Author Interview


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“Pollution,” by Don Webb, is a tale of exclusion and loneliness, lived out in the heart of a near-future Japan.  All Billy has ever wanted since he was a teenager was to be Japanese. He knows the language, studies the culture incessantly, and now lives in Nagoya as an English teacher. He does everything he can to fit in, to become what he was not born, but all his work seems in vain. But when he encounters an American kyonshi, a mechanically rehabilitated corpse used in the service industry, he gets a chance to glimpse into the hierarchy society in a way he never considered before.

Thoughtful and restrained, “Pollution” will linger in your quiet thoughts long after you’ve set the book aside.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: What is the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve received?

All writing (even far-out writing) is autobiographical in some sense.  All autobiography is far out fantasy in some sense.  I learned this from Zulfikar Ghose.

2. The Zombie Question: What part of the zombie trope do you find yourself most drawn to or most irritated by?

The mindlessness of the zombie gives me little room for dialectic.  The living may discover some of their own darkness, what does the zombie learn?

3. The Random Question: What other projects do you have forthcoming that you’d like to share with us?

Hippocampus Press is releasing (August 2014) a thirty year retrospective of my Lovecraftian fiction Through Dark Angles.


 

Don Webb has been published in every major SF/F/H magazine in the English- speaking world from Analog to Weird Tales. He teaches “Writing the Science Fiction Novel” at UCLA extension. He lives with has a beautiful wife and two tuxedo cats in Austin, Texas, where he has been a guest at the four local SF conventions for over twenty years.

ZombiesMoreRecentDead_cover“Becca at the End of the World” by Shira Lipkin will break your heart. When your only child is bitten by a zombie and already starting to show signs of turning, what is a mother supposed to do? Some of the descriptions in this fairly short story really hit me hard and choked me up. Having a little guy of my own definitely drove home for me the horror of this story. Whether you have children or not, it’s a masterful piece that will linger with you long after you’ve turned the page.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: Do you tend to plan your stories before you write them, or do you write and just see what you discover in the process?

I’m a complete pantser. I tend to know a few things about the story, usually including roughly how it’ll end, but for the most part, I just sit down to write and see what happens!

2. The Zombie Question: What enticed you to write this zombie story?

I never thought I’d write a zombie story, simply because I couldn’t think of a new way to do it! There’s such a wide variety of excellent zombie fiction out there already. In the end, I had to write this story because it was so personal. It wasn’t “write a story about zombies for the hell of it”, it was “here’s something interesting and primal about the mother/daughter bond; also, zombies.”

3. The Random Question: What other projects do you have forthcoming that you’d like to share with us?

I started a poetry magazine! Liminality (http://www.liminalitypoetry.com/) is a quarterly speculative poetry magazine that I co-edit with fellow writer Mat Joiner. We’re really excited about our first issue (coming this fall!) and already can’t wait to read for the next one.


Shira Lipkin has managed to convince Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Stone Telling, Clockwork Phoenix 4, and other otherwise-sensible magazines and anthologies to publish her work; two of her stories have been recognized as Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and she has won the Rhysling Award for best short poem. She credits luck, glitter eyeliner, and tenacity. She co-edits Liminality (http://liminalitypoetry.com/), a magazine of speculative poetry, with Mat Joiner. She lives in Boston and, in her spare time, fights crime with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Her cat is bigger than her dog.

ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverJay Wilburn’s story in Zombies: More Recent Dead will give you chills. “Dead Song” documents the rise of indie music among the survivors in a post-apocalyptic zombie landscape. There are some great, humorous touches to this story, and Mr. Wilburn’s got a great eye for sidelong commentary, but I guarantee this story will get to you. I couldn’t put it down. The darkness in this one creeps up on you slowly, inching up like a slow tide until it’s all around you and there’s no shore in sight. Beautiful, sometimes funny, and spine-tingling, you’re going to love this one.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: Do you write for a living or do you have a day job? What about your current financial situation do you like or dislike?

I write full-time. I used to be a public school teacher for nearly sixteen years. The younger of my two sons became ill and we had to make some changes. I quit my job mid year and stayed home with him. My master plan was to write zombie stories to pay the bills. With horror, science fiction, and other genre, I managed to pull it off. I do ghostwriting and freelancing as well and between my own fiction and work-for-hire, I have managed to pay my rent as I stay home with my kids. The writing and the family are all doing well for now.

I tell people that quitting your job to write full-time IS a crazy, stupid idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Sometimes it is easier to write when you don’t have the pressure of paying bills with it. Sometimes the threat of starvation is a hell of a motivator. I don’t believe we are nearly as trapped in life as many of us believe ourselves to be. The worst that could happen in following your dreams is that you fail miserably, but that can happen even when you are following no dream at all.

2. The Zombie Question: What do you think is behind the mass appeal interest in zombies for the last 10 years?

The funny thing about this question is that people have been asking it for twenty or thirty years now. People have been predicting the demise of the zombie for just as long too. I think part of it comes down to the fact that fans of the trope are hungry for it. There is tons of bad fiction in all media with some pronounced examples in zombie-related fiction, but that somehow adds to the hunger for something good. The trend seems to be to change up the zombie as the answer, but The Walking Dead is probably the broadest example of the rise in mass appeal in the last ten years and they follow as close to the “Romero traditional” universe of zombies as anything out there. After about season two, I had far more regular people coming up to discuss their zombie plans with me. Story and all its elements rule all. I think the greatest drive in the appeal of the zombie is this unspoken belief in many that the remaining potential is far greater than what has been realized in the kinetic. Whether that is true or not, the majority of fans are waiting to see what comes next as they feed on everything they can get.

3. The Random Question: What is you favorite hobby other than writing?

I enjoy archery. In just about everything I do, writing is on my mind. Travel, being with friends, reading, running errands, etc. Everything I do is processed and analyzed in my mind before, during, and after from the standpoint of pieces for future stories. Archery is one of those activities that allows me to turn off the machine. I might still be thinking about killing zombies as I’m doing it, but aiming and hitting the target shuts off the processor for a little while.


Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in the swamps of coastal South Carolina. He left teaching after sixteen years to care for the health needs of his younger son and to pursue writing full-time. He has published Loose Ends: A Zombie Novel with Hazardous Press and Time Eaters with Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Follow his many dark thoughts at JayWilburn.com and @AmongeZombies on Twitter.

ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverMarge Simon’s poem in Zombies: More Recent Dead may only be a page long, but I can guarantee you won’t forget it. What happens when those who are supposed to love and protect you become the monsters you fear? Read “The Children’s Hour” once, twice, a hundred times–the horror lingers with each encounter.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

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1. The Writing Question: Do you tend to plan your stories before you write them, or do you write and just see what you discover in the process?

With both writing and poetry, most of the time I do very little, if any, planning. It’s more fun that way (fun-work) and it suits my personality. But I do write (especially work on poems) every day.

2. The Zombie Question: What is your favorite work of zombie fiction (literary, film, comic, etc.)?

Old: I AM LEGEND – Richard Matheson

New: any of Joe McKinney’s novels, especially his first series, FLESH EATERS, APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD, etc.

3. The Random Question: What are you reading currently?

SAVAGE NIGHT by Jim Thompson. No, it’s not about zombies, but it is extremely dark.


Marge Simon’s works appear in publications such as Strange Horizons, Niteblade, DailySF Magazine, Pedestal, and Dreams & Nightmares. She edits a column for the HWA newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees. She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award 2010, and the SFPA’s Dwarf Stars Award 2012. In addition to her poetry, she has published two prose collections: Christina’s World (Sam’s Dot, 2008) and Like Birds in the Rain (Sam’s Dot, 2007). She won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Work in Poetry for Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet (Dark Regions Press, 2008) and again in 2013 for Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls (Elektrik Milk Bath Press).

ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverAs September draws ever nearer, we’re getting into zombie hunting season and the preparations for the release of Zombies: More Recent Dead, edited by Paula Guran and published through Prime Books! This is going to be a great anthology, if I do say so myself. There are some truly amazing talents included in the pages of this book.

In anticipation of the book’s release on September 10th, 2014, I’ll be running a series of short, Three Question interviews to introduce you to some of the great folks in this book, and to give you an idea of what to expect between the pages. First up is Marge Simon! I’ll have her interview up tomorrow along with info on how to pre-order the book. :)

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In the meantime, here’s the current ToC (in alphabetical order) to whet your appetite for zombies!

Joanne Anderton, “Trail of Dead”
Michael Arnzen, “Rigormarole” (poem)
Marie Brennan, “What Still Abides
Mike Carey, “Iphigenia in Aulis”
Jacques L. Condor (Mak a Tai Meh), “Those Beneath the Bog”
Neil Gaiman, “The Day the Saucers Came” (poem)
Roxane Gay, “There is No ‘E’ in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We”
Ron Goulart, “I Waltzed with a Zombie”
Eric Gregory, “The Harrowers”
William Jablonsky, “The Death and Life of Bob”
Shaun Jeffrey, “Til Death Do Us Part”
Matthew Johnson, “The Afflicted”
Stephen Graham Jones, “Rocket Man”
Joy Kennedy-O’Neill “Aftermath”
Caitlín R. Kiernan, “In The Dreamtime of Lady Resurrection”
Nicole Kornher-Stace, “Present”
Joe R. Lansdale, “The Hunt: Before and The Aftermath”
Shira Lipkin, “Becca at the End of the World”
David Liss, “What Maisie Knew”
Jonathan Maberry, “Jack & Jill”
Alex Dally MacFarlane, “Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571 BCE)”
Maureen McHugh, “The Naturalist”
Lisa Mannetti, “Resurgam”
Joe McKinney, “The Day the Music Died”
Tamsyn Muir, “Chew”
Holly Newstein, “Delice”
Cat Rambo, “Love, Resurrected”
Carrie Ryan, “What We Once Feared”
Marge Simon, “The Children’s Hour” (poem)
Maggie Slater, “A Shepherd of the Valley”
Simon Strantzas, “Stemming the Tide”
Charles Stross, “Bit Rot”
Genevieve Valentine, “The Gravedigger of Konstan Spring”
Carrie Vaughn, “Kitty’s Zombie New Year”
Don Webb, “Pollution”
Jay Wilburn, “Dead Song”

Find out more at: http://www.prime-books.com/shop/print-books/zombies-more-recent-dead-edited-by-paula-guran/

The FieldsLadies and gentlemen, bogarts and ghouls (yes, I went there), today I’ve had the marvelous opportunity to host THREE QUESTIONS with The Zombie Feed’s Editor-in-Chief Ty Schwamberger. Mr. Schwamberger has just come out with his new zombie novella, THE FIELDS. Per the press release:

Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family’s tobacco fields – and beat slaves – by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bringing wild ideas. He can help Billy save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory…by raising his father’s slaves from the dead.

Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm? Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn’t? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death?

Billy’s conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner’s son?

Find out what the reviewers think by heading over to Ty Schwamberger’s blog, and pick up your copy of the novella either in paperback or e-book format!

1. The Writing Question: What published story of yours was the most difficult to write, or the most difficult to sell?

I’ll start by saying this: I’ve been extremely fortunate and lucky – fortunate, because for whatever reason I’ve always been good at “pitching” projects to prospective publishers, and lucky, well, I think everyone needs a bit of luck at one time or another in this business. Some people don’t believe this when I tell them, especially with 4 books, 1 short film, and several short stories and articles already out there, but I didn’t start writing until early 2008. In fact, the first two “horror” authors I read that got me into writing were Jack Ketchum and (this won’t surprise a lot of folks) Richard Laymon. After those two novels, I just sat down, not knowing what the hell I was doing, and started pounding away at the keyboard. Three months and 100,000 (awful) words later my first novel was finished (and subsequently published, but I don’t talk about that one). After that, I just kept going. After THE FIELDS, there will be 6 additional books (novellas, a collection, anthologies I’m Editor on), a few short stories and 1 feature-length film that is currently in pre-production (there’s a few additional things in the works, but I can’t talk about them quite yet). And that’s all before the end of 2012. So, you can see, I really pushed myself in the beginning. Hell, I still do. Ok, that was a long ramble to one part of the question… In short, I don’t think I’d classify any one book as a “difficult” sell to a publisher. The publishing world is generally a slow-moving machine. That’s just the way it is. You have to keep forging ahead, blazing new trails, and never, ever, give up.

As for THE FIELDS… Jason Sizemore (owner of Apex Publications) and I met a few years ago at a convention. I quickly grew to love the catalog of quality books he was putting out, and ever since I have been trying to pitch something to him. Before writing THE FIELDS, I had always enjoyed zombie movies and books, but I didn’t want to just rehash the same stuff that’s already been put out there a ton of times. I wanted something different. Unique. Something that’s never been done before. So, it was around this time last year that I came up with the idea to write a zombie story, but place the “characters” in the middle 1800s. The middle 1800s, you ask? Yup, you got it. What could be more exciting than former slaves rising from the dead hellbent on getting back at the same people that made their lives a living hell. BUT, I didn’t want the story to be just about revenge. Oh no. I wanted something deeper. A lot deeper. I think Jonathan Maberry, whom wrote the introduction to the novella said it best: “It’s part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story.  It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense. The Fields is a morality tale.  With zombies.

I’m extremely excited that it’s finally seeing the light of day…and I think folks are going to be pleasantly surprised they’ll get a lot more out of the book than just brain munching fun!

2. The Horror Question: Blood and gore: scary or not scary?

It depends. Is it integral to the story? Or is the writer just going for the gross out factor? Personally, I enjoy (if “enjoy” is the right word to use) a little slice n’ dice. But, again, it all depends on the plot. Back in the horror hay day of the 1980s, slasher films were almost always putting three common elements into each movie: action, gore and sex. When I first started writing (specifically, my first novel), that’s pretty much all there was. Well, that, and perhaps a little plot on the side. But, growing as a writer over the years, I’ve learned more about the business, what does and doesn’t sell, and subsequently toned down the sexual content in my stories (unless I’m contracted to write about it, of course…then money talks and bull–)…

Anyway. Back to gore…

For instance, THE FIELDS, has very little gore. Yes, there is some (you can’t write about zombies without mentioning their rotting skin or need for eating the living, right?), but not very much. As I mentioned before, I wanted THE FIELDS to be different. Very different. I wanted the reader to get more out of it than the brain-blasting, undead fun many of us enjoy. I think THE FIELDS is very scary, because the “zombies” in the story represent something a helluva lot worse than an ambling horde coming after you. It talks about racism, a young man’s love and respect for his father – even though he knows his father was wrong for treating the slaves like he did – and just how much one is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of man.

3. The Oddball Question: Barring family photo albums, religious books, cookbooks, etc.: If you could save only one book from your house because a blob monster was about to absorb it into its massive jelly-like girth, what book would you grab?

“The Bible” aka A Writer’s Tale by Richard Laymon. I’m fortunate enough to own a copy, and would throw a tray-full of ice cubes at a blob monster to slow it down long enough, so I could run and grab the book. EVERY aspiring author should do whatever they can to find a copy and give it a read. But, don’t ask to borrow mine, or you might just get bitch slapped.

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Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre.  He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies.  In addition, he’s had many short stories published online and in print.  Two stories, ‘Cake Batter’ (released in 2010) and ‘House Call’ (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation.  You can learn more at:  http://tyschwamberger.com.

Brandon Alspaugh’s story in The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 is a multi-layered, and multi-era, examination of the undead and undeadness. You won’t find zombies eating brains in “The Sickness Unto Death”, but you will find letters, online discussions, Confederate soldiers, ancient death myths, faith-frightened monks, and the story of a modern soldier returning home after his untimely death. The assortment of narratives are all linked by Eric Masonis’ homeward-bound journey to reunite with his family, and the alternate sections of forward narrative and backward-glance vignettes creates a rich quilt of human experience in the face of the sometimes horrifying, sometimes vengeful, sometimes poignant return of the dead to the world of the living. This is definitely one contribution to The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 you won’t want to miss!

You can pick up your copy of The Zombie Feed Anthology on Amazon.comBarnes & Noble.com, or from The Zombie Feed directly. Get it on your Kindle or your Nook (or in any e-format from Smashwords) for just $2.99! Seventeen awesome zombie stories for $2.99? It’s like Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice has come early! :D

1. The Writing Question: What published story of yours was the most difficult to write, or the most difficult to sell?

The same story actually ticks both of these boxes – it was a piece called ‘City of Altars’, published by Dave Lindschmidt in the dearly-departed City Slab. I had been reading a lot about shamanic states in various world cultures, about the transcendent or fugue state they enter where they really feel they’ve touched a higher plane, particularly during sacrifices. Of course, since my mind is a feckless hummingbird, I was also reading Robert Ressler’s Sexual Homicide at the time, which is one of the foundational texts in criminal profiling. The connections drew themselves.

I must have done four successive drafts before I had something readable. That’s the problem with ‘idea stories’ – it’s really difficult to find a way to explain the weird ideas and tell an entertaining story, which is why a lot of them tend to have a college professor type that sort of tags along and drops in a page of exposition between chase scenes. I didn’t go that route, but maybe I should have – it sure worked for The Da Vinci Code.

The story bounced around the horror mags, with the rejections pretty universally reading “Interesting, but not for us.” Then Scott Standridge, who was editing City Slab at the time, wrote back with “I get it, and it’s a great idea, but the story takes way too long to get going.”

He was right, damn him. Alfred Bester once wrote that a bad writer ends his story where a good writer begins his, and my story started in the most boring place possible and then wandered aimlessly around London before stumbling to its conclusion. So, after briefly cursing God for creating editors who actually have valuable insights and suggestions (it’s so much simpler when they’re just evil) I junked as much of the beginning as I could, reworked the plot sequence, and made it all one full-tilt race through the psycho-geography of London.

Six drafts and nine rejections later, it was finally published. I still think of it as one of the niftier stories I’ve written, in the sense that if I could somehow pipe it back in time to my 17-year-old self, he would probably think it was a little slice of demented awesome.

2. The Horror Question: What work of horror do you consider the most terrifying/freaky/scary, and why?

The purest horror I ever experienced was when reading ‘The Marching Morons’ by C. M. Kornbluth.

That probably requires some explanation. Essentially, this is the story of a man who, by virtue of a dental accident (look, it’s not like Twain did any better), winds up in a future dominated by stupid people. Although it’s one of the classic short SF pieces of the 1950s, it’s not without its flaws: the theory of inheritable intelligence is nonsense, the notion of the ‘average IQ’ being 45 is a contradiction in terms (average IQ is always, by definition, 100), and the characters often make speeches to each other rather than having actual conversations.

But here’s the thing.

We sympathize with the smart people in the future. They’re the ones who toil in the background to keep the world running. I think Kornbluth knew exactly who his audience was: the kind of people who identify with Odd John and Hari Seldon. Most readers of genre fiction have had the isolating experience of being the smartest person in the room. And who hasn’t raged against a world filled with those stupid people who bedevil our lives in hundreds of ways?

Where the horror sets in, for me, is how slyly Kornbluth twists that sympathy for the smart people into hatred for the stupid people. We’re shown that they’re not only stupid, but arrogantly so, wearing their sub-par IQs as a badge of honor. We watch them wreck cars that can’t go above thirty miles-per-hour, crash planes because they’re too busy annoying sheep, and when they speak they make Sarah Palin sound like Benjamin Disraeli. As the helpful Ryan-Ngana systematically lays out for us, they’re wrecking the species, and they don’t even care. Damn them!

That’s how it works. Once the story has decided something has to be done, we realize we need to get rid of the stupid people. Okay, so let’s put them on another planet. We’ll make them think it’s a great idea. Crank out commercials telling them how lovely it would be to take a trip to… well, how about Venus? Small, and hot, but hey, it’s the future. So you build these ghastly, shiny spaceships, and park them at the edge of town, and line all the stupid people up so they bumble in, two-by-two…

And then Kornbluth reveals that the spaceships are all Auschwitz furnaces writ large.

It’s a shock to the mind, a real jolt to the ventral tegmentum, when you realize “Holy shit, I’m kinda-sorta-Hitler.” We like to think there’s a huge gulf between us and them, but once you’ve agreed that any group of people – Jews, Latinos, Homosexuals, Stupid People – are A Problem That Needs To Be Solved, you’re halfway to Dachau.

Kornbluth saw – decades before Norman Spinrad drove the point home in The Iron Dream or Harlan Ellison detailed in ‘Xenogenesis’ – that the sense of isolation that typified most readers of genre fiction didn’t exclusively create a cadre of noble dreamers. We’ve all met the fans who have let their esoteric tastes warp them into something petty and anti-social and, most of all, angry. Angry and selfish and anxious to make every failure they’ve ever suffered someone else’s fault.

It’s just too short a distance from here to there. We geeks hold ourselves at a remove from the world around us, and writers even more so. We are all, at some point, all alone in a crowd. Spend too long feeling that way and it’s easy for the faces to blend together, to forget the crowd is hundreds of people, each with their own dreams and failings and hopes and fears. I think this is what Kornbluth saw, in the early years of the Red Scare and White Flight, and why he felt like making a point in scaring the shit out of us by showing us the worst part of ourselves.

Kornbluth terrified me to the core by holding up a mirror at just the right angle. He knew how easy it was, even for those of us who ought to know better, to slip into the same ugly thought processes. That’s why ‘Marching Morons’ is the scariest thing I’ve ever read. Our ability to deny the intrinsic humanity of another person is, to me, more terrifying than a hundred sewer-clowns.

3. The Oddball Question: Are you an e-reader or a tree-reader, or both? Why?

E-reading and tree-reading… gah. It’s really two sets of criteria you’re dealing with. Whenever you show a tree-reader an e-reader, their response is always some variant of “Oh, I like real books. I like the feel and smell and heft, the whole experience of it, and when you crack the spine for the first time…”

That makes sense to me. I have an e-reader packed to the gills, but I also I have floor-to-ceiling shelves along an entire wall of my office. I have some really gorgeous first editions, some Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts that are too big or unwieldy to digitize, and some hard-to-find brilliant SF from decades past that no one’s had the good sense to reprint (how can we live in a world that has yet to produce the Collected Fictions of R. A. Lafferty or Fritz Leiber or Avram Davidson?)

But I don’t kid myself – when I shell out money for a Subterranean Press or Charnel House edition of a book, it’s because I know they’re going to send me a beautiful artifact that’s as much a fetish object as it is a medium for recording stories. When I want to immerse myself in the beauty of the book as an object, I crack open the delicate pages of my beautifully-illuminated hundred-year-old copy of the Sefer Ha-Agadah. When I want to actually research something in it, I pull up the PDFs on my e-reader.

There’s no need for it to be an either/or proposition. For those who just want to read, the medium shouldn’t matter. My e-reader lets me carry a thousand books with me at any time, perfect for someone like me whose mood has a huge influence over what I want to read. It lets me read one-handed, which saves from the inevitable hand cramping that comes with trying to hold open a paperback with my thumb. It lets me have a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray at the ready without having to shell out money to Barnes & Noble for one of their cheap, gaudy hardback reprints of a public-domain literary work.

But I couldn’t read it if it were out of power, or if the screen was cracked, and I almost certainly couldn’t use it as the lever to reveal the hidden stairway behind my bookcase (although I suppose an e-reader would simply put that sort of thing on remote.) I can’t give the copy to a friend or to a library when I’m done with it. And I can’t use the terrible books as kindling should the furnace break.

It’s fine to value the less practical, more sensual aspects of tree-reading, and I do it all the time. Still, it’d be silly to forget that the primary point of the book is to store text, and it’s heavy, wasteful, and decidedly tree-unfriendly to insist that this must be done on paper. Having an e-reader means I read and re-read more than ever. The stories haven’t lost any of their beauty or importance just because they’re rendered by a computer.

And in the final analysis, I’m in it for the stories.

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Brandon Alspaugh is a writer. There are times when he pretends to be other things, and usually he gets away with it, but that’s just because he does a remarkably good imitation of a normal person, and no one suspects otherwise. A member of the SFWA and HWA, he is the only child he knows whose mother attended a parent-teacher conference to discuss his ‘excessive reading’, and imagines they preferred he find a street corner somewhere to loiter on.

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