Mort Walker (BSS #216)

Mort Walker is the creator of Beetle Bailey. A forthcoming volume of the first two years of Beetle Bailey is coming next month.


Condition of the Show: Observing fifty years of development.

Author: Mort Walker

Subjects Discussed: Walker’s drawing pace, the Beetle Bailey production cycle, filtering through the gags, rejected strips sent to Sweden, Beetle’s early days as a slacker in college, the military as the common experience, Walker’s relationship with the syndicate, the curly hair look of Buzz and Lois, portrait-like illustrations of women, early attention to background, the shrinking space of newspaper comics, Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson’s fights for space, appealing to the greatest number of readers, the development of Sarge’s girth and teeth, Plato as the only other character carryover, covering the eyes of characters, Dik Browne, Beetle’s early square form and perpendicular limbs, Walker as Lt. Fuzz, Lt. Jack Flap, African-American characters in comic strips, being confronted by editors by Ebony, Colin Powell’s approval of Flap, code numbers associated with the comic strip, writing a military-based comic strip without reference to Iraq, General Halftrack’s skirt-chasing and later sensitivity training, the circumstances that will cause Walker to change his strip, why Walker hasn’t included women soldiers, aborted cliffhangers, and characters staying the same in the Beetle Bailey universe.


Correspondent: Here we have a military strip. But there’s no reference to Iraq. And I wanted to ask you about this kind of balance.

Walker: I try to avoid anything controversial. Because if you do something pro-Bush, fifty percent of your readers are going to get mad, fifty percent of your readers might like it. But I’m after the whole broad spectrum. So I’m really avoid those things.

Correspondent: But to talk about the broader audience, I mean, Bush’s approval rating isn’t exactly the best in the world. It’s under 30%. So you have 70% of the audience if you were to play around with this kind of thing.

Walker: Yeah. Well, anyway, I try not to get too topical or controversial. That’s why I’ve avoided the war pretty much. I don’t mention Iraq very much. Very seldom.

Correspondent: Even though this war has lasted longer than World War II? I mean, doesn’t it seem…?

Walker: But there’s so many people that are angry about it that I’ve got to be really careful about how I treat it. Mostly, I just ignore it. People say, “Well, when is Beetle going to go to Iraq?” I said, “Jesus Christ. I hope never!” You know, I don’t want to send him there because it’s very difficult to deal with. I’m just keeping him in basic training. It’s the common experience that all soldiers have. If I take him out somewhere and specify into some particular kind of work, I’ll lose a lot of my readers there. They won’t be interested or they won’t understand it. But everybody understands basic training. That’s where I keep him.

Correspondent: I mean, you had this similar situation with Jack Flap. That’s why I present this as well. I mean, that didn’t hurt you. In fact, that got Beetle Bailey more attention, you know?

Walker: Yeah, but it was a common experience. Anyway, that hasn’t hurt me.

Categories: People

Christian Bauman (BSS #215)

Christian Bauman is most recently the author of In Hoboken.


Condition of the Show: Contending with contentious Midtown diners.

Author: Christian Bauman

Subjects Discussed: Defining a rock and roll novel, writing an ensemble novel with Hoboken as a character, references to paper storms and 9/11, chronological foreshadowing, using real-life Hoboken locations vs. invented locations, the Hoboken-New York rivalry, playing the rube vs. genuine sincerity as a reflection of irony in the 1990s, balancing real-life incidents and invented narrative, the benefits of vaguely knowing someone, whether or not a particular city is important to a narrative, writing about the worker hierarchy, writing about characters who live cheaply, socioeconomics in literature, locative contexts that make novels different, trying not to anticipate the next novel, songwriting phrases, reconfiguring essays and other pieces into a novel, and the modified omniscient voice.


Correspondent: You have this particular rock ‘n’ roll novel dwelling upon Hoboken, as well as Mona Smith, who is this Erica Jong-like figure, who is the mother of Thatcher. But I wanted to ask you about this. Because it’s very fascinating to me. I have the belief that if you write a rock ‘n’ roll novel, there needs to be some additional element. Some additional hook. Because if you dwell too much on rock ‘n’ roll music, well, it’s going to possibly be something of a circlejerk. So I wanted to ask you. Was this a consideration in setting this book in Hoboken? The Hoboken aspect came first? What happened here?

Bauman: Yeah, I think the Hoboken aspect came first. Well, first of all, I should point out that everyone keeps calling it a rock ‘n’ roll novel. It is actually a folk novel. So we should just be clear here. There’s a lot more Woody Guthrie here than anything else. But it’s a good point. You know, the whole thing I wanted to do, in as far as I wanted to anything and it didn’t just happen the way it happened — I was trying very hard this time to do two things. One was to write about a place. A very specific place to the point where the place became one of the characters in the book. And of those places where I’ve either lived or been alive in my life, Hoboken was one of them that stood out as a good place to go. And the other one was that I really wanted to try and write an ensemble novel to the best of my ability. And I kind of failed in that aspect.

Categories: Fiction

Ralph Bakshi (BSS #214)

Ralph Bakshi is the director of such films as Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, and American Pop. There is also a recent book, Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi, now out that collects his work.


Condition of the Show: Caught in a musical daydream.

Guest: Ralph Bakshi

Subjects Discussed: The role of music in Bakshi’s films, making good films without a lot of money, emotionally correct songs, daydreaming, Bakshi’s record collection, the original idea of using Led Zeppelin for Lord of the Ring, Leonard Rosenman, Bakshi’s relationships with composers, Andrew Belling’s Wizards score, the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic, artistic freedom, why Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” was the final song in American Pop, the relationship between writing fast scripts and revising in animation, the ending of Heavy Traffic, subconscious symbolism, the use of long shots and extended takes, Sergei Eisenstein, Aleksander Nevsky, giving Thomas Kinkade his first big break, on Fire and Ice not being a Bakshi film, using imagination with pre-existing visual elements, rotoscoping, getting the little artistic details, Edward Hopper, designers vs. montage, operating in the present as an artist, being honest, The Last Days of Coney Island, the impending collapse of America, Barack Obama, burning out, American avarice, and Bill Plympton.


Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about music in your films. It’s certainly important in American Pop. You pilfered from your record collection for that, as well as the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic. And there’s “Ah’m a Niggerman” from Coonskin, which you wrote. I’m wondering if you did this because you have an aversion to Carl Stalling-style orchestral music.

Bakshi: First of all, I love music. I’ve always loved music. And I’ve loved various kinds of music. Music is part of our lives. It’s part of the soundtrack that what we all grow up with. Especially in my day. I don’t know today. There’s so many things going on. I’m talking about yesterday and my day, which are the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Music is so emotionally important to the movie. It’s just as important as anything else. If the song is emotionally correct for a scene, the scene plays better. Or the scene plays better than it would have with a different song. So music is so critical to movies. I chose songs that I knew emotionally worked with these scenes that I wrote. Because whenever I listened to music while either driving in a car or sitting at a bar or listening to Coltrane or Billy Holiday – you daydream. If you don’t daydream to music, then you’re not listening to good music.

(Lengthier excerpts from this program can be found here and here.)

Categories: Film

Steven Greenhouse (BSS #213)

Steven Greenhouse is the New York Times labor reporter and the author of The Big Squeeze.


Condition of the Show: Reporting upon the darker truths of America.

Author: Steven Greenhouse

Subjects Discussed: Whether economic factors of the 1970s or Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous maxim caused the current strife between corporations and workers, the social contract that came from 20th century labor negotiations, why workers settle for less, temps exploited by HP, being treated like dirt, mock memos circulated to cope with downsizing, The Office, why workers aren’t revolting, Bowling Alone, The Pursuit of Loneliness, how what we do for fun has transformed in the past few decades, the worker-friendly company policies of Patagonia, prodigious cafeteria options for workers, the shocking disparity of parental leave policies in different nations, tracking the lunch hours of workers, computers vs. martinet managers, call center workers, workers who slack off vs. a robust economy, Cooperative Home Care Associates and the benefits of workers on the board of directors, independent contractors, job security, the New York Times hiring freeze, Neutron Jack Welch, The Disposable American, companies who display “too much loyalty” to workers, workers who “get used to” hard and immoral company tactics, climbing the Wal-Mart ladder, the workplace as a cult, unrealistic American dreams, billable hours, the allure of promotion, Greenhouse’s proposed solutions, and a living minimum wage.


Correspondent: Look at Jennifer Miller, who is this woman who worked at HP for ten years. She didn’t have to work as a temp for that long. She could have easily cut out. She could have gone and demanded more from the HP managers. So I would argue that the workers who have allowed themselves to be placed in these particular conditions are perhaps just as responsible as these businesses and these corporations that are trying to squeeze out more profits and also trying to combat the influx of low-cost imports.

Greenhouse: Again, Ed, you ask a good question, and it’s hard to say. Jennifer Miller was a worker at HP. High school graduate. Very little college. She started as a McDonald’s worker. She became a McDonald’s manager. She got tired of that. Then she got a permanent job at HP. That job was sent overseas. So she was kind of bought out. Then a few months later, she was approached. “How would you like to return to HP as a temp?” She thought it was going to be a two-month gig. And as I explained in the book, she was there for ten years as a temp. She said that the job was good. It used a lot of advanced skills. She was often treated with respect, but she said the bad thing was she was a temp and didn’t get the same benefits as HP workers. She didn’t quite get the respect. So you ask why didn’t she quit?

Correspondent: And I should point out that she was even barred from the company parties. I mean, this is a key indicator. In my view, I would say, “Well to hell with this. I’m going to find someone who I can be on staff with.”

Greenhouse: It wasn’t just she. But all temps were barred from the company — you know, they might create a wonderful new piece of software, created a wonderful printer, and all the regular permanent employees could go to the party and celebrate and go for the two-day ski holiday to celebrate. But the temps who work alongside the regular workers in a crazy situation, they weren’t invited to the parties. So yeah, for someone like Jennifer, there was some eating humble pie there. So the question is why didn’t she quit? She said, “For me, Jennifer Miller, a mere high-school graduate living in Idaho, that was a terrific job. I was making $30 an hour. I was really using my brain. I was often working alongside terrific people. Sort of semi, somewhat treated as an equal. But on the other hand, no.” And she said, considering what else was out there, going back to McDonald’s working as a manager, which isn’t such a bad job, but she said working at HP as a temp was better. Her argument was HP was good in many ways, but there was this one big negative. That she was treated as a temp.

Categories: Ideas

Fiona Maazel (BSS #212)

Fiona Maazel is the author of Last, Last Chance.


[LISTENING NOTE! Please note that this show contains numerous grinding noises. We have endeavored to remove as many of these as possible, and reduce the noise where possible. Alas, SOME aural residue remains.]

Condition of the Show: Considering the niceties of superplagues.

Author: Fiona Maazel

Subjects Discussed: Being under observation, the relationship between kosher chickens and superplagues, rich WASPy girls, individual vs. societal ironies, keeping the protagonist’s name somewhat secret, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, on not reading Camus for protective purposes, Panic in the Streets, the anxiety of influence, opting for a more realistic plague narrative, using humor to cantilever a dark narrative, devising multiple historical voices, pawing around in the dark, reincarnations, Groundhog Day as the essence of reincarnation, thongs and corporeal elliptical themes, the dangers of reading too fast, perceived titular homages to Nabokov, reviewers who are “certain” about books, auctorial intentions, moving around and setting a portion of the book in Texas, wanting to be T.S. Eliot, pursuing the grit, the pervasiveness of television, revolting against cultural media, Nordic tales, developing a conscious understanding of a deity, Stanley as a barometer, and agitprop.


Correspondent: If one looks at more lower brow choices, like Stephen King’s The Stand or The Andromeda Strain, or any number of superplague television series, like The Survivors and things like that, one tends to find a narrative that begins with the decimation of humanity. Yours is not that particular book. Again, going back to this question of inversions, I’m wondering if you made a particular choice. You had to have known about The Stand.

Maazel: Sure, it’s true. But I didn’t think it was an inversion. I thought it was credible actually. I did a lot of research about plague and also about the CDC and bioterrorism. And just how unlikely the scenario I proposed is. It’s extraordinarily likely. This isn’t an alternate reality kind of novel. It didn’t seem likely that someone would unleash a plague and actually wipe out all of humanity. That’s just not credible. I wanted to come up with a credible scenario. So I guess from the perspective of someone writing fiction or reading fiction, one might expect something like a terrific slate wiper to come along, as we’ve seen in so many of these movies and books. But I actually wanted something that seemed really realistic. That only 3,000 people would die and the fact that they put a stop to it. For instance, when we had this little anthrax outbreak or even bird flu, people are dying, but they’re still containing it. I was more interested in the anxiety, the terror, the foreboding of what could happen. Might this thing wipe out a hundred million Americans or a hundred million people? That was more interesting to me than watching this disease tramp across the country and actually kill off half the United States.

Categories: Fiction

Ed Park (BSS #211)

Ed Park is most recently the author of Personal Days.


Condition of the Show: Plagued by brutal downsizing.

Author: Ed Park

Subjects Discussed: Literary people named Ed, writing Personal Days and using vacation days while employed at the Voice, counting words written per day, B.S. Johnson, Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant, Harry Stephen Keeler, staying productive as a writer, the other Ed Park novels (The Dizzies, Chinese Whispers, The Diet of Worms, Dementia Americana, et al.), Stone Reader, lost books, writing within tight stylistic constraints, the section titles, “restructuring,” references to Hollywood and the quest for narrative, figuring out “Operation JASON,” waiting for the Eureka moment, making patterns emerge, patterns within character names and working within limitations, the use of italics, writing the third part without a period, having an affinity for exclamation points, Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Elizabeth Crane’s “My Life is Awesome! And Great!,” the office as a microcosm for New York, William Gaddis, Harry Matthews, Cigarettes and The Journalist, the relationship between the ability to calculate vs. the loss of the first person plural, consciousness in attrition, Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, The Office, avoiding the influence of other topical art, Crease in Personal Days vs. Creed in The Office, style vs. content, specific typographical symbols, voice recognition and gobbledygook, William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Gaddis’s The Recognitions, office detritus, paperclips that pierce, setting limitations when veering down dark and scatological territory, and the pathological corporate impulse.


Park: It’s such a pleasure to talk to someone who’s also named Ed.

Correspondent: Yes, I know. I mean, it’s a hell of a first name. There needs to be a Society of Eds set up in the five boroughs.

Park: It’s pretty rare.

Correspondent: I know. I wanted to ask you a commonplace question and then get to the nitty-gritty of this book. I know that you wrote a good chunk of this book while you were working at the Voice. But the sense I got was that you didn’t write all of it at the Voice. So I’m curious as to how much of this was written in a Voice-less setting, so to speak.

Park: Well, if you mean by “at the Voice,” while I was still employed by them, that’s true. Most of it was written before I left the Voice. I was let go at, basically, Labor Day. Right before Labor Day Weekend of ’06. But by that time, I did actually have a draft. There were many changes that I knew were necessary. I wrote it though. In terms of physical space, I could never even write my articles at the Voice. Just in the Voice office. I was hired as an editor. Basically editing, sending emails, on the phone, stuff like that. So it wasn’t really a place where, ironically enough, I could get a lot of writing done. So all the writing took place in my apartment. I was living on 89th Street. A lot of it was the same as I’d done for my previous fictional projects, where I would just try to write in the morning before coming into work. What was a little bit different about this book was that, as things got more tense at the Voice, as things really looked like they were going in a bad way, I took some vacation days, personal days, and would really treat the book as my job in a way.

Categories: Fiction

Cynthia Ozick (BSS #210)

Cynthia Ozick is most recently the author of Dictation.


Condition of the Show: Overtaken by a tyrannical dictator.

Author: Cynthia Ozick

Subjects Discussed: Balancing two authors, two secretaries and other stylistic repetitions that evoke typewriters in “Dictation,” purloining language from Henry James and Joseph Conrad’s letters, Henry James’s “forgotten umbrella,” “Literary Entrails,” parallels between the last two turns of the century, feeling like Queen Victoria, the language GNU within “What Happened to the Baby?” and open source GNU, crosswords in “Actors,” agonizing over every particular sentence, the slowness of sentences, auctorial fingerprints, John Updike, not wanting to be a writer of drafts, a lost manuscript by Lionel Trilling, whether postwar critics are being suitably remembered, those who mock Trilling for his moral seriousness, the origin of names, fiction as a pack of lies, being a stickler for the details vs. sustaining ambiguity, contradicting yourself in essays, when essays are unduly compared with fiction, John Barth’s “The Literature of Exhaustion,” the current literary critical environment, E.M. Forster, descriptive references to necks, on not leaving the house, not writing stories set in the present day, getting lost in one’s head, re-rereading Sense and Sensibility, how much Ozick has to think about a book before writing it, the reputation of America over the past fifty years, defining a “contemporary” novel, the dangers of writing in the present moment, clinging to brand names, books that rethink a particular epoch, religious identity in “At Fumicaro,” pretending about pretending, literary impersonation and multiple personalities, and anchoring fiction with reality.


Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about “Dictation,” the title story. This was very interesting to me for a number of reasons. Because here you have two writers, Henry James and Joseph Conrad, two secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, and then on top of that, you have a number of repetitions throughout the story, as if to echo or beckon the typewriter. Like in the very beginning, when you have Henry James describing Almayer’s Folly, you kept saying, “He saw. He saw.” And there’s a number of interesting things you are doing in the syntax of the story that almost echoes the typewriter. So I wanted to ask how this particular stylistic device came about. I know you spend a lot of time on your sentences. So you had to have been at least somewhat aware of this.

Ozick: Well not so much of the repetition in consonance with the typewriter, no. I wasn’t aware of that at all. And I’m rather taken aback by hearing you say, “Have you actually seen this or heard this?” I have not. (laughs) I have not. I’m sorry to disappoint. That is not what I had in mind. What I had in mind really was the joy of the mischief when it occurred to me. And the stylistic aspect had to do more not with the sounds — if that’s what you’re getting at — but with the tones and styles of speech of these people in that era. Particularly with the formality of the young ladies, who must call each other “Miss.” To venture into a first name is really quite forward and not to be countenanced by polite society at first. And also the great pleasure of, I suppose, my parodying of James and Conrad. Though, here’s a confession, and having very much to do with style. I purloined certain phrases directly from the letters of James and Conrad. So there are sentences buried in there which are absolutely authentic. Because they’re stolen directly. Not full sentences, but phrases here and there. So that gave me a lot of joy too. Because it was a kind of imitation, mimicry, reflection of what these two amanuenses were up to in their mischievous plan.

Categories: Fiction

Sloane Crosley (BSS #209)

Sloane Crosley is the author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake.


Condition of the Show: Placing the authors and book titles under too much scrutiny.

Author: Sloane Crosley

Subjects Discussed: Marie Antoinette, caring about perception, Veganism, the personal essay as a series of impersonations and observations, on being perceived as “nice,” the text as a prism between author and reader, negotiating the balance between writer and publicist, putting on the “nice face,” assumptions of lying, Oregon Trail, being nice vs. being true, exuberance, imposing internal censorship, the harsh nature of the wedding essay, why things were cut out, David Rakoff’s Fraud, Roberto Benigni, issues that cut into identity, filtering candor, whether personal essayists “tell it like it is,” David Sedaris, defining the nature of truth, using composite characters and disguising real people, speculation and judgment, lax Judaism and free association, criticism through metaphor, the relationship between adjectives and specificity and keeping the floodgates open, inverting language, Twin Peaks, dealing with sentences in essays that contradict each other, on not being prepared to turn sixteen, the original version of the book set up at Harper, the role of Gawker in Crosley’s career, online etiquette, the elusive “they,” being beholden to the BlackBerry, and stealing wi-fi.


Correspondent: In “Lay Like Broccoli,” you write, “Being a vegetarian in New York is not unlike being gay.” But I must ask you. Why care so much about how you are perceived? Because that’s essentially what this is all about.

Crosley: That specific essay or the whole book?

Correspondent: Well, that specific essay. But also the whole book. Because there’s a bit of hiding behind the essays.

Crosley: Well, is there? I think it’s more that clash between trying to grow up and trying to realize who you actually are once you become a grown-up. So I’m not actually hiding behind any specific concern I have about people’s perceptions, but more just trying to figure out who you are. It’s like you’re trying on different cells. I was telling someone the other day that my favorite part of In Cold Blood — I assure you this makes sense for an interview about a humor collection.

Correspondent: I’m sure. Go for it. Please.

Crosley: My favorite part of In Cold Blood is actually this tiny detail where he finds Nancy’s diary and he’s going through it, and obviously it becomes a huge part of the book. But he talks about the actual handwriting and the different various inks and the different colors she would use as she’s trying on different cells, as if to say, “Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? ” Now granted, she’s what — sixteen at the time> So in an ideal world, I would have less colors of ink and different styles of handwriting to try on at twenty-nine years old. So when I say the thing about the vegetarian thing, and the vegan thing, it’s more observational than something I’m actually petrified with living with on a day-to-day basis.

Categories: People

Tobias Wolff (BSS #208)

Tobias Wolff is most recently the author of Our Story Begins.


Condition of the Show: Speculating upon Mr. Wolff’s unknown powers.

Author: Tobias Wolff

Subjects Discussed: Writing first-person stories that don’t seem like first-person stories, the use of the word “I,” contemporary short stories and therapy sessions, fiction and narcissism, William Trevor, knowing the lay of the land, the symbols of the everyday universe, tulle fog, writing endings before the endings, Tolstoy vs. Chekhov, whether “Bullet to the Brain” had any specific literary critic in mind for its premise, dog stories, conversations in cars as the common American confessional, the open road, the consciousness of dogs, straying from realism, stories that end with an italicized line or a whisper, the precise and imprecise details within a sentence, arranging the short story order within a collection, “Best Of” vs. “Selected” stories, psychology and the skillful lack of overt specificity within “The Rich Brother,” hiding a story’s design, Flannery O’Connor, and how Wolff contends with variegated reader reactions.


Correspondent: This idea of first-person narration that is somewhat removed — maybe this is more of a classical sense of the short story, in the sense that today, contemporary short stories are, as you point out, more of a gushing therapy session. Maybe that’s what we’re talking about.

Wolff: Well, I don’t know. Again, when I think, for example, of Philip Roth’s first-person narrators, they are interested in the world at least as much as they are interested in themselves and interested in other people. And that shows up in the narration. It would be a pretty boring story that was so — if I could put it this way — narcissistically defined if you didn’t get a sense of the world beyond the narrator or of other people beyond it. I would think that, unless it was deliberately taking on the pathology of narcissism, it would be a deficiency of the story. Some stories, of course — some first-person stories — rely on a very heavy colloquial. And that may be something that you’re noticing with some of the stories. Like the one I just quoted from, “Next Door,” is quite colloquial. In other stories, you get the sense that the narrator is telling the story not in the immediate moment of the story, but perhaps from a distance. Which also would give you a wider vision of the circumstances and the people involved. And also perhaps a more articulate voice. A more capacious voice. So it isn’t just a Catcher in the Rye, moment-by-moment narration, but something that would open up a little more in the way of Philip Roth or William Trevor. The way their first person stories work.

(A lengthier excerpt from the show can be found here.)

Categories: Fiction

David Hajdu (BSS #207)

David Hajdu is most recently the author of The Ten-Cent Plague.


Condition of the Show: Dabbling into hidden threats.

Author: David Hajdu

Subjects Discussed: Hajdu’s approach to journalism, primary sources vs. secondary sources, categories of people to talk with when preparing a book, tracking down people who disappeared, grassroots methods of finding people, changing names, the untold story of women in comics, Irvin Kersener’s early career as an agitprop documentary filmmaker*, corroborating facts against shifting memory, telling history without a fully documented record, Billy Strayhorn’s career before Duke Ellington, remembering details based on a nugget, the ever-shifting complexities of William Gaines, whether EC Comics could have survived if it shifted to magazine format, Will Eisner on not being taken seriously, what caused the great comics scare, literate comics, the fear of kids turning on parents because of a medium, Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocents and the media’s willingness to give credence to Wertham’s anti-scientific tract, why America needs a lowbrow cultural blaming point for social ills, cultural class bias, pornography and other populist mediums as subliterary forms, comics decency legislation vs. the Hays Production Code, postwar censorship, comics being placed in a position not to challenge authority, Charles Biro’s Crime Does Not Pay vs. yellow journalism, and Bob Wood bludgeoning a woman to death.


Correspondent: I’m wondering if certain artists may have changed their names because the comic book industry was considered a great calumny for many of these various artists and writers. Did you face a problem along those lines in tracking people down?

Hajdu: I did. I had trouble with people who changed their names, but not for that reason. Because most people used their real names. Most people, but not all. Some use pseudonyms. Still do in comics. But most people intended to use their real names. But women married. And women who married in that time took on their husbands’ names. And I was surprised to find when I was doing my research how many women there were in comics. I mean, dozens and dozens of women who did terrific, beautiful, important work. Marcia Snider is one. I was never able to find her. I’d been told that she’d married. And nobody I could find knew what her married name was. In the case of the great many women artists, I only had their maiden names. And I couldn’t find them. I tried social security records, but they weren’t of that much value. And I did hit a wall with women artists. And I’m sure to this day, much of their story remains untold because they’ve been impossible to find.

Correspondent: Well, what steps did you take to atone for this? Because if you’re slicing off a portion of comic book history — a very important part of comic book history that involved women — I mean, how did you make up for this?

Hajdu: Well, I sought to do justice to the story that I can tell. I don’t know what I don’t know. I did make a point to ask about those women to the people who I could find. And that’s the only recourse.

* — Despite Hajdu’s representations in this interview, Kershner remains quite alive!

Categories: Ideas

Sarah Hall (BSS #206)

Sarah Hall is most recently the author of Daughters of the North (published in the UK as The Carhullan Army).


Condition of the Show: Remaining optimistic about a dystopian future.

Author: Sarah Hall

Subjects Discussed: Daughters of the North vs. The Carhullan Army, writing books that aren’t set in the present day, concern for environmental details, the comforts of familiar territory, catastrophe knocking everything to the past, the wandering impulse within British dystopian novels, Rupert Thomson, Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed, the tension between town and country, literary conversations and outdoing Margaret Atwood’s sense of terror, overcoming perceptions associated with women writers, Samantha Power’s castigation, being overly scrutinized, presentation of the author, the authenticity of testimony, writing a pageturner vs. a leisurely literary novel, being more selective with sentences, writing within confining environments, switching to first person, the origins of the Nixon surname, characters with reddened faces, rural words, Brave New World, names that echo across history, the origins of Rith, schools and buildings that shut down after centuries, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the dog box and the military training that inspired it, a microutopia within a macrodystopia, nitpicking the apathy within Daughters of the North, the possibilities of revolt and verisimilitude, manipulating the reader and gray areas, violence that occurs offstage, women and violence, bumps on heads, the beauty of corporeal flaws and dilapidated environments, how society transforms the body, To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah, sudden relationships and getting to the naughty bits, pornography, the risks of thinking on the page, and romance.


Hall: I think familiar territory is always of comfort to a writer. I find the North of England, where I’m from, fascinating. It’s a very dramatic landscape. It’s kind of a Wordsworth country. So you’ve got the Romantic sense on one hand. And then you’ve got the strange past battling with the future. I suppose Hardy did this to an extent as well. You pick a territory. And even if it’s rural, you have human beings working within that arena. So human drama is going to arise out of those interactions. And I’ve always felt, even though the settings are sometimes quite remote and underpopulated in my fiction, there’s enough going on. You can explore ideas of civilization, breakdown of civilization, human emotional dramas. All the rest of that. But I think what’s interesting with Daughters of the North is — even though we’re casting ahead maybe thirty, forty years from now — and I think British science fiction and speculative fiction does this a lot — there’s this idea of play. When catastrophe happens, everything is knocked back to the past. And so here is what you’re left with. Day of the Triffids. This strange science fiction going on. But at the same time, everybody’s going down to the pub like they always have.

Categories: Fiction