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June 19, 2005

Interview Roundup: Nothing Up Our Sleeves

by Ron Hogan

  • Did you see Saturday's NYT piece on Ricky Jay? I'm a huge Jay fan, and the profile was all the more exciting because he's been all over my pop culture landscape lately, from the Deadwood DVDs to the wonderful /New Yorker profile reprinted not only on Jay's website but in Mark Singer's new collection, Character Studies, and a most excellent book which recently showed up in my mailbox: Extraordinary Exhibitions. Said book, in fact, being the occasion of the Times who could not help but being riveted by the large reproductions of broadsides advertising such attractions as Toby the Sapient Pig and George Anderson, "the living skeleton!" All supplemented with Jay's learned commentary; of one attraction, for example, we are reminded that

    "no matter how much one is mired in the complexities of life, no matter how seriously one is inclined to take oneself, no matter how depressing are the day's events--these vicissitudes are all assuaged by the presence of 'The Giant Hungarian Schoolboy.'"

    Who was, the playbill declares proudly, "Always on View--Alive."

  • Science fiction writer Charles Stross (who I hope will be showing up here very soon) has two novels coming out in the States in a span of weeks. The Hidden Family, the second half of a two-volume, dimension-hopping thriller, should be at your local bookstore now and Powell's says they've already got copies of Acclerando, a collection of linked stories tracing one family's path through a nanotech-transformed future. With the latter book, Stross is also following the example of writers such as Cory Doctorow and giving away the goods under a Creative Commons license:

    "What this means in a nutshell is: you can download it. You can read it, and give a copy (under exactly the same terms) to your friends. You must not sell it, modify it (other than converting to a different file format for storage or reading) or file off the serial numbers and pretend you wrote it. You must specifically not create derivative works such as movies or TV adaptations or role-playing games or translations into other languages, without obtaining a separate commercial license. If you do any of these things, I and/or my agent and publishers will come after you with lawyers, guns, and money -- but mostly lawyers."

    But this is an interview roundup, you say--where's the interview? Well, the Scotland branch of the Times caught up with Stross , "the geek taking over the galaxy," focusing mostly on Acclerando but also delving into yet another book, the Hugo-nominated Iron Sunrise (just out in mass market).

  • It's not quite a trend yet, but here and there I'm starting to see "outtakes" from newspaper interviews with authors showing up on the blogs. First it was a bit of back-and-forth with David Sedaris at Emdashes, and then a week later House of Mirth runs some questions posed to Jonathan Coe.

  • I remember first hearing about "the Grotto" back when I lived in San Francisco and Po Bronson was a satirical novelist (and pretty darn good at it, too) rather than the business journalist he's become in this century. Back then, as the Associated Press dispatch notes, it was a Victorian home occupied by six writers; now it's a former animal hospital that hosts twenty-one authors who pay just $1.50/square foot for writing space--sorta like the Writer's Room run as an autonomous collective (and with a waiting list just as long, it seems like).

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