Alternative Press Expo 2007, Part One (BSS #124)

This is the first of three shows devoted to Alternative Press Expo 2007.

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INTERVIEW GUESTS: Carmen Ogden, Heather Morgan, Jess from CW, Sacha Arnold, Stephen Notley, Sarah Weinman, Jacquelyn Mentz, Tammy Stellanova and booth babe, Gabriel Martinez, Brian Andersen and Preston (cheerleader), Alex Cahill and Jad Ziade the laconic writer, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Tessa Brunton, Melina Mena, DJ Bryant, Travis Fox, two guys talking about waffles, Argel Brown and Michael Galande, Hope & Nicolette Davenport, Jeff Zugale, and Kristian Horn.

SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The glut of autobiographical comics, Fat Camille, an unexpected skirmish between old media and new media, consulting cartoonists for tax advice, writing age-appropriate comics, handmade books, compartmentalized paneling, urban wildlife, the pigeon ecosystem, satanic raccoons, copraphilia, inverted superheroes, laconic comic book writers, whether or not robots are the savior of humanity, country bands and domain squatting, life’s rich pageant, retail humiliation, ripping off George Harrison, efforts to exploit the comic book circus atmosphere, waffles and freedom fries, turning interviews into comics, how to get rid of excess self-published comics, and superhero political comics.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Whoa, whoa, WB and UPN have merged?

Jess: Yeah. About…

Correspondent: No one told me this!

Jess: I’m sorry. I mean, I’m hear to say. The last one to know. About nine months ago. But, um, it has shows like America’s Top Model and Simpsons and South Park.

Correspondent: But if WB and UPN merged, shouldn’t it be called WPN? Or UB?

Jess: Uh, that’s —

Correspondent: I mean, how the hell did you get CW out of it?

Jess: That’s a very valid…uh…what is this for?

Categories: People

Steven Hall (BSS #123)

Steven Hall is most recently the author of The Raw Shark Texts.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Revisiting his flipbook-authoring hobby.

Author Interview: Steven Hall

Subjects Discussed: The relationship between narrative and text design, textual malapropisms, speculating upon “wooden” dialogue, multiple Eric Sandersons and the Matrix trilogy, narrative onslaughts against institutions, on balancing postmodernism with an adventure story, B.S. Johnson, hooking up with David Mitchell and Scarlett Thomas, junk science, devising the QWERTY codes, first-person vs. omniscient narration, misleading toenail tattoos, and the many ways of reading the shark flipbook.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Hall: I started off as an artist. So I had been working with words and text for quite a while. And I think I was just interested in playing around with that sort of form. I also wanted to write a story that looked to identity and where identities comes from. And I had this idea for a species of animal — conceptual fish which swim in flows of conversation and streams of consciousness. And just playing those little word games really. And that came together with the idea of trying to write a story about what it means to be a person and where your self originates.

Categories: Fiction

Richard Flanagan (BSS #122)

Richard Flanagan is most recently the author of The Unknown Terrorist.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Attempting to understand Tasmanians.

Author Interview: Richard Flanagan

Subjects Discussed: The novel as a warning, interviews with overly serious journalists, the novel as a mirror to the world, the inspiration of Heinrich Böll’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, the tradition of using other people’s plots, Jonathan Lethem’s essay on copyright, the obsession with intellectual property, heightened metaphors, people living without land and love, the remarkable disconnect between the author’s intentions and the reader’s perception, the amount of noise in the world, using brand names in language, plagiarizing from infotainment, not wanting to repeat Gould’s Book of Fish, on being innately semiotic, the Sydney Morning Herald, bourgeois broadsheets vs. yellow journalism, absolute vs. relative truth, on being savaged by the Tasmanian media, the despair of politics, the difficulties of the word “terrorist,” why books are a better conduit for truth than other mediums, the seduction of evil, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s comparison of Hemingway and Faulkner.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Flanagan: A book has many faces. I mean, in the end, a book isn’t what a writer thinks it is. A book is what a reader makes of it, when they lend the authority of their lives and their souls to it. But, for me, I was determined to try and escape politics with the book. I wanted to find a simple parable — that it would act like a mirror to what the world was now. I felt the least useful thing I had were my opinions, my attitudes, my politics. I wanted to abandon all that. I just wanted to try and live within the world the way it was, and have a story that spoke as accurately as possible to it, in a way that might lead me and hopefully the reader to some broader sense of what the world is now. But I didn’t know what the world was. And I don’t pretend to have any clue. I have even less clue actually. But it’s always in story that things are revealed. Not in the author’s attitudes.

Categories: Fiction

Gary Shteyngart (BSS #121)

Gary Shteyngart is most recently the author of Absurdistan.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating an ethnic switch to Russian.

Author Interview: Gary Shteyngart

Subjects Discussed: Prince Myshkin and Misha Vainberg, Doestoevsky as a muse, fat man fiction, getting inside a corpulent character, Biggie Smalls, hip-hop traditions in other countries, technological references in satire, the apocalyptic novel vogue, the paucity of satire in contemporary fiction, the metafictional elements of Absurdistan, the 19th century plotting techniques for Absurdistan, the importance of notebooks, literary fiction as entertainment, linguistic slumming and lowbrow metaphors, kissing the back of testicles, going up against Cormac McCarthy in the Tournament of Books, the suspicions against comic novels, dick jokes, connectivity vs. inhabiting another person’s mind, and not being able to exist without writing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Shteyngart: I also work in bed and don’t really move very much. I don’t know. My metabolism has been great so far. So I’m not so big. But when I was thirteen or so, I was actually a very husky child. I had to have a special suit made for my bar mitzvah. A special husky suit. So there’s a big fat guy inside this little frame that’s dying to get out. And the other thing is, I guess, was the American novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. And I was thinking primarily of Ignatius O’Reilly, one of the — I was asked recently to pick my favorite book in America in the last three decades and that was the book that came to mind. A wonderful rambling historical — a place also very rooted in its locality. New Orleans. And about a guy who loves to consume everything in sight. Those Lucky Hot Dogs, I’m thinking of. So I love to eat myself. And I love everything to do with food. So I wanted to make my guy gigantic, and I wanted to make him a real consumer — in a very American mode, but also in a kind of nouveau riche Russian mode.

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Categories: Fiction

Berkeley Breathed, Part Two (BSS #120)

Berkeley Breathed is the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist of Bloom County, Opus, and the author of many children’s books. This is the second part of a two-part interview. The first part is available here.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Searching for penguin brides.

Author Interview: Berkeley Breathed

Subjects Discussed: The rising sales of graphic novels, the future of newspaper comics, reservations about Opus being available in digital form, mass market phenomenons, digital audiences vs. print audiences, the “death” of music, the Beatles vs. Gnarls Barkley, shared audience response, on replacing the cartoonist old guard, YouTube, the Doonesbury motif of characters looking into mirrors, cultural appropriation, Breathed’s rocky relationship with Garry Trudeau, why the first year of Bloom County is uncollected, great cartooning as a synthesis of decent writing and decent illustration, Christopher Hitchens, surreal humanism, the cartoon as populist entertainment, the poor reception to Outland, why the kids from Bloom County have not appeared in Opus, the inadequacies of reader reaction via email, the origins of Oliver Wendell Jones and African-American characters in comics, the Banana 6000 and Apple’s advertising, and being ripped off by Microsoft.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Breathed: We had readerships of 50 to 100 million people in the ’80′s and ’70′s for a given piece of entertainment — a single strip. Same person in Kentucky is going to be reading it. It’s the same person in L.A., New York City. You’re not going to have that. Instead of having seventy-five comic strips with readerships of 20 to 100 million, you’re going to have thousands of comic strips with readerships of several hundred to a thousand. That’s a sea change in its effect on society. And the pop culture, I think, has an effect. The unifying aspect of pop culture, I think, is overlooked. And we’re losing that. We’re not all listening to the same music. We’re not all reading the same cartoons. We’re not laughing at the same joke across the country. It’s a unifying aspect of our nation that’s passing.

Categories: Fiction, People

Berkeley Breathed, Part One (BSS #119)

Berkeley Breathed is the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist of Bloom County, Opus, and the author of many children’s books. This is the second part of a two-part interview. The second part is available here.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Jittery of Gittis.

Author Interview: Berkeley Breathed

Subjects Discussed: The disparity between illustrating a daily strip and audience reaction, blond-haired boys named Milo, The Phantom Tollbooth, literary references in Bloom County, receiving a onionskin letter to Harper Lee, picture books and moral dilemmas, film influences, the importance of fun background details in illustrations, foreshadowing, how screenwriting has shaped Breathed’s storytelling, the strengths and weaknesses of moving from hand illustration to Photoshop, pink and purple color schemes, 300, self-editing vs. producing art, beating the procrastination impulse in middle age, chasing the FedEx truck during the Bloom County days, the infamous Opus couch strip, on not being able to get away with certain forms of humor in today’s newspaper age, the generational gap between print and digital, and trying to lure younger readers to the comics page.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Breathed: Certainly, in the ’80′s, when I had fifty to seventy million readers, it was virtually impossible to put it in context that meant anything. And it begins to happen when you go from city to city and you meet people and they talk about your work in ways that you don’t think about it yourself. And it puts it into a different kind of context and it’s good. Because you come back home with a renewed sense of responsibility in some ways. Without getting maudlin about it, you do not take it for granted sometimes, as often happens, when there’s a lot of deadlines. Things almost become rote. And you forget that there are people waiting to read it and what they read, they take very seriously. Even in a funny way.

Categories: Fiction, People

Austin Grossman (BSS #118)

Austin Grossman is most recently the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Scared of Larry.

Author: Austin Grossman

Subjects Discussed: Retconned culture, the human qualities of superheroes, origin stories, the postmodernist trappings of comic book continuity constructs, grad school vs. superheroes, writing while driving, how Grossman’s work on video games influenced his work as a fiction writer, Max Allan Collins’s A Killing in Comics, the relationship between prose and illustrations in a novel dealing with superheroes, the mainstreaming of geek culture, the unusual domestic living arrangements of Superfriends, secret identities, the problems of making video games based on superheroes, and reconnecting with 19th century literature.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Grossman: I feel like superheroes debuted as the sort of archetypical gods and every once in a while, they get retconned back to that — just to kind of refresh them. But I like them — I like them now! When they’ve had so much layered onto them. When archetypes have been established and now they can sort of start to live inside them and be a little more human. But I feel that, in liking them that way, I’m caught in some kind of cultural cycle. That that’s why I like them now and that, twenty-five years from now, people will like them as archetypes again. So I can’t really understand why I like them that way. It’s just that I do. I like to feel like they have a consciousness that I can relate to, that I can live inside, and yet are also godlike in some way.

Categories: Fiction

Temp Links

Due to sickness and laryngitis that has gone on for almost two months now, it’s been difficult for the proprietors to update the site. And Mr. Segundo seems to have disappeared. We’re now in the process of tracking him down. There are plans to dramatically overhaul this site soon, but in the meantime, you can listen to Show #118 (Austin Grossman) here and Show #119 (Berkeley Breathed, Part One) here. There’s a twenty podcast backlog that should be caught up before summer’s end. Thanks for your patience!

Categories: Uncategorized