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the two of us.

1:10:57 

C

Yeah, I mean we’re not… Although, if it does come from the two of us maybe we can get you review copies as payment. They’ll be [eBook] review copies because I live in Mexico and I’m not mailing anything to you, but you’ll get them. But yes, that’s one of the things we would like to see. If you have [an] interest in any of the things that we’re going to talk about in the next six months we would love to see your work. Particularly because these are sometimes things it’s harder to get stuff out there about. On that note, we’ve mentioned that our long term goals, possibly at the end of the year, were to put out an anthology; another long term goal, our long term goal that’s much more immediate, is we’ve had more than one reader request that we do an e-book for a small fee – like $2 or so – to make it easier for people who don’t mind reading on devices but hate reading on a web browser.  So, starting with Issue 5 we’re going to try to convert all our old issues into an e-book every four or five issues or so, and it will be available for cheap. The money raised will be used to pay for server expansion and some other things, and once those are paid for maybe we can give token payments to our submitters. Maybe. Not making promises.

1:12:22 

S

No, there are no guarantees of future performance. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance, to quote the old adage from any sort of investment you make.

1:12:34 

C

Right, but we do believe that at least a token of payment of appreciation should be made, but we can’t do that until we have more resources and the only way we can get more resources is for you guys to want products that we provide. Now, we’re not going to ever charge for the magazine, which is sort of a bad business model, but for things like the eBooks and the anthologies and anything that’s in print, or even eBook form, we need compensation. Because I’m going to have to spend a couple of my hours writing that and designing that eBook so that it doesn’t look like butt and getting that to you. So, we hope that you’re interested in it and we’ll fill you in more. We’re going to work on how we’re going to get those out, but we will be getting them out. And the profits will go back into the magazine and increasing the server and hopefully paying authors one day.

1:13:36 

S

Another point of discussion above and beyond the “eBook print” issues that we’ll be doing, we are expanding on a couple of other levels. So, we had mentioned our relationship with Doug Lain, you probably even heard us on Diet Soap with Doug Lain. If you haven’t heard it, I suggest you do [so]. So, we’re actually expanding that relationship as well. So, Doug will be contributing a periodic column for us – Derick can talk a little bit about what that will entail – but also on a perhaps bi-monthly schedule once we figure it out, or when our schedules allow for it, there will be a movie-review podcast co-produced with Diet Soap and Former People, again reflecting the questions we have here.

1:14:34 

C

The first episode that we’re planning is Tarkovsky. How do you say his name?

1:14:41 

S

[Your pronunciation] is correct, yeah.

1:14:42 

C

Okay, thank you. Russian names, man! As a side-note to our listeners: we are both products of Eastern Europe, I can’t pronounce things in my own native language I don’t think, so pronouncing things in my ancestral language is even harder. But anyway!

1:15:05 

S

In my case it’s you grow up as a young child, and even to these days, with people who were born and raised in Russia or Poland, and they primarily speak Polish or Russian and you just get used to it. But that is a really particular moment in time that is difficult to reproduce and fades away from my memory unfortunately the older I get and the further away I get from the source, but hopefully that can be avoided on some level.

1:15:36 

C

Yeah, Polish is kind of like French but instead of vowels that aren’t pronounced it’s consonants that aren’t pronounced. But hey!

1:15:46 

S

It’s more like consonants that turn into vowels.

1:15:50 

C

What’s with that? Anyway… You have trans-gender conso-vowels. Anyway, that may more or may not stay in; that’s a joke that only I find funny.

1:16:07 

S

My patrician façade prevents me from laughing out loud, but I assure you I am enjoying it.

1:16:14 

C

It’s funny too, the patrician façade shows up. Even Douglas Lain [on his podcast episode art] he has you in a suit and me in like a T-shirt saying something about literature.

1:16:28 

S

It looks like I’m Norman Mailer ready to stab you…

1:16:34 

C

Yes! And I’m just staring gleefully like the wild-eyed academic that I am. The context of that is even funnier… that picture is from me standing in the sun in the deserts outside of Mexico and it’s superimposed onto a mall!

1:16:54 

S

Mine, I don’t even know where I took that. That is actually a reference to Sweet Smell of Success, J.J. Geddis… no, no I’ve mixed up Chinatown now. It’s J.J. Hunsecker, Burt Lancaster’s character in Sweet Smell of Success, he holds a pen somewhat like that. So, interpret that as you will.

1:17:19 

C

It’s hard to say which one of us is more pretentious! But my pretention’s much more plebian than yours.

1:17:30 

S

I make no excuses.

1:17:33 

C

True. But… I don’t know what that says about us… But I think, I think we can end here. I’d like to remind everybody: if you’d like to be a reviewer for us, send us a sample of your work. Maybe we’ll publish that sample! We are looking for reviewers that are particularly interested in anything that’s between genres or innovative, and who have some working knowledge of modernism because you kind of need it to work on a Literary magazine about neo-modernism. But you don’t need a lot! You don’t even need to have been an English major in college, or even a minor. Just… you know… have read T.S. Eliot! And probably have read Hemingway and Faulkner and usually, maybe have seen a couple plays. That would be pretty good.

1:18:29 

Basically, if you’ve read anything between, like, 1890 and 1960…

1:18:36 

C

And know the context at all, then yes you can work with us. And it doesn’t even have to be in English! We’re going to go ahead and announce [that] there’s a lot of interviews coming up in our next issue. They’re interviews on the Spanish novel; the Spanish-language novel after Bolaño; interviews on the current state of Italian literature; interviews on new authors you probably know from Indian literature that write in English; and an interview with John Langan on the relationship between genre fiction and world literature and modernism. Which could have also gone in this last issue but, you know, we keep things mixed up like that. We have tons of poetry and hopefully some short stories. We hope you continue interest in the project because if you’re not interested, we’re not doing any more.

1:19:43 

S

On a more positive leaving note, [we] just want to thank everybody for reading the last issue. We had a significant boost in our readership…

1:19:54 

C

By significant, let’s be specific: a thousand people looked at it in a day. Which, for a Literary magazine is pretty good. So, you don’t have to worry about us quitting just yet.

1:20:04 

S

And more importantly, I think we’re both very pleased to see that. And obviously that is the product of you being interested in our work, so we absolutely thank you for that, and we are going to continue to do something interesting as time goes on. Not… Obviously for our own interests, but to the degree to which it looks like a lot more people are finding interest in what we’re doing, that will only encourage us to do more. So, thank you very much for that. And on that note, I think it’s probably time for us to shuffle off this digital coil. So, again, thank you for listening. We will see you in a month.

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