Exit Interview: Talking with Kate Lebo about why she left Seattle for Spokane

For many years if you attended a reading in Seattle, you'd have a pretty good chance of running into Kate Lebo there. The author of Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter and A Commonplace Book of Pie, Lebo is a poet and an essayist who's read on pretty much every stage in Seattle. But unlike a lot of writers who only show up when they're on the bill, she's always been a full participant in Seattle's literary scene, too. She goes to readings as an audience member and participates happily in group readings and festivals and the daily writing life of the city; all of which is a long way around saying that she always seemed like a lifer. So I was shocked when I heard that she'd moved out of town. Lebo was kind enough to agree to a conversation about why she left.

Where are you now? What are you doing?

I live in Spokane, Washington, but I moved there about six months ago. Before that, I was living in Vancouver Washington for two years. I did this kind of French exit from Seattle when my rent went up like crazy in the middle of a book project. I set up house in my parents house — actually my childhood bedroom — and set up a bunch of house gigs and tours and did things to try to only be home about half the time.

Now that I have my own great adult home in Spokane, I’m still touring about half the time. I’ve been trying to balance freelance work — teaching creative writing and writing things and teaching pie and doing events for the two cookbooks — that translate to paying my rent and getting to be free. I decided not to go the academic route and I decided not to go the Amazon route, but it’s left me vulnerable to the vicissitudes of a freelance life, which I’m sure you know is feast or famine. And Seattle became a place for me where the famines became too deep and the rents and the cost of living were too high for me to live there.

I didn’t want to go, because [Seattle is] where I came of age, and I’ve got such deep personal and professional and artistic ties there. I’m trying to keep them by appearing like I didn’t leave, like not telling people where, exactly, I am at any given time and just being in town a lot.

Why did you choose Spokane?

I fell in love and he works for Eastern [Washington University]. So it was a good choice for my personal life. And when I was looking at Spokane, I realized I can get a really cute apartment for exactly half what my rent was in Ballard, which is the last place I lived in Seattle. The cost of living is cheap. It feels a lot like Bellingham to me; I went to college in Bellingham, which is why I’m making that comparison.

People value the arts in Spokane, and they’re super-hungry for more, but they don’t get as many touring acts coming through as they do in Seattle. There’s not as much money here. There’s not nearly as much money as there is in Seattle and Portland. So that means it’s easy to live, in that I can be a freelancer, I can be an artist, and I can live like a real adult. It’s also a more emergent place where there’s less money being passed around for the creative things that you’re doing, and I think there’s a little more work to do in educating people that it’s valuable to spend your money on really good food, that it’s valuable to spend your money on art.

What I’m discovering is that because there’s less money there’s a lot of hunger and a lot of openness. It’s the kind of place where you can say “I want to do this thing,” and then you can go do it and then everyone shows up and they’re really excited that you’re there. It’s really cool how easy it is to make something happen.

What’s also funny to me was when I told people in Seattle I was going to Spokane, the responses were kind of formulaic: "why would you go there? I’ve been there and there’s nothing there." Most of the people who told me that hadn’t been there in ten years.

And then the other thing people said was, “maybe you can go start an art scene there.” Which was hilarious because they had this kind of pioneering attitude, assuming there’s nothing there already. There’s been a thriving art scene [in Spokane] for a while. Jess Walter’s there. There’s tons of writers: Kris Dinnison, Sharma Shields, Tod Marshall, Sam Ligon (my partner). There are three universities. WSU is building a medical school there.

It’s funny to me that it is a place that west-siders assume is backward and rural and small. It’s bigger than Tacoma, it’s educated. There’s a certain kind of east-west polarity that’s like US vs. Canada or Australia vs. New Zealand. The big dog has to have an underdog to reinforce their image of themselves, and what that creates is an ignorant assumption about a place that is actually pretty cool.

How would you describe Seattle’s literary culture?

I knew you were going to ask that question, and I don’t have a good quick answer. I moved to Seattle when I was 22 years old from Bellingham, and I knew that if I went to Hugo House, I would find my people. I’d find a place that would not only give me an education, but it would give me a community and an identity. I wanted that, I needed that, and I found that. That is a resource that is rare among cities. I owe a lot to it.

And what I saw over my decade in the city was a lot of different ways to participate — people feeling like outsiders and finding a way to create their own way to participate. I saw a lot of different people say, ”the place where I would be most excited to be a writer is missing, so I’m going to go make it.”

When you get to a smaller town, there’s a weekend where everything is happening and then there’s three weeks where nothing is happening, whereas there’s always something happening in Seattle. And I actually got to a place where I needed to hide from all the brilliant things going on [in Seattle] so I could do my work and be well and not suffer from burnouts constantly. So in some ways it’s been incredibly great to leave and be able to return on my own terms, in my car, for pleasure and business.

I think in Seattle when it doesn’t feel like there’s room for you, people elbow in and make room, and I like that and I admire it. I think there’s a competitive feeling and it’s used by a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.

Have you done that in Spokane? Did you try the Seattle approach and how was it received, if so?

I’ve been wary about trying a Seattle approach, which I would interpret to be showing up and saying, “hey I know all these cool writers you’ve never heard of so let me bring them in from the west side.” I’ve really been careful about not being a jerk like that. I hope.

It’s easier for me to imagine taking risks with business, with artistic ventures, in Spokane than it was in Seattle. I find that when I’m in a competitive environment I prefer to absorb and participate but not to lead. In Spokane, there’s more room in a way that for me personally feels open to leading and creating.

For example, I’m now teaming up with a sommelier and restaurant owner and a beloved bartender in Spokane to do a series of dinners with artists in unlikely locations around the inland Northwest. We’re going to have Alexandra Teague at our first one. It’s going to be awesome. And I wouldn’t imagine doing that in Seattle; not because I couldn’t — there’s brilliant cooks everywhere and there’s brilliant writers everywhere —but just because there’s already so much happening that it didn’t seem like whatever I would come up with in that way was really needed.

Did you feel supported in Seattle?

There’s two versions of that answer. One is unequivocally, deeply, yes. I loved working at Hugo House and finding a helping role that also educated me, about what it was to be in an artistic community, all the different ways to be an artist. One of the reasons I didn’t pursue an academic career was after Hugo House, it was just clear to me that there are so many ways to do it. It made it clear that I could go teach pie classes and do that instead of trying to go get a fancy fellowship.

A woman I knew through Hugo House who works for Amazon very kindly tried to recruit me when I graduated from UW. I didn’t take that job because it seemed to be cross-purposes to writing books, which I what I wanted to do. Saying no is a privilege, but it also leaves me vulnerable to the people who say yes. That’s the person who was able to rent my apartment when the rent went up by 50 percent six months later. I think about that choice. It was the right choice.

I don’t know if it’s the right word, but I felt disenfranchised — living in a city for that long and looking around and just knowing that I’m never going to own a piece of this place. With what I want to do, I will always be borrowing space, and that makes me vulnerable. Even though I participated in the cultural life of the city, and contributed for years, what I needed to succeed was participation in the financial life.

And so in that way, no. Not supportive. I don’t have a good answer for what the city is supposed to do about that. I was just reading an article in the New York Times about the Seattle Art Fair and how it happened and one of the reasons it happened is because the city is getting richer faster than anywhere else in the country.

It’s not your particular value as a person that’s going to bring you success, it’s the amount of resources that are available. I’m taking this course on the history of food right now and what you see over and over is that a population explodes and a people become complex not because they’re such a good people but because they’re geographically in a place that gives them more resources that allow them to grow. Seattle’s dealing with an embarrassment of riches.

Where are we going to live, so that we can make art in the city and have lives that are reasonable, that we have reasonable expectations for our lives, have some comfort? Can we make the choice to be artists and not live in abject poverty? I know being an artist isn’t going to be as comfortable as working at Amazon, but for me it was such a clear thing.

I chose to be an artist, I had to leave the city. There’s not a reasonable way for me to make a living and pay my way in Seattle. I needed to go to a smaller place.

[Before I left,] I was approached by the affordable housing association in Seattle and they had some options, but they not reasonable for me. They were still fifty percent more than what I’d been paying. I’m frustrated with the idea that artist housing is going to solve the problem of livable places for artists to live. It’s just another thing for us to compete for. A different person would respond differently to that, and elbow to the front of the line, but my response is just to leave.

Would you recommend Seattle to another writer? Say a young writer from Spokane approached you and told you they were thinking about moving to Seattle. What would you say?

Oh, yeah. You should leave wherever you’re from, for a little while, anyway.

Part of my decision is that I’m in my early thirties and I want to live my life differently than I did in my twenties. I’m not as good at living poor and living hard as I used to be.

I would also give people the advice to look to unlikely places in Washington and Oregon for really cool artistic communities that you wouldn’t expect to be there. I’ve been doing a ton of travel around Washington state. Even in Wenatchee — holy crap, talk about a place I had really dumb assumptions about — they have great restaurants and shops and a great artisan scene there. I’m not saying “move to Wenatchee,” but I’m saying keep your eyes peeled for places that have the resources and the people to help you get the things you want.

Kate Lebo will be in Seattle next on September 16th, when she reads at Hugo House as part of the Wage Slaves reading series. Follow her comings and goings at Katelebo.com.

The Seattle School

We celebrated our distance from New York,
high-fived each other as our words

debuted in Open Books and Floating Bridge,

Elliott Bay, and the daze of The Typing Explosion.
That’s what they will call us you predicted

as we stood on the edge of Summit Avenue

near Broadway, The Seattle School, while the newfangled
streetlight wandered in and out of power.

We were younger then, with little idea

of poetry schools, just a sense of the work we revered:
my Bishop to your Rilke and Celan.

No herons on our pages, no water views.

Our lives as the poets barely minted,
we attempted daily practice, failed

at monastic prayer, and acquired several cats.

We were nobodies inhabiting blue basements
until step by step our bright lives

extended upwards and soon our books

caught between us, some breadcrumbs of awards.
Tonight I want to return to that streetlight—

the long night’s amble into iambs
and hold tight to our glitter of ambitions—

irregular as the blinking bulb.

We love Greenwood's literary tutoring center The Bureau of Fearless Ideas (formerly known as 826 Seattle) and we are big fans of this Facebook post demonstrating a recent student experiment in creating illuminated manuscripts. It seems as though, with the general-interest acceptance of comic books, we're about due for an illuminated manuscript resurgence. Maybe one of these kids will lead the charge.

Picking wires from a bowl of noodles

Published August 10, 2015, at 12:00pm

Martin McClellan review Ryan Boudinot's The Octopus Rises, and Blueprints of the Afterlife.

Ryan Boudinot's first book of short stories since his very controversial statements about MFA programs has arrived. Can we separate the work from the public statements?

Read this review now

Your week in readings: The best literary events for the week of August 10 - August 16, 2015

MONDAY Third Place Books hosts novelist Paula McLain tonight. McLain writes historical fiction, and is the author of the popular novels Circling the Sun (First sentence: “The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I’ve known, and somehow mine to fly.”) and The Paris Wife (First sentence: “Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”)

TUESDAY There’s a lot going on tonight, including an interesting-looking reading called “The Least Boring Poetry Event of the Year,” which is pretty funny but which also plays into a pet peeve of mine: I can’t stand it when readings talk about how boring readings are. Stop apologizing for your art, goddamnit. But I think the most interesting event tonight is a showing of local poet Shin Yu Pai’s new project, “HEIRLOOM.” HEIRLOOM is a poetic installation at Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park, in which Pai is using light and stencils to “print” words on the skin of apples. Tonight, Pai will give a tour of the orchard and read part of the poem that is being “printed” on the fruit. Tell me that’s boring and I’ll call you a liar to your face.

WEDNESDAY Over at Ada’s Technical Books, it’s time for another edition of their Monthly Puzzle Club, in which local puzzle aficionado Pavel Curtis talks puzzles with other puzzle fans.

THURSDAY Tonight is the most packed reading night of the week, but the conceit of this column is that we only choose one event a night to feature. And so we happily pick this one: A Reading by Blue Begonia Press Poets at Hugo House. The Washington state publisher of poetry presents our state’s poet laureate, Elizabeth Austen. She’ll be joined by Elissa Ball, Nancy Rawles, and other Blue Begonia writers. We need more publishers in Washington, and the best way to do that is by promoting and supporting the publishers we already have. Go meet your new favorite poet; that's what group readings are for.

FRIDAY University Book Store hosts another edition of Nancy Pearl’s Book Club. This time, Pearl and company will be discussing Michael Chabon’s excellent alternate-history novel The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. It’s one of Chabon’s strongest books, which is really saying something. It’s a novel about what might have happened if the territory we know as Alaska was handed over to a Jewish state at the end of World War II, rather than the land we know as Israel. This was a real possibility at the time.

SATURDAY Phoenix Comics and Games hosts their Queer Geek Board Gaming group this afternoon. Feel free to bring your own board game or join in on games including “the DC Heroes expansion, Adventure Time card game, Relic Runners, Small World and several others.”

SUNDAY The Seattle Public Library’s Books on Bikes team will be promoting SPL at Bicycle Sunday near Seward Park. There will be a “bicycle-themed storytime.”

Our thanks to this week's sponsor Darin Bradley. One reviewer said this about his novel Chimpanzee “So if you took Twelve Monkeys, add The Time Traveler’s Wife but subtract the time-travel, multiply by 1984, factor in Strange Days and divide by Fight Club, you get Chimpanzee.”

The Seattle Review of Books relies on sponorships to bring you poems, interviews, reviews, notes, and advice every week. Go read a chapter from Chimpanzee, and if you like it, consider picking up a copy and telling him you heard about it hear. It's all part of our campaign to make internet advertising better.

Mail call for August 9, 2015

That Eve Babitz is a welcome sight, let me assure you.

The Sunday Post for August 9, 2015

How to spot whodunnit: academics crack Agatha Christie's code

At the bequest of television channel, a group of academics looked at Agatha Christie's work, and developed formulas to reveal the patterns within.

Many of the results concerned the gender of the killer. For example, they found that if the victim was strangled, the killer was more likely to be male (or male with a female accomplice), whereas if the setting was a country house – not uncommon for a Christie novel – there was a 75% chance the killer would be female. Female culprits were usually discovered thanks to a domestic item, while males were normally found out through information or logic.
Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name

Cienna gave advice inspired by this article on Friday's Help Desk, but we didn't look at Catherine's Nichols essay about the difference in response when she submitted her work under a man's name instead of her own:

I sent the six queries I had planned to send that day. Within 24 hours George had five responses—three manuscript requests and two warm rejections praising his exciting project. For contrast, under my own name, the same letter and pages sent 50 times had netted me a total of two manuscript requests. The responses gave me a little frisson of delight at being called “Mr.” and then I got mad. Three manuscript requests on a Saturday, not even during business hours! The judgments about my work that had seemed as solid as the walls of my house had turned out to be meaningless. My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me—Catherine.
This Is How ‘Lady Authors’ Were Told to Promote Their Books in the 1960s

Now that we've completely figured out gender and how to treat women equally, it sure is fun to look back at a time when women authors weren't taken seriously.

In a LIFE photo essay called “What it takes to be a lady author anymore,” [Jeanne] Rejaunier posed for shots that demonstrated how a woman should promote her literary work. A successful lady author, the captions suggested, must “swim a little,” “exercise in a bikini” and be “photographed in bed.” The essay attributed the success of her book, a novel based on the dark side of the modeling world, to Rejaunier’s beauty rather than her literary talents: “Just possibly because she smiles so prettily on the book jacket (the back and the front of the book) The Beauty Trap is now in its fourth printing.”
Iris Murdoch, The Art of Fiction No. 117

Here's one, just for fun, from deep in the archives. Iris Murodch is a big influence of mine, and her interviews are sometimes funny affairs: stuffy, terse. But other times, she finds a good flow with the interviewer. Here she does. It feels quite personal, and is nice to see this side of her. For another side of her, look at some of the portraits British artist Tom Phillips did of her in 1988

Plato remarks in The Republic that bad characters are volatile and interesting, whereas good characters are dull and always the same. This certainly indicates a literary problem. It is difficult in life to be good, and difficult in art to portray goodness. Perhaps we don’t know much about goodness. Attractive bad characters in fiction may corrupt people, who think, So that’s OK. Inspiration from good characters may be rarer and harder, yet Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov and the grandmother in Proust’s novel exist. I think one is influenced by the whole moral atmosphere of literary works, just as we are influenced by Shakespeare, a great exemplar for the novelist. In the most effortless manner he portrays moral dilemmas, good and evil, and the differences and the struggle between them. I think he is a deeply religious writer. He doesn’t portray religion directly in the plays, but it is certainly there, a sense of the spiritual, of goodness, of self-sacrifice, of reconciliation, and of forgiveness. I think that is the absolutely prime example of how we ought to tell a story—invent characters and convey something dramatic, which at the same time has deep spiritual significance.

Our sincerest thanks to Janine A. Southard for sponsoring The Seattle Review of Books this week. Sponsorships are very important to us. Why? Because internet advertising is horrible and we're trying to do something about it.

So, instead, we offer a full chapter from Southard's hilarious, and well-loved Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story (four stars on Amazon!) book. The award-winning Southard (a Seattle denizen) shows you how the geeks of Seattle live, provides a running and often-hilarious social commentary on today’s world, and reminds you that, so long as you have friends, you are never alone.

Help support The Seattle Review of Books by reading her excerpt and ordering the novel if you like what you read.

Thanks to Janine for her support, and thank you for taking a look.

Rahawa Haile’s short stories of the day, of the previous week, for August 8, 2015

(Every day, friend of the SRoB Rahawa Haile tweets a short story. She gave us permission to collect them every week.)

Although of course you end up being played by Jesse Eisenberg in the movie

Published August 07, 2015, at 11:18pm

Paul Constant review David Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.

A new movie adaptation of a bad book about David Foster Wallace succeeds because it understands all of the flaws of its source text.

Read this review now

Last month, I wrote about why I'm not reading Go Set a Watchman. (Short version: "I’d just rather not have to write a negative review of a Harper Lee book.") If you want to read the book, that's your prerogative, of course. And if you want to slag the book without reading it, that's your right as an American, too. But I can't help but feel that this news falls less on the side of a natural response to Go Set a Watchman and more on the side of a publicity stunt:

In a move that other proprietors of independent bookstores might consider unthinkable, Peter Makin, the owner of Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, is offering refunds to customers disappointed with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.

I get it. People are unhappy with the book. They have opinions, loud ones, and they want their opinions to be heard. But a refund is a bit much, isn't it?

When you buy a book, or when you check a book out from the library, you're quietly agreeing to a social contract: you're offering your attention to a work of art. You may not like the work of art. That's okay. You may like the work of art so much that you feel compelled to respond to it with a work of art of your own. That's wonderful! But a refund just feels so...dirty and commercial.

As a reader of fiction, you take a chance every time you pick up a book. That's part of the adventure of reading; when bookstores choose to offer money-back guarantees, it's a refutation of the contract between writers and readers.

The Help Desk: Should female writers man up their mansucripts?

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 advice@seattlereviewofbooks.com.

Dear Cienna,

I recently read an article proving that publishers are more interested in novels submitted under male names. My novel has been rejected by several agents for being too “weird and creepy,” and I can’t help but wonder if they’d have the same criticism if the same book had a male name on it. So my question: Should I use a male pseudonym? And, if so, which male pseudonym should I use?

Vivienne from Maple Leaf

Dear Vivienne,

I dearly love delivering lectures about the hurdles female writers face in the publishing industry (and beyond) but those speeches are best saved for house parties, baby showers, and other social engagements where people are “just trying to relax and have fun. Christ, Cienna.”

Yes, agents would probably be more receptive of your work (at least initially) if you wrote under a male pseudonym. I’ve found that if I go without plucking my chin hairs for a week or two, men and women alike treat me with the fearful deference once reserved for tiny dictators. It is a triumphant feeling to don the mantle of manhood and bask in the glow of unearned respect, even if only temporarily.

But you’d be doing all writers who were not born cisgender male a disservice by masquerading this way. Men’s success is expected. Ours is not. We are playing a game that’s been designed to see us struggle, if not fail. We need to change the rules instead of bending to them.

Which is why I suggest you be yourself. If that simply won’t do, try embracing a gender-neutral pseudonym when querying agents, something like “Scrotack Faginam.” That will get people reading your work just as surely as masquerading as a man and, bonus! you won’t be labeled a sex traitor by your peers.

In my lifetime, I hope to see female writers (and LGBTQ writers) simply treated as writers, people whose stories and opinions are just as widely read and respected as their male counterparts. But that will take pioneers like you and me writing weird, creepy shit and proudly shoving our sex in the face of many strangers — which is one reason why my business cards are now printed with a tasteful inkblot of my vaginal lips. When I hand them out at industry parties, people often ask me, “Why do you have the scowling face of my disappointed mother printed on your business cards?” And I reply, “You are mistaken, sir, those are my Nether Grins. You see, I am a female writer and now you will never forget it.”

Grrrrl Powrrrrrrr,

Cienna

Brazenhead Books in Manhattan has closed. Most of us never went there — it was an illegal store. Access, and the address, were shared amongst insiders. “The secret was known to a small number of discreet patrons and shared strictly by word of mouth,” says Brian Patrick Eha, in a bittersweet New Yorker article about the store, and its owner Michael Seidenberg.

I love the romantic idea of these secret hidden places — so long as I’m on the inside, of course (sucks to not know). But then the romance gives away to head scratching. Did Brazenhead take credit cards, or cash only? Did Seidenberg pay his taxes? How off-the-books was he, really? Did he have a business license? What about the assistant, mentioned in the article — were they paid under the table (he paid a fourteen year-old Jonathan Lethem in books for his work in a retail store)? The article conveniently skips the questions its very reporting begs.

Small businesses are hard work. The regulations and hoops you have to jump through — especially in New York City — are tremendous, and probably unreasonable. Which turns my thoughts to the indie bookstores who do jump through them to keep their doors open. At least they get some nice illustrations from time-to-time.

Not so long ago, Ken Kalfus lamented on these same storied (web)pages: “Only a few of the city’s bookstores remain in business and they each need my patronage desperately.” I guess that goes for the secret illegal stores, as well as the ones anybody can walk into and browse to their hearts content.

Matthew Simmons, the local author and publisher of Instant Future, an e-novella imprint of Future Tense Press, has figured out a way to re-enact an American short story classic in Grand Theft Auto:

If those tweets put you in the mood to read "The Swimmer," it looks like Library of America has made it available to read as a PDF. I hope someone figures out how to adapt Updike's "A&P" in Batman: Arkham Knight next.

Thursday Comics Hangover: The Fantastic Four and the problem with adaptations

Usually, this column is about new comics I bought on Wednesday. But last night I went to a press screening for the Fantastic Four movie that opens tomorrow, and I want to talk about that for a bit instead. (If you're looking for a straight-up movie review, you can read my review at Prairie Dog.)

The first 102 issues of the Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee are basically the template for every adventure comic book that came after: big sci-fi ideas, big discoveries, comic relief, and personal drama. Not every issue is a classic — Tomazooma the Living Totem wasn't the huge character find of 1968 — but the whole run is quite impressive.

So since there's already a blueprint out there clearly explaining what the Fantastic Four should be, why is it so incredibly hard to make a Fantastic Four movie? Why has every Fantastic Four adaptation been a bust? (Some people like to insist that The Incredibles is a good Fantastic Four movie, but that's not quite right. The Incredibles gets the family dynamic right, but they're superheroes. The Fantastic Four are sci-fi adventurers. It's an important distinction to make, because it's an entirely different motivation.)

What we're talking about here is a problem of adaptation. Everyone knows adaptation is tough; you can't just take a comic and duplicate it onto a movie screen (though Zack Snyder certainly tried during the making of Watchmen.) It's almost a cliche at this point to suggest that what doesn't go into an adaptation is just as important as what does. But it's true.

The new Fantastic Four movie is outright terrible; it replaces the optimistic post-Kennedy vibe of the comics with a dour fear of being different. So why can filmmakers create wonderful, fairly faithful adaptations of Captain America and Batman, but nobody is able to toss the Fantastic Four up on a screen? It's not because of the corny name.

Maybe the answer has to do with the fact that the Fantastic Four is a family, and modern blockbusters don't have the patience to depict families beyond the typical Spielbergian fathers-and-sons-are-magical dross. Weirdly, the only time I ever see families depicted with any complexity during blockbuster season is in Pixar movies like Inside Out and the aforementioned The Incredibles; maybe nuanced portrayals of human beings is kid's stuff?

Or maybe the Fantastic Four would be better-recieved if they were on television. Special effects on a TV budget might be tough, but if you want to watch male and female characters interacting in a non-sexual way, you're much better off on TV than you are in a movie theater.

Maybe there's something else that I'm missing. Maybe the gee-whiz scientific appeal of early Fantastic Four comics has worn off through the years. But frankly, I don't think so. It's true that the widespread adoption of smartphones has changed the idea of what science fiction means, but a good Fantastic Four story should happily embrace new technology and offer bizarre new ways to surpass the technology we've already grown to rely upon.

Or maybe part of the problem is that the Fantastic Four, when you look deep down in their souls, are happy people? Any idiot can tell a story about a miserable superhero, but it takes a special kind of talent to tell an interesting story about good-natured, positive people. As sad as it sounds, miserable sells itself but happy, in the wrong hands, bores us to tears.

Rather than supporting yet another bad adaptation, I'd encourage you to track down the first 102 issues of the Fantastic Four and read them. Those stories might not resemble the world around you right now, but they sure do look like the world you'd like to see outside your window.

Mail call for August 5, 2015

Lots of books arrived after our launch last week. See anything in this haul you'd like us to look at?

KING 5's New Day NW interviewed local writers Anca Szilagyi and Erin Malone about the very worthy Jack Straw Writers Program. (I'd embed the video here, but in my experience KING 5's video viewer tends to make websites shiver, roll over, and die. You're better off just clicking through and viewing it on their own site.) The interview also discusses Hugo House, and it promotes a Jack Straw reading that happens tonight at Elliott Bay Book Company.

I'll admit to being happily flabbergasted; I can't recall the last time a local TV news show has focused on a writing program. Fine work, KING 5! More like this please.