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11-21-08 : Agony Column Podcast : A Conversation with Greg Staples : Illustrating Robert E. Howard

With the art so thoughtfully and thoroughly integrated into 'The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard', it's easy to underestimate the sheer scale of work to put this project together. But step back a moment, and you'll realize that there are more than 60 intense, detailed illustrations in this volume. The quality is so superb, I decided to ring up artist Greg Staples at his home in the UK and ask him about his work. I have to admit, he's not a well-known name in the US, but given our conversation, I can say with some authority that is going to change and soon. He's worked extensively in comic books, and it shows in his illustrations for this book, each of which does more than capture a moment; there's a story in each image.

But there's also quite a story with regards to Staples. Like many, he'd seen the Frazetta images that are now iconic. But to prepare himself for this book, he immersed himself in a rather unexpected series of films. He also talked about his work on a forthcoming big-budget adaptation of Howard's Solomon Kane. The mere fact that such a talented artist who has such sympathy with Howard's vision is working on a Solomon Kane adaptation is quite encouraging. And there's more as well, which you can hear from this audio MP3 link. I suppose that I should apologize for adding another book to your stack, but wait until you hear what Staples says ... because the stack will grow higher if we're lucky.

11-20-08 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : A Panel Discussion From SF in SF, October 18, 2008 : Kim Stanley Robinson, Cecilia Holland, and Barry N. Malzberg

One of the reasons I love to attend and record the SF in SF events is that they are always almost shockingly surprising. Here you are, at a science fiction event, and Kim Stanley Robinson reads about Emerson and Thoreau; Cecilia Holland takes you back to a gritty past with a hint of magic and Barry Malzberg offers up the spectacle of a science fiction writer being forced to write about a novel he wrote under pseudonym. Who could possibly have any idea what would happen when you put these three folks up on stage with Terry Bisson and say, essentially, "Talk!" Or as Bisson puts it, "...piss and moan about the genre we love."

Of course nobody could predict the conversation, even in a room full of science fiction fans. No prediction (or retrodiction, as Sterling terms it in his novel) required, however. You can hear what happens when the history of science fiction meets the science fiction genre in a future that is chock-a-block with the stuff of science fiction, only it's not fictional and most who use the stuff dont understand the science, so it might as well be magic. Follow this link, it's either magic or science.

11-19-08: A 2008 Interview With Chip Kidd : "Whether it was comics or toys or whatever, I was a saver."

It's been a long time since I first spoke with Chip Kidd. And I think I sort of caught him off guard when I went to interview him in his hotel room in San Francisco. He was certainly ready to talk about the history of Batman in Japan and his new book 'Bat-Manga: The Secret History of Batman in Japan'. I dont think he expected to talk about the history of Batman in his life, nor to ask him if he was reading Batman comics at the age of two.

But regular listeners know I'm pretty interested in childhood reading experiences, if for no other reason than that I myself recall many with perfect clarity. Now, as a kid I was not allowed to read comics or science fiction; but that didn't exactly stop me. I can vividly recall the time I did both — a friend named Carl who lived a ways up the hill in San Carlos let me read his copy of the Classics Illustrated version of H. G. Wells 'War of the Worlds'. And that was that; so it will come as no surprise, then that Chip Kidd was allowed to read comics and moreover, his father used to "torture" him with tales of owning the Superman number one. Now, I expect that you could probably walk to the moon on all the copies of Superman number one that folks claimed to have held in their hot little hands, but an imprint is an imprint.

As Kidd explains, the story behind his latest creation is as fascinating and compelling as the origin story of a superhero, and has lots of weird twists. You can hear him tell you that story himself from this link. Might as well buy the book first, though, and immerse yourself. What will strike you as very strange is lack of any smell; when you look through those pages, you'll swear you can smell the musty attic where the originals have been hidden for so many years. That' an attic in your brain that this book will build when you are in fact, looking.

11-18-08: A 2008 Interview with Dan Simmons : Prepping for 'Drood'

Today's podcast is a phone conversation with Dan Simmons about 'Drood'. Now look, I'm a compulsive, but if you're reading this website, then probably so are you. And as compulsives, there's just one thing we want to know; what to read to prepare for 'Drood'. Of course, I've already read enough of 'Drood' to tell you that you dont need to read or have read anything by either Dickens to enjoy this book.

It's a giant gothic chiller, expertly textured and excitingly plotted. That said, when you are anticipating a book by one of your favorite authors that is itself about one of your favorite authors, well, then the compulsive comes out and asks, "What does the author refer to and what should I read?" Well, Simmons and I eventually get to that question in our phone interview, which you can find from this link.

And as for Dickens bios, well, I'm going for the Ackroyd book. It seems like a pretty easy choice to me, but I'm also looking at the Jane Smiley bio as well. But you know, I'm really looking forward to getting a nice hardcover edition of some of my favorite Dickens' work as well. I don't need, but do appreciate the opportunity to get nice new Dickens' hardcovers as well. I trust no time travel shall be involved in this endeavour.

11-17-08: A 2008 Interview with Ken Silverstein : "We wouldnt call it Turkmenistan Day, because that's too obvious."

'Turkmeniscam : How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship' is a funny and informative sort of caper crime book, wherein the author lays out a plan for scamming lobbyists to see how low they'll sink. You can read the in-depth review here. But hearing Ken Silverstein tell the tale in his own voice adds a great dimension and a lot of humor to his already entertaining tale of stringing along big spenders on a small budget.

Silverstein talked to me about his mini-history of lobbying, but also gave me lots of juicy details that didn't get in the book. On one hand, that's what makes the book so great; it's a stripped down look at both the history of lobbying and Silverstein's experiment in undercover journalism. On the other hand, in person, Silverman is a bundle of nervous energy. You can see how he gets books written and research done and pitches caught by Harper's and Random House, and how be blows right past the filters that one might think would catch a journalist under these circumstances. If you're not subscribed to the podcast, here's a link to do so; and a link to the audio of my interview with Ken Silverstein.

New to the Agony Column

04-29-13: Commentary : Ben Katchor Catalogues 'Hand Drying in America' : Subversive Cities of the Heart

Agony Column Podcast News Report : : A 2013 Interview with Ben Katchor : "...people are hesitant to make their own building into a ruin..."

04-28-13: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: : Time to Read Episode 95: Ben Katchor : Hand Drying in America

04-27-13: Commentary : Mark Morris Introduces 'Toady' : A New World of Horror

Agony Column Podcast News Report : : Thomas Frank from The Easy Chair and Harper's Magazine: TV's DC Fantasies : "... basically, everyone is corrupt ..."

04-22-13: Commentary : Danielle Trussoni Maps 'Angelopolis' : The Afterlife of Angels

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2013 Interview with Danielle Trussoni : "I wanted it to be accurate...absolutely accurate."

04-21-13: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 94: Danielle Trussoni : Angelopolis

04-17-13: Commentary : How Not to Leave the House : Reach for the Recycling

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Matt Richtel, Sophie Littlefield and Terry Bisson at SF in SF on February 9, 2013 : "You cannot do this all day long." Sophie Littlefield

04-16-13: Commentary : Stephen Kessler 'Scratch Pegasus' : Lens of Language

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2013 Interview with Stephen Kessler : "..knit a formal coherence by way of sound and rhythm..."

04-14-13: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 93: Stephen Kessler : Scratch Pegasus

04-09-13: Commentary : Paul McComas & Greg Starrett Sew Up 'Fit for a Frankenstein' : Hands All on Gretl

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Matt Richtel Reads at SF in SF on February 9, 2013 : "I'm much more interested in the mental miasma..."

04-08-13: Commentary : Ruth Ozeki Clocks 'A Tale for the Time Being' : Reading is the Future

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2013 Interview with Ruth Ozeki : "...through the act of writing, she would somehow conjure the reader into being..."

04-07-13: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 92: Ruth Ozeki : : A Tale for the Time Being

04-06-13: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 91: Lawrence Wright : : Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

04-04-13: Commentary : Danielle Trussoni Excavates 'Angelology' : Gothic Girl

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Three Books With Alan Cheuse : : 'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki, 'Odds Against Tomorrow' by Nathaniel Rich and 'Pandemonium' by Warren Fahy

04-02-13: Commentary : MacKenzie Bezos Sets 'Traps' : Need to Know

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2013 Interview with MacKenzie Bezos : "...without intention or recognition, we're playing important roles in the lives of other people..."

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