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Jeff VanderMeer
01-15-09 : Agony Column Podcast Fiction : Billie Harris Reads Jeff VanderMeer

I've been saving this nugget for this day apparently. It's something unique here at the Agony Column, original fiction written by Jeff VanderMeer and read by professional voice actress (and one-time host of KUSP's "Storytime"), Billie Harris.

We'll keep this short and sweet, because the fiction speaks for itself. I had this strange idea a while back. What would happen if I had Jeff VanderMeer write a about 1,000 really weird words of fiction and then, if I had the genteel, lovely cultured voice of Billie Harris read them aloud? Harris, a veteran reader of children's fiction for children, was the voice of Storytime on KUSP for many years. I thought the culture clash would heighten the weirdness, and I think I was right in all the best ways. Prepare to have your cognition jolted about a bit as you listen. You are about to truly be transported to another world by following this link.

01-14-09 : NPR Report on The Wovel : Not a Wheelie Snow Shovel

So, yes, I do know how to use Google well enough to scare up, home of the wheelie snow shovel. And yes, it's an interesting invention for those brave enough to live in climes where it snows regularly. But I don’t think it will have the cultural impact of what Victoria Blake and company have done. And my editor did do a grand job on the NPR Web page.

But alas, NPR Streams in this real-audio format, which isn't easily uploaded to your convenient MP3 playing device. Though I must admit that the whole podcasting effort is in fact pretty damn quirky and complicated, prone to single-line edit errors that bollix the whole thing unless you spend more time checking it than you did creating it. But I do have helpful listeners who alert me to errors. Always feel free to point something out by emailing me. In the interim, here is a link to the MP3 copy of the Wovel report for NPR. Assuming that some part of this damnably complicated present didn't trip me up. Can I read the prequel to the present, please? You mean that's history and those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it? No wonder the future seems so much like the past. Here is the link.

01-13-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : A Phone Interview with Amber Ney, Wovel Reader

What sort of person reads a wovel? I spoke with Amber Ney, a wovel fan who juggles family and work, like a lot of us. And what struck me was that she's so down-to-earth, like someone I might have met in my Cubmaster days, yet she's reading literature as outré as I do.

Having spoken with the creators of the wovel — and it's a team effort — I wanted to speak with a consumer of the wovel. Victoria Blake gave me some email addresses and I received a reply from Amber Ney. For obvious reasons, I figured that the sort of reader who is interested in the wovel would be you know, a hyper-cyber genre geek — not the working mother of children. Amber is a fascinating woman, and I think readers will agree that she's a really positive indicator that reading is not so dead we're told daily. And even if the lack of interest in reading statistically significant, Amber's level of interest suggests that it's too soon to call it the Apocalypse and start praying. And even if the Apocalypse has come to pass and we didn't notice, at least readers like Amber suggest that books may be a going commodity in the post-Apocalyptic world. Here is the link.

Victoria Blake
01-12-09 : A 2008 Interview with Victoria Blake, Jemiah Jefferson, Rachel Miller and Jesse Pollack :
The Wovel

Victoria Blake had a pretty much to-die-for job at Dark Horse Comics editing prose, but she wanted to do something more. When she founded Underland Press, she wanted to publish the sort of literary, quirky, over-the-top genre fiction that I enjoy, and to that end, you can look forward to a variety of titles. She also wanted to make the website an integrated part of her publishing venture.

Underland Press has a lot going for it, but it was the Wovel that caught my attention, a web novel that was written in serial form with readers voting on the outcome of each week's episode. I managed to get Victoria Blake, "wovelist" Jemiah Jefferson, Underland's proofreader, Rachel Miller, and web programmer Jesse Pollack into a studio in Portland, Oregon and speak to them via ISDN. You can hear our discussion via this link.

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