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01-22-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Aimee Bender Interviewed
at SF in SF

I really enjoy Aimee Bender's work, and actually enjoy it more when I consider it not as literary fiction, or even surrealist fiction, but rather as science fiction, and by this I don’t mean stories about spaceships. In Aimee Bender's hands, stories become vehicles for examining character with remarkably precise "what-if" scenarios that use the techniques of science fiction ("if this, then that") but substitute wild imagination for technological prognostication.

Yes, in many ways Aimee Bender is also a very formal minimalist in the style of Chuck Palahniuk, whom I seem to remember mentions her any time you ask him about who is doing work worth your valuable time. I managed to get a few minutes of Aimee's valuable time while she was in town; you can hear our conversation about her unique form of fiction by following this link to the MP3 audio.

01-22-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Aimee Bender Reads at SF in SF : "Fruit and Words"

When SF in SF brings in Aimee Bender, you know you're in for a good time. My take on Bender is that she's a girly-girl Kafka, smart and imaginative in a way that is almost mathematical. Her bends of reality require the kind of the kind of narrative strength that would, say on a construction site, enable her to twist iron struts as if they were made out of rubber. Her work is strange and surreal but incontrovertible.

For all the strangeness and the immediacy of her characters, there's also a generous and entertaining sense of humor that informs her work. Her stories are funny because they’re real, and the reality she's describing might fit within, but clear is not of our reality. She makes perfect Lego models in a Tinkertoy world. This all is just a bit of wind up for this link to the audio of Aimee Bender reading "Fruit and Words" from her most recent collection, 'Willful Creatures.' She has a very science fictional technique on display here, though the story is in no way science fiction. It's Bender's own one-woman genre. Girlrealism.

01-21-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Sean Stewart Reads at SF in SF

Fresh from the first SF in SF of this New Year, we have Sean Stewart, with a really powerful reading from – well, it's complicated and rather surprising. Now, you know, I'm a reader. I've got first eds of Sean's stuff from way back in the wayback, 'Passion Play' as a fragile Tesseract "mass market" (little did they know!) paperback. You say Sean Stewart to Rick Kleffel, and I'm thinking, "'Galveston' .... 'Resurrection Man'..."

Not, like tens of millions of billions of people, "I Love Bees." You say, "I Love Bees," and frankly, I think of Laurie R. King and Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes. Not, shoot me for typing it, Halo. Halo is fer kids, ya know? Like my son, who popped for an M$ Attention Drainer just to play Halo. It's greasy kid stuff. Though not, I allow to the tens of millions of billions, nor to the trazillions of dollars floating about because of it. Well, apparently, as experimental-ish, high-artish midlist science fiction writer, you can support a hovel lifestyle, while as a video-what's-it creator(?), er, uh, something, you can like, buy food and pay your mortgage. You'll be able to afford a mortgage. So don't hate Sean because he's a what's-it. Here's a guy who's so talented you can put him in a what's-it cage and he comes up with stuff like he reads here. A cryin'-shame, in that midlist SF writers should be chauffeured about in flying cars. That's gonna happen as soon as the flying cars, so, don't hold your breath. But do listen to his reading via this link. Sit down, take a deep breath. It's pretty intense.

01-20-09 : A 2009 Interview with Kirsten Menger-Anderson Part 2:
The Family Tree

In the second half of the interview with Kirsten Menger-Anderson, I do in fact get around to those thorny questions about how she got the darned book published both written and published. When you see a beautiful finished book like this it all seems like fait accompli. Kirsten Menger-Anderson is here to tell you that like most things, it is not so easy as it looks in finished form. (And to my mind, the layering, the quality of her short story writing and the threading between stories suggest it's not easy at all.) We talked about a very interesting piece of software she used to help her write the book. I'll let her tell the story, but I can see a lot of folks using this software in the way she does; it's rather ingenious. So follow the link and not the suggestions of your fifth grade teacher.

01-19-09 : A 2009 Interview with Kirsten Menger-Anderson Part 1: Writing "Reading Grandpa's Head

When you look at a book as complicated, as enjoyable as wonderfully layered as 'Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain' by Kirsten Menger-Anderson, music comes to mind. You're tempted to see the work as a symphony of words, composed from the first word on page one to the last word on page 287 in order, with a score in hand. As you'll hear in the first part of the interview you can download from this link, that's not the case. Forteans will be happy to hear about her interest in Jan Bonderson, whose work she cites as a major influence. But what’s really wonderful about this book is just how much she packs into her linked short stories; great characters, echoing themes, parallel lives, and so much more. This is a book that will suit a wide variety of readers, from the McSweeney's and art-house literary gang to the science-fiction loving readers of this column. And though it has so much in it, it does feel just like the symphony you suspect it is as you read, a beautiful melodic sweep though medical — and human — history.

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