Sponsor Steve Toutonghi's debut novel Join has just come out in paperback. It's the rarest of SF novels: a gripping concept delivered with compelling page-turning intensity. In the world of the novel, many people can join minds to become a single person. We've got the first full chapter on our sponsor's page, so you can see how Toutonghi deftly weaves this high-concept idea into a great story.
The story follows Chance, a person made of many other people, all living seamlessly as a single entity. But one of Chance's nodes is sick, and in learning how to deal with this, Chance has to confront some uncomfortable realities.
Sponsors like Steve Toutonghi make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? Get your stories, or novel, or event in front of our passionate audience. We're booked until May, but have some dates through July open for you to pick the best time. Take a glance at our sponsorship information page for dates and details.
On Wednesday, April 5th at 7 pm, join the Seattle Review of Books and the Seattle Weekly at Third Place Books Seward Park for the latest edition of Reading Through It, our post-Trump book club that examines American issues.
This month, we're discussing What We Do Now: Standing Up for Your Values in Trump's America, a collection of essays published on the occasion of Donald Trump's inauguration. No purchase is necessary to attend the book club, but the book is 20% off right now at Third Place Books Seward Park.
We'll see you on April 5th.
Last week was awfully long for Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) managing director Graham Isaac and ZAPP volunteer operations coordinator Emily Cabaniss. On Monday night, the Seattle Review of Books published the news that Hugo House was donating ZAPP’s extensive collection — tens of thousands of zines collected over almost two decades at their headquarters in the Hugo House — to Seattle Public Library. On Tuesday, ZAPP published a statement saying that “we did not give up the archive, it was taken from us.” On Wednesday, I talked with Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson and SPL spokesperson Andra Addison about the move. By the time they met with me on Thursday afternoon, Isaac and Cabaniss looked pretty tired (“I’m exhausted,” Isaac wrote on Facebook earlier in the week.) But as they huddled over their coffees, Cabaniss and Isaac perked up when they talked about making zines. They’re clearly true believers in the DIY literature community, with a bottomless enthusiasm for self-expression. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
How did you come to be involved with ZAPP?
Graham Isaac: I got involved with ZAPP in 2009 as a volunteer, and then I was communications intern from 2010 through 2011. I stepped away for a few years, just volunteering at occasional events. Then I started getting back involved as a volunteer in 2013, when ZAPP left Hugo House. I was mainly doing things like press releases and whatnot, and then I stepped in as managing director in early 2015.
Emily Cabaniss: I came to ZAPP in December of 2014. First I was doing social media stuff. I have experience doing social media exhibits, so I did Tumblr exhibits for ZAPP.
That kind of morphed into being an extra set of hands for ZAPP. Then in early 2015, when Graham became the managing director, I took on a more active role doing ZAPP's budgets, representing ZAPP to our sponsor Shunpike, and planning meetings, strategies, delegation — a lot of stuff like that.
The way we present literature by default can be really disempowering to readers. It can make them feel like they’re just consumers.
When ZAPP first untethered from Hugo House and it was floating in limbo, what was your vision for it?
GI: At that point I was largely involved as an extra set of hands, but I think for everyone I talked to, and for everyone who has been involved, the dream vision has always been an independent space where ZAPP could run programming, have the entire archive accessible, and grow the archive. The goal since untethering has always been to find a space where ZAPP could be ZAPP, so to speak.
EC: One of ZAPP's main values is radical accessibility. When we talk about the archive we also want to talk about the publishing component, and I think we intended the collection to be not really a special collection whose main priority was preservation, but instead to be this springboard for continued creativity. Be a way to preserve the voices of people who had made zines, but also show people that anyone's voice anyone can make a zine.
It boiled down to “read a zine, make a zine.” The idea was that you could make a zine and put it right in ZAPP. You could shelve it yourself.
This is a super-elementary question, but I actually don't think I've addressed this in my coverage so far, and it's really important for people who are just now hearing about ZAPP: Why are zines still relevant for you in 2017?
GI: There's a lot of reasons. I think for one, just the physical act of making something can be very powerful. Even if you [create] it on a computer but staple it yourself, you have a connection to the work that's really awesome.
I also think that as we're seeing more and more top-down arts organizations suffer and as we're seeing more and more surveillance of the internet and whatnot, the idea of something that is wholly independent is valuable. It doesn't have to go through various processes. This is important. But other things are important too, but this is important.
EC: When I think about zines, I think about the way that we're introduced to the literary tradition in school — the way we are given these books and are told, "these are the great books; you must read them." But there is not really that connection of “how did someone get to write great books? How did someone get their voice?" How does that happen?
The way we present literature by default can be really disempowering to readers. It can make them feel like they're just consumers. Zines to me are a way to short-circuit that process. To give people the power to make and create whatever they want. To make them feel like what they make has value, and to let their voices be heard and read and seen, unfettered by a publishing process.
GI: It's also just really satisfying.
EC: It's fun, yeah.
GI: Once you've made it and it's done and you look at it, it just feels great. Not to necessarily sound all, like, “woohoo!” about it, but just spreading that feeling and making it accessible and low-barrier has been very important.
You've issued your statement. It seems as though the collection is in the hands of, or is about to be in the hands of, Seattle Public Library. I mean, it's physically in their hands, but the custody rights may not officially be there. But it's almost there. It's very confusing.
GI: At this point, all the communication that we've received from Tree and the library indicated that any sort of final signatures were a mere formality. So, we have to operate with the assumption that it is going to the library and that it is a done deal.
It's a really tough time for you and I'm sorry about what happened. You've put a lot of work into this over the years. I want to know if there's anything you wanted to say to the community and the donors who've supported you over the years?
GI: Well, I think first off, just: thank you for that support, and for being there for us, and letting us do our best to be there for you. Also, we wanted to let people know that the way that this transpired was not the way we would have chosen. We recognize that many people who donated zines, time, and energy over the years have done so with the goal of a fully independent and sustainable ZAPP. And that's why we wanted to make sure people knew the details of the transaction.
EC: Yeah, we'd say thank you for your love, and it's been a really great experience to read all the memories that people have of ZAPP on social media — their Facebook comments and their articles. It makes me feel like this is not the end.
I would say to them: zines don't die. ZAPP closes, but you don't stop making zines, you don't stop being this person. So many people have said that ZAPP, and their experience of ZAPP, was this thing that made them the person that they are. I want to say to everyone who had an experience like that: go out and be the person that you are because of ZAPP. That's ZAPP's legacy.
GI: There are so many communities and projects that grew out of ZAPP over the years, and I think those will carry on regardless. I think that larger community is still going to be there, and I think that's excellent.
So, it sounds like we're on the “what's next” portion of the conversation. First I wanted to ask, what do you see your connection to this community being going forward? And then, what in would you, personally, like to do next?
GI: If I can bring back to ZAPP first, for a second: I think the one thing I want to say is I am glad at least, that we can pay it forward a little bit to things, places like Hollow Earth Radio, Short Run Festival, and IPRC. Those are examples of the communities I was talking about.
For myself, I'm going to work on some of my own art now, and try and engage with the community just as a member, as a listener, as a reader, as an artist. I'm not really trying to start any new nonprofits for a little while, you know?
EC: All of this work has been hugely educational for me personally. I'm grateful for that, because I'm a different person — hopefully a better person — now because of it.
I think kind of the same thing. I don't really want to start any nonprofits. I do want to put what I learned at ZAPP to work for other organizations. But I don't know. I think I need a break.
I really didn't have any connection with the community before I started with ZAPP. I'm a librarian, that's my job. And that was the route that I came to zines: someone I knew said, "You're a librarian, you want to talk about zines?"
Now, I know more people in the community, and I want to do more listening and I want to do more learning. We made something, and I want to keep making stuff. And I want to be an advocate for zines to people that I know.
GI: I definitely put some of my own writing and artistic projects on hold during this. I want to get back to some of that. You know, go make a zine.
Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
Olivia Nuzzi published a long and detailed profile of Kellyanne Conway this week. It’s a can’t-look-away article, somewhere between trainwreck and victory march. (Side note: Like a lot of other people, I’m pretty sure I could manage to dislike Conway in person. Her particular brand of fact-bending makes my teeth itch.)
You should read the profile, which is crazy fascinating, but then follow up with this awesomely sardonic essay by Matt Taibbi on how neatly we’ve been suckered into co-creating, with Trump, a “WWE future where government is a for-profit television program.” Ahem.
Trump leans over and pauses to soak in the love, his trademark red tie hanging like the tongue of a sled dog. Finally he turns and flashes a triumphant thumbs-up. A chant breaks out:
"U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Reporters stare at one another in shock. They were mute bystanders seconds ago; now they're the 1980 Soviet hockey team. One turns to a colleague and silently mouths: "U-S-A? What the f ... "
A friendship forged in the kitchen — superstar chef Mario Batali on eating and cooking with superstar writer Jim Harrison. Would love to have been at a quiet corner table to observe these giants at dinner.
We once shared a slightly overlong supper at the Michelin three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park, in New York, where he fidgeted through most of the complex meal, announcing early on in his loud baritone to the entire dining room, “Maaaario, you know I am much more of a trattoria kind of guy,” and finally sending his chicken back to the kitchen, because the chef had somehow denied him “THE FUCKING LEGS . . . where are THE FUCKING LEGS . . . ?”
Game designer/developer Ed Fries went searching for the ultimate Easter egg: an inside joke hidden so deeply in a vintage game that even its creator had forgotten how to trigger it. Fries scoured code, jury-built an emulator, and rebuilt a classic arcade machine to find it. (via Ars Technica)
I was kind of stunned. If this was true it would certainly predate the earliest video game Easter egg that I knew of and the one that is most often cited as being the first: “Adventure” for the Atari 2600 from 1979. I did a little searching online and found that there was an even earlier Easter egg in the game “Video Whizball” which was released in 1978 for the Fairchild Channel F game console.
But there was a problem. Ron didn’t remember exactly how to bring up the Easter egg. He remembered showing it off to some buddies at a county fair when the game first came out, but that was 40 years ago!
Malware is sort of like an Easter egg — if you cracked open the pastel treat and found a rotting yolk that emptied your bank account electronically. Or, in this case, helped tilt an election and change the shape of a country.
Garrett Graff traces the hunt for Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, or “Slavik,” the malware artist who designed the “the Microsoft Office of online fraud.” Great story of a breathtaking cat-and-mouse battle between Slavik and the investigators that tracked the elusive hacker from petty online theft to potentially influencing the US presidential outcome.
[Tillman] Werner, as it happened, knew quite a bit about Evgeniy Bogachev. He knew in precise, technical detail how Bogachev had managed to loot and terrorize the world’s financial systems with impunity for years. He knew what it was like to do battle with him.
But Werner had no idea what role Bogachev might have played in the US election hack. Bogachev wasn’t like the other targets—he was a bank robber. Maybe the most prolific bank robber in the world.
Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.
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Oh, those blinking sentinels. I guess I could have written this about the towers on top of Queen Anne, but there's something about the way these three sisters are clustered together atop Capitol Hill, just off Madison, straddling 17th, two on the West, one to the East.
The three towers belong to: Q13 (or rather, it's parent company Tribune Broadcasting), KCTS, and a company called American Tower that specializes in radio and communication towers. They are, all three, about 410 feet tall, and the ground they sit on is some 560 feet above sea level, so next time you walk all the way up Madison from downtown, you can make sure your Fitbit is counting those stair flights correctly.
There's something so evocative about towers. One time, I drove across the University Bridge, southbound, on a nice Fall morning. I failed to look up at the electrical towers that stand next to the bridge, impossibly tall, because traffic was bad enough, or I was focused enough on my destination.
What I missed by looking up was a trans woman named Ara Tripp who had climbed one of those towers to the top, stripped topless, and spit fire into the morning air as a way to protest the fact that men could walk around topless but women couldn't.
Sadder stories have happened on these towers — suicides and accidents, but a tower always gives a promise. A promise of being able to climb and gain a vista, of a blinking light that might extinguish and cause a plane to immediately impale itself, of surging watts of transmission power, sending media wirelessly to radios and televisions that can receive it.
In Seattle, we have so many of these tall towers because our electronic transmissions need to penetrate the valleys and hills, to get signal to the highest amount of people. As anybody living on the base of Queen Anne or Capitol Hills knows, the landscape throws a shadow of ill reception to those at the bottom who must rely on cable or suffer with poor picture.
But let's think of these a bit more magically, yes? For today's prompts, lets try to unlock something bigger and more fantastical.
The pattern was unmistakable. The Earth people, with these three towers, were clearly signaling. It took a year of their time for the full cycle to emerge, and at first it seemed almost random. But after parking a ship disguised as one of the primitive Earth satellites to observe, they were quite sure there was no way this could be accidental. So now, finally, they were ready to deliver exactly what the Earth people had so clearly asked for, exactly as they asked for it. They only hoped Earth people truly understood their ask.
It was on. The course was to circle each tower on Queen Anne, then over to Capitol Hill to circle all three, and back to land on the roof deck in Lake Union before anybody could track where the bladedrones were coming from. Fastest racer took the pot, and with twenty entrants, the pot was pretty damn big. It wasn't technically illegal to do this, but only because these specific types of drones hadn't been outlawed yet. They were pushing them to the limits of their range, but surely, nothing would go wrong, would it?
The big house under the towers was always dark. She had blotted out the windows. She had stapled chicken wire to every surface, and grounded it to a pole she dug through the concrete foundation and earthed to pull the signals out of the air. But still, the signals came. She couldn't leave the house, not that she hadn't tried. And she couldn't blot out the signals. It wasn't until she started meditating, being still, and letting the painful signals course her body that she finally understood what they were trying to tell her.
And so through the destroyed city the couple went, down to their last few cans of food. Watching for the rauben, the cloth wrapped reapers. It was the towers you wanted, so the friendlies had said. The towers had platforms built between them, and on those platforms were the traders. And if the traders liked you, and gave you work, you could live a decent life. Sometimes, they said, the towers vibrated like they were still full of signal. Sometimes, they said, it almost seemed like before the fall had begun.
The blinking lights had always been so comforting to him. He'd hunker down, right up to the cold window in his little closet room, the chair under the door so maybe they couldn't come in. They'd be fighting in the other room, throwing words and smashing things, yelling and blaming and cursing, all drunk and high and whatever, and he would just watch the red light turn on, and off, and on, and off. How could anything be so steady in such an uncertain world? So it went until the one night that was more horrible than all the last, and he found himself floating up to those lights, sitting on top of one, the flashing beam painting his little legs. He had to be dead, right? He had to be a ghost. And now he had a ghost job, up there, to sit on the tower and make sure the world was okay. To stop the world from making more ghosts like him. Maybe he could save every child.
Conservative sci-fi troll Theodore Beale, who seemed dumb a few years ago when he tried to game the Hugo Awards but now appears to have been a tiny droplet in the imbecilic wave of white male entitlement currently cresting in the culture, is back at it. Beale is currently trolling sci-fi superstar John Scalzi by publishing a book with a very similar title and cover to Scalzi's new novel, The Collapsing Empire. Scalzi, as i09's Beth Elderkin notes, is a bestselling author and one of the best-known sci-fi authors in the business. Beale is a jealous little mealworm who has finally resorted to publishing literary mockbusters.
I guess it's true what they say about obsession; it will eat you up from the inside until there's nothing left of you.
Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to email@example.com.
Not so long ago, I went to a reading. It was an author who, back in his prime, used to be a bestseller. I still think of him as a big name. Unfortunately, only three people showed up for the reading. Including me.
He was visibly crestfallen when he went onstage to the loudest applause we could muster, and the Q&A session was brutal. It was so awkward that I haven’t been back to a reading since. Was there any way to defuse the situation, do you think? I just felt so bad for the guy.
You experienced someone else's public humiliation. Author readings are often death by a thousand public humiliations, followed by short Q&A. This isn't a bad thing. I would argue that you shouldn't have done anything to defuse the situation and really, there's nothing you could have done.
Several years ago, a man I was pretty smitten with dedicated a song to me on his local radio show. I don't remember the song – it didn't matter – what mattered was he knew I was listening and he did something that no man had ever done for me before: he gave me a public declaration of affection.
When our odd relationship was on its deathbed and I was locked in a losing battle with myself to prove he had cared about me once, I brought it up to him, this moment that I had cherished for over a year. His response was this: "I never dedicated a song to you, I would never dedicate a song to you, that's psychotic."
Before that moment I did not know you could be physically petrified by humiliation. A friend of mine witnessed that moment – when someone broke off a piece of my heart and chucked it into the trash, and then took a shit on top and lit the whole mess on fire – and her response was this: "Damn, that's raw. Nothing will fix this, in fact alcohol might make it worse, but that's about all I can offer, aside from an alibi if his house gets torched for some reason."
My point is this: the popularity of social media and memoir-writing has left us with a pretty stark dichotomy: people who overshare the highlights of their lives and people who overshare their own bottoming out. Either way, the scenes and emotions are curated for an audience. Much less common is what you witnessed – that raw moment when our carefully curated realities are dickslapped by actual reality and we wish to Jesus Prom King Christ that whatever vengeful god had led us here would just finish the job and swallow us whole.
We need those moments to flex our emotions and remind us that life always what we make it, it isn't good or fair or controllable. The best thing you can be in these instances is an empathetic witness and offer alcohol if the situation calls for it.
This morning, Capitol Hill Seattle's Kaylee Osowski reported that the Elliott Bay Book Company's building has found a buyer. According to present Elliott Bay landlord Hunters Capital, the new landlord wants to keep the bookstore as a tenant. They have not yet revealed the identity of the prospective owner, but they call them "local" and "family-owned."
We have every reason to believe those claims: Elliott Bay has a long-term lease for the space, and Hunters Capital specifically sought them out as tenants back when the store was based in Pioneer Square. In a time when no Seattle landmarks are safe from development, Osowski's report leaves me cautiously optimistic.
Friday March 24th: The Idiot Reading
New Yorker writer Elif Batuman has only one other book to her name: a non-fiction account of people who are obsessed with Russian novelists. But her debut novel, The Idiot—about a Harvard freshman in the mid-1990s who falls in with some questionable Eastern European types—is earning praise from all quarters.
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Every month, Daneet Steffens uncovers the latest goings on in mystery, suspense, and crime fiction. See previous columns on the Criminal Fiction archive page
Mark your calendars: Seattle’s free, seasonal Noir at the Bar returns for its Spring edition on April 13. Come for the crime fiction readings, stay for the food, cocktails, and classic ambience!
It’s all hands on deck for Ali Reynolds and her High Noon Enterprises cyber-security crew when one Roger McGreary, a childhood friend of Reynold’s colleague Stuart Ramsey, plunges to his death during a cruise. The cyber force is strong in J.A. Jance’s Man Overboard (Touchstone): less of a whodunit or whydunnit — those are relatively early revelations – the entertaining mystery speeds along, helter-skelter, as multiple forensic online investigations proceed. The killer app in this particular tale? A non-human entity rapidly developing its sentient side. Join JA Jance at multiple area events.
In Say Nothing by Brad Parks (Dutton), Federal Judge Scott Sampson and his wife Alison have been put on serious warning: the novel opens to the dire news that their twins, Sam and Emma, have been kidnapped. To surmise that the judge will do whatever he’s directed by the kidnappers is an understatement — but first he has to figure out which of his cases has caught someone’s criminal eye. In what is a palpably tension-wracked situation, nearly everyone around Scott and Alison falls under their frenzied suspicious — they even eyeball each other. Parks ratchets up and maintains the suspense at a relentless level, so don’t start this one at bedtime.
There are some downright bizarre shenanigans afoot in A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas, translated from the French by Siân Reynolds (Penguin). From a demon being ruling the roost of a tiny and remote Icelandic island, to the Paris-based Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre — whose members dedicate themselves to re-enacting assemblies from the heady days of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror — Commissaire Adamsberg has his hands more than full in this police procedural. Part of the pleasure, as always, is reveling in the Adamsberg’s relationship with his crime-fighting colleagues, their eclectic foibles and respect for each other, but the superb cast of colorful non-regulars in Fear, give this latest mystery from the award-winning Vargas distinctly added heft.
Tannie Maria, blissed out by a new romantic relationship, is also suffering from terrifying flashbacks from an abusive one in The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrew (Ecco). The death of a land activist kicks off the other plotline in this South African-based cozy crime novel that, at times, feels like it’s been tucked into a recipe book (p.s., the recipes all sound delicious). Even though the mystery bit gets a tad lost in the descriptions of the surrounding trees, birds and wildlife, this friendly novel is something to savor nevertheless, especially in its assertion that there’s not much in life that the love of a little lamb, stalwart friendships, intimate relationships and several slices of the tantalizingly-titled Venus Cake can’t cure. And, for those who like to live a bit more on the edge, Andrew offers up the most beset-upon therapy group since Rachel Samstat’s in Nora Ephron’s Heartburn.
Chevy Stevens has been writing seriously chilling thrillers since 2010’s harrowing Still Missing, and Never Let You Go, her sixth novel, is no exception, delving deep into the sometimes deadly obsessions that lurk in the most intimate of relationships. If there is a nerve-jangling counterpart of the oft-touted proverbial funny-bone, Stevens's aim, in that regard, is unswaveringly true.
Stevens who grew up in Shawnigan Lake, still lives on Vancouver Island, in the city of Nanaimo. Watch her locally: Friday March 24 with Ingrid Thoft at Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum; Saturday March 25, at the Kitsap Regional Library; or Sunday March 26, at Bellingham’s Village Books.
What or who are your top five writing inspirations?
Usually it’s my own fears or personal experiences that drive the themes of my writing.
In terms of an overall career, Stephen King has always been a strong inspiration; I connected with his work when I was very young.
My author friends and family keep me going on the tough days.
My editor is brilliant, very encouraging, and also a wife and a mother. I have learned an incredible amount from her.
When I watch something well-written on TV, or read a wonderful book, it sets off a surge of creative excitement in me.
Top five places to write?
This has changed depending on my daughter’s age and current needs. Right now, my main spot is my local coffee shop in my town, where I have become enough of a fixture that I now earn head nods from the group of older men who meet there every day for their coffee and chats.
When not at the coffee shop, I write at home in my office, which was decorated this year, or downstairs at the kitchen table, looking out at the walnut trees in our backyard.
In a pinch, I have taken my laptop out to our travel trailer, and hidden there from the dogs and family.
I’ve written in a lot of hotels over the years and my most favorite is the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. If you’re going to be writing while on tour, you might as well be looking out at sun and palm trees.
Top five favorite authors?
So hard! I admire and respect many authors, but the ones that first spring to mind are Stephen King, for the reasons I mention above. Also Ed McBain: his characters were always gritty and real. I adored the 87th Precinct novels and read them all. Bryce Courtenay’s book Power of One had an enormous impact on me. Right now I am really enjoying Sarah Turner, who wrote the Unmumsy Mum. She’s very brave in her writing, and relatable. For fantasy, I’m a big Holly Black fan. In particular, her Darkest Part of the Forest was a stand out for me.
Top five tunes to write to?
For some reason, I can only listen to music when I am writing at the coffee shop, but sometimes I will listen to a certain song before I start writing a scene, to get me in the right headspace. Ed Sheeran is lovely, and I also enjoy Passenger – the melodies are relaxing and don’t break my focus. When I want something a little grittier, I play Chris Stapleton or Eric Church. I’ve recently become interested in Lana Del Rey. Her soulful voice and themes of love fit with my current project.
Top five hometown spots?
There is a famous train trestle near the ranch where I grew up. I used to swim in the river far below, or sit on the trestle and think about life.
One of my other favorite swimming spots is farther down the river, where there used to be a provincial campground. I used it as my imaginary commune location for one of my books.
On my mom’s property there is a trail to a lookout and I used to walk there often when I was sad. There is something about heights that puts problems in perspective.
The two local corner stores still bring back lots of memories of being a kid growing up in Shawnigan Lake, going for ice-cream on a hot summer day, then hanging out at the beach with my friends. Bits and pieces of these areas have made their way into all of my books.
The party may be ending this year with a send-off event, but it leaves having made its mark on the local literary scene. “APRIL took readings out of bookstores and into bars, onto the street,” says Paul Constant of The Seattle Review of Books, who started noticing younger crowds at readings after 2012.
Blogging service Medium announced yesterday that they're going to start selling memberships for $5 per month. A whole lot of blogs that we like, including The Awl and Electric Literature, moved over to Medium last year. Then, Medium laid off a bunch of employees. Hopefully, they'll figure this out, because there aren't very many blogging options available to people anymore. I remain skeptical that a subscription, which offers "exclusive stories" and an "offline reading list," is going to be lucrative enough to support the company, but I wish them luck.
The latest issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice features an article titled "A Comparison of Traditional Book Reviews and Amazon.com Book Reviews of Fiction Using a Content Analysis Approach.” The idea is to determine whether traditional book reviews or Amazon reviews are more helpful for librarians. Here's the conclusion from the abstract:
Although Amazon.com provides multiple reviews of a book on one convenient site, traditional sources of professionally written reviews would most likely save librarians more time in making purchasing decisions, given the higher quality of the review assessment.
Michael DeForge’s new book Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero begins with all the elements of a classic comic strip. You’ve got the flawed main character, Sticks Angelica, a know-it-all chatterbox who, feeling underappreciated by society, moves to the wilderness to be alone. She fancies herself a survivalist: “I run twenty kilometres every morning. On days I don’t bathe, I rub flowers on my armpits.” And she claims to live the life of a folk hero, wrestling bears when she’s bored and devising homeopathic cures for hangnails.
And then there’s the supporting cast: you’ve got assorted talking animals to keep her company, including a rabbit named Oatmeal who harbors a massive unrequited crush on Sticks. (“How I long to nibble on her earlobe; to eat a carrot out of her hands; to have her carry me into a shared room, which we decorated together.”) Her social circle includes a moose named Lisa Hanawalt who is not to be confused — or, hell, probably she is to be confused — with the cartoonist of the same name. In the background, you’ve got a chorus of simple-minded geese who run around haranguing each other. (“…But we’re geese. Not — not coyotes. Geese are supposed to be Canada’s most trustworthy creatures,” one scolds the other when they accidentally murder a fish. The other replies, “That’s just propaganda from the goose lobby.”)
It even looks like a comic strip collection: Sticks Angelica is laid out in a series of single-page gags, many of which made up of eight panels. For a while, the last panel on every page has a punchline centered around the characters, like, say, Garfield or Dilbert. And unlike those two comics, Sticks Angelica is actually funny.
But then Sticks Angelica starts to deconstruct itself. Sticks violently assaults a nosy reporter, buries him neck-deep in the ground, and leaves him there. That reporter’s name? Michael DeForge. Things get more and more surreal — beyond even the everyday comic-strip surreality of a world with talking animals. A few pages feature recipes for impossible foods like “Classic Monterey Kebab,” which includes a fish scale, a twig, and a precious flower skewered on a stick and heated over flame. We learn about the mating rituals of shape-shifting birds. Visually, DeForge creates whole panels made out of abstract shapes, with non-narrative captions laid over the top. Some of the pages are just tone poems.
Everybody in the book suffers. Sticks Angelica is eaten by bugs: “I’m covered in bites, rashes, sores… even if I wanted to come back to the city, I’m marked.” Michael DeForge is eventually dug up from his hole in the ground, but his body has atrophied to the point where it’s as thin and light as paper, so he floats around like a ghost, haunting the forest animals. A goose is killed by smoke inhalation after it swallows a worm whole and the worm builds a cabin in its gut, which then burns down in a fire.
It’s true that thanks to the deterioration of comics pages in recent years, even strips as banal as Mark Trail have become weirder and more disjointed, but Sticks Angelica is something else again. It’s a newspaper comic strip that has been visited by several Biblical plagues and survived them all out of sheer spite. Everything about the book, from the art to the characters to the plot, is designed to confound its readers’ expectations. It builds comedy out of heartbreak and spins tragedy out of gag strips. Just when you thought you’d seen everything that could be done with eight boxes, a cast of talking animals, and a punchline, along comes a book like Sticks Angelica to remind you that the form can be endlessly refreshed.
See our Event of the Week column for more details. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8005, http://chopsuey.com. Free. 21+. 7 p.m.
UPDATE 3:39 PM: We received word that at the last minute, this edition of Lit Fix has been canceled. Apologies to all.
ORIGINAL POST 9:59 AM: When Mia Lipman moved to Seattle from San Francisco in 2011, she was delighted to find that our city had an “active, supportive literary scene.” But no matter how hard she looked, she couldn’t find her favorite kind of reading: the dive bar cabaret, combining readings with stand-up comedy and musical performances. Back in San Francisco, she says, “it was par for the course to invite bands or comics to perform between authors.” Her search for divey variety shows came up empty. “So I decided to start one myself,” Lipman says.
The boneyard of expired Seattle readings series is vast. In that graveyard, the long-running shows with devoted followings (from the Red Sky Poetry Theatre to Breadline to the recently departed — and perhaps not entirely deceased — Cheap Wine and Poetry series) are hugely outnumbered by an anonymous collection of long-forgotten attempts to get something started. A successful reading series is a community unto itself: people feel safe there, eager to return, and enthusiastic about relaxing and letting their guard down in public.
This week at Chop Suey, on Wednesday at 7 pm, the series that Lipman started, Lit Fix, celebrates its fourth anniversary — a milestone that something like 95 percent of most fledgling reading series never manage to reach. Readers include Brian McGuigan, Robert Lashley, novelist Laurie Frankel, Quenton Baker, and Kathleen Alcalá, and the $5 door charge benefits ReWA, a nonprofit that benefits the families of immigrant and refugee women with culturally sensitive assistance.
Lipman says Lit Fix’s goal as a series has always been simple. She looks for writers of all kinds — “established and new authors, poets and essayists and novelists, women and people of color and queer and traditional voices” — and asks them to share their work. “There’s never a topical theme, but I think the best nights have been when everyone onstage and in the audience winds up on the same page,” she says. A particular high point was a reading in winter of 2013, when writers Harold Taw, Corinne Manning, Indu Sundaresan, and Jason Kirk delivered “stories about transition and discovery, dirty haiku, [and] ugly Christmas sweaters” to a standing-room only crowd.
What would Lipman tell someone asking her for advice on starting a series of their own? First, she says, attend “as many readings as possible first to get a sense of what’s already out there and what kind of niche you can fill.” And then, once you know what you’re trying to do, “never be afraid to ask your dream author to read for your series! Writers (and musicians) are amazingly generous with their time and energy, and they’re often looking for new ways to connect with each other.”
To people who’s never attended Lit Fix, Lipman acknowledges that it’s “easy to retreat in winter, and that solitude has value. But being part of a community means you need to leave the house now and then to meet people where they are.” Once you exercise the effort to leave the house, “nothing feels better than cozying up with like-minded people in a relaxed space to hear someone brave open up their head and show you what’s inside.” Stop being a recluse and go see why Lit Fix has survived for four astounding years. “I promise it’ll keep you warm,” Lipman says.
Tree Swenson, the executive director at Hugo House, wants to make it clear that the Zine Archive and Publishing Project library was not sold to the Seattle Public Library. She notes that ZAPP managing director Graham Isaac amended ZAPP’s original statement to reflect that fact. Not only that, Swenson adds, but “we haven’t signed anything with the library. There’s nothing that has been signed.”
Stepping back a bit: ZAPP was founded 21 years ago in the Hugo House’s basement. The zine library and community meeting house for independent media-makers moved upstairs into a drier space — the Hugo House basement was prone to flooding — but for years it was a central focus of the House’s mission. In 2013, Swenson decided to reclaim the ZAPP space for classrooms. At the time, I wrote that “Swenson didn't set a deadline for ZAPP's departure, just urged the committee to start the conversation about what ZAPP's future would look like.”
But the deadline came and went, and Seattle Public Library took the ZAPP collection — something between 20,000 and 30,000 zines, minicomics, and assorted publications — into climate-controlled storage. Swenson says the library “not only provided free storage, but when they had to close the storage facility where they’ve been keeping it, they paid to move it to another facility.”
That’s where things have stood. ZAPP’s collection, which is still technically a Hugo House asset, has been under SPL’s care, and ZAPP (the organization) has done outreach and fundraising, in the hopes of getting a home together. Swenson says ZAPP, Hugo House, and SPL met in January of this year, “and at the time we were all kind of on the same page,” she tells me. Swenson says everyone agreed that “if the library can house [the collection] so it’s not only warm and dry but climate-controlled, if there can be some ongoing program that ZAPP volunteers would provide, that would be the best outcome. It’s too valuable to take risks with.”
As she answers questions on the phone, Swenson digs through the contracts signed by ZAPP and Hugo House in March of 2014 when the collection moved out of the House. “At the time, we said we intend to give this collection to ZAPP when they can demonstrate they have somewhere that the collection can be housed,” Swenson explains.
When she first tells me about the arrangement, Swenson says she thinks it was set to last for two years. When she actually finds the dates on the paperwork, she sees that the agreement for the collection was only supposed to be for one year. She reads from the document: “If the effective date does not occur on or before one year after the date at the top of the agreement…each one will have a right to rescind the agreement.”
So three years later, and two years after the scheduled end of the contract between Hugo House and ZAPP, everyone is trying to figure things out. “I have been hoping that ZAPP would be able to become a robust organization,” Swenson tells me. “I know how hard that is. How many years did it take to get Copper Canyon [the nonprofit poetry press Swenson co-founded] to the point where I was able to afford running water?”
So what inspired ZAPP’s statement about the state of the collection? Early in March, SPL expressed an interest in accessing the archives, in order to assess exactly what they’ve been housing for the past three years. Isaac reached out to Swenson several times about SPL’s wishes, but Swenson admits that she didn’t get back to Isaac, noting that Hugo House is in the process of a complex multi-year move into a new home in its old location. “I’m in the middle of trying to keep Hugo House safe and sound so I haven’t been able to get back to Graham,” she tells me, but “I just want to stress that I have nothing but the most appreciation for Graham, and for all the volunteers who’ve done great work over years.”
For her part Andra Addison, the director and public disclosure officer at Seattle Public Library, has less to say. In a brief email, Addison says SPL and Hugo House “are in the final stages of an agreement to transfer the Zine Archive Publishing Project (ZAPP) to the Library. Part of the work to finalize this transfer involves an assessment of the collection itself that will help inform the future of the collection and how it will be available to the public, researchers, and new zine authors.”
Just got an email from the Zine Archive and Publishing Project's Managing Director, Graham Isaac regarding ZAPP's closure. It's billed as an "Official PR statement." We're reprinting the statement in its entirety, using their bolds. There has been one update to the statement, which I detail below in an update on this post.
Effective immediately Seattle Public Library will be taking over storage, programming, and access to ZAPP's collection of over 30,000 zines. The collection was donated by the Richard Hugo House to SPL without ZAPP's knowledge or consent, taking advantage of an veto-option expiration clause in a contract with ZAPP. Said contract stated that RHH maintained formal ownership of the collection until such a time as ZAPP found a permanent home for it. As such, in the years since leaving RHH, the entirely volunteer-run crew at ZAPP have been searching for a space that could safely and permanently house the growing archive, all while fundraising, consulting with experts in non-profit growth, and maintaining a presence in the community through tabling, programming and releasing compilation zines. We were not given a deadline or any indication that this deal was in the works; there was a good-faith agreement that RHH would support ZAPP in its efforts. ZAPP as an organization will close, and the funds we have raised to date will be donated to Short Run Festival, Hollow Earth Radio, and the IPRC in Portland.
So what does this mean? On the upside, the Zines will be safe, and eventually available to the public and browsable once again. We here at ZAPP have held this as our goal since RHH decided to use the former ZAPP space for a classroom, and it is good to know the zines will be safe and accessible. SPL has begun assessment of the collection and will be deciding the exact wheres and hows of making the zines publicly available as this process goes on. We are cautiously optimistic that SPL will do this incredible collection justice.
However, ZAPP has always operated with a goal of complete independence, and many of the volunteers, donors, and supporters over the years have helped out with a fully independent ZAPP in mind. It is not unreasonable to think that had knowledge of this sale been available beforehand, many folks would have kept their money. For years we were working methodically to find a space that was big enough, safe enough and would give the archive room to grow. In 2015 we had a record fundraising year and we continued to build and structure the organization so it could be sustainable for years into the future. That said, as an official organization, it no longer makes sense for us to continue without access to the zines. We trust that the larger community and communities that met, started, or grew out of ZAPP will continue to thrive in various iterations for years to come.
We do not plan to make this a legal fight, as once again, the zines are safe. But given all the hard work put into ZAPP over the years, as well as all the support and donations we've received, it is important that we make it clear: we did not give up the archive, it was taken from us.
Both I, personally, and ZAPP collectively want to thank everyone who donated zines, time, money, energy, or just stopped by to say hi over the last twenty-odd years.
I have emails out to Hugo House and Seattle Public Library. I'll let you know when they respond.
UPDATE 2:20 pm: Isaac amended the original post to clarify that the collection was not, to his knowledge, sold by the Hugo House to Seattle Public Library. He changed the word "sold" to "donated." The original text read, "The collection was sold by the Richard Hugo House to SPL without ZAPP's knowledge or consent, taking advantage of an veto-option expiration clause in a contract with ZAPP." Nothing else has been changed.
Judge Neil Gorsuch, in his Supreme Court nomination hearings today, quoted David Foster Wallace's most famous commencement speech to explain the ubiquity of law. (It's kind of a dumb and basic interpretation of the speech, if you ask me, but whatever.) Justice Antonin Scalia was also a DFW fan. What's the connection between conservative judges and the work of David Foster Wallace? It must the tennis, right? Yeah, it's gotta be the tennis.
UPDATE: Oh my God. Is nothing sacred?
Cruz asks Gorsuch what's the meaning of life. "42," Gorsuch replies, an apparent reference to "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) March 21, 2017