Signed books for the holidays, 2020 edition

This is your 2020 reminder that signed copies of my novels make great holiday gifts.

The big book this year is obviously Lovecraft Country—ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (thanks, HBO!)—but back in March I published a new novel, 88 Names, that I also think is well worth your time. And if you’ve already read one or both of those and aren’t sure which Matt Ruff novel to try next, I’ve got a blog post to help you with that.

You can order signed and custom inscribed copies of any of my novels from Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle (206-789-5006 / bookshop@secretgardenbooks.com). Tell them what you want and they’ll order it, get me to sign it, and ship it anywhere in the world, usually within a few days.

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So much for the Fourth Reich

Like many of you, I spent last week watching election returns and reading silly hot takes about What It All Means. (My favorite, so far, is Jonathan Chait’s assertion in New York Magazine that “America, by and large, never wanted Trump to be president,” which is an exceedingly odd statement given that 70 million people just voted to reelect him.) Silliness aside, it looks like Trump really is on his way out and the republic isn’t going to fall just yet. So that’s a relief.

In other news:

* Lovecraft Country is on the New York Times bestseller list for the tenth week. Now that the HBO series has finished its first season, I imagine this won’t last much longer, but it’s been a great run.

* The Italian edition of Lovecraft Country, translated by Luca Briasco, was published on October 27, and the Polish edition, translated by Marcin Mortka, was published on November 2. This brings the total number of translations to nine, with eight more—from China, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Serbia, South Korea, and Turkey—forthcoming.

* Meanwhile in Germany, FISCHER Tor’s German-language edition of 88 Names, translated by Alexandra Jordan, is available now in ebook format and will be published in print on November 25.

* I have two more online events this week: On Wednesday, November 11, at 3 PM Pacific Time, I’ll be a guest on the Vox Vomitus podcast, chatting with host and fellow author Jennifer Anne Gordon. And on Thursday, November 12, I’ll be appearing via Zoom at Magic City Books of Tulsa at 5 PM Pacific/7 PM Central.

* And finally, FYI:

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This weekend: Crypticon, Christopher Moore, and Lovecraft Country

I’ve got a bunch of online events scheduled this month (full list here), including two this weekend that I wanted to spotlight:

On Saturday, October 17 at 8 PM Pacific Time, I’ll be reading from and answering questions about Lovecraft Country as part of Crypticon Seattle’s 2020 online convention. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased here.

On Sunday, October 18 at 5 PM Pacific Time, I’ll be in conversation with my friend and fellow author Christopher Moore, as part of San Francisco’s 2020 Litquake. Admission to this event is free, but with a suggested donation of $5-10. You can sign up here.

And immediately after the Litquake event, I’ll be tuning into HBO for the season finale of the Lovecraft Country series. If you’ve got things you want to ask about the show or the book, and you can’t make it to any of my live events, I’m still taking questions over at Goodreads.

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Hello, India

Last month I did an interview with Rahul Gupta of the Indian pop culture site Filmi Baniya. We chatted about Lovecraft Country, which is currently streaming in India on Disney+ Hotstar. You can watch this and other Filmi Baniya interviews on their YouTube channel and their Facebook page.

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Novel Nights starts this Friday

This Friday, October 2, at 5 PM Pacific Time, I’ll be making a remote appearance as part of Novel Nights, a fundraiser to support Seattle’s Hugo House. This is the first of six Novel Nights events that will be taking place over the next two weeks:

Tickets to individual events are $25 each, or $75 if you would like a signed copy of that author’s book. You can also get a full series pass to all six Novel Nights, with or without signed books.

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A quick and dirty guide to the Matt Ruff oeuvre, or, what to read after you’ve read Lovecraft Country

I’ve gotten a number of requests from readers who’ve finished Lovecraft Country and want to know which of my novels they should try next. Because my books are so different from one another, this is always a tough question to answer, so I thought it might be useful to post a quick rundown of the options. If you see something here that looks interesting, you can click through to the main page for that novel and learn more about it:

The Mirage mini coverThe Mirage — An alternate history novel that came out of the same TV pitch session that produced Lovecraft Country. The story is set in a reality where the U.S. and the Middle East have traded places. The United Arab States is the world’s last superpower, and the “11/9 attacks” involve Christian fundamentalists flying planes into towers in downtown Baghdad. It’s not just the geopolitical situation that’s turned on its head; so is the sense of who matters. The novel’s protagonists—a trio of Arab Homeland Security agents—and the principal villains—the gangster Saddam Hussein, and a corrupt senator named Osama bin Laden—are all Arab Muslims. The Americans in the story are mostly nameless third-worlders, with the exception of a few high-profile terrorists like Donald Rumsfeld.

If you’re looking for another mix of history, genre tropes, and moral/social commentary with a similar tone and style to Lovecraft Country, this is probably your best bet.

88 NamesMy most recent novel is a near-future cyberthriller/twisted romantic comedy. The protagonist, John Chu, is a paid guide to online role-playing games who suspects his latest client may be North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The first two-thirds of the novel are set entirely in virtual reality, and most of the characters Chu interacts with, including his coworkers and his ex-girlfriend, are people he’s never met in the flesh, so he’s constantly forced to question how well he really knows them.

This book also came out of the aforementioned TV pitch session, and as such it forms a loose trilogy with The Mirage and Lovecraft Country, but despite the North Korea angle it’s much lighter in tone. If you’re up for a fun masquerade with video games and cybersex, this could be your ticket.

Bad Monkeys mini cover

Bad MonkeysMurder suspect Jane Charlotte claims to belong to a mysterious organization that fights evil. Her division, the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons—Bad Monkeys for short—is an execution squad, though the man she’s accused of killing wasn’t on the official target list. The jailhouse psychiatrist assigned to Jane’s case gets her to tell the story of her career in Bad Monkeys: how she was recruited, what she did for the organization, and how it all went wrong.

I call this my Philip K. Dick novel. It’s a short, fast-moving mind-bender. Jane is the ultimate unreliable narrator: Catch her in an apparent lie or contradiction and she just throws another twist into the story, ratcheting up the weirdness while continuing to insist that it’s all true. If you like paranoid thrillers, you’ll probably like Bad Monkeys.

Set This House mini coverSet This House in Order: A Romance of Souls The story of a relationship between two people who both have multiple personalities. Andy Gage manages his unusual condition by means of an imaginary house in his head where his various “souls” all live together in relative harmony. He meets Penny Driver, an undiagnosed multiple who still struggles with periods of lost time; when some of Penny’s more self-aware souls ask Andy for help, they end up destabilizing his house and force him to confront personal demons from the past.

This was my first fully mature novel, and I still think it’s one of my best. If you liked the family and interpersonal drama from Lovecraft Country but weren’t so sure about the supernatural aspects of the story, this might be a good pick for you. Despite the wild premise, it’s a fairly grounded narrative with no overt fantasy elements.

Little SGE coverSewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works TrilogyA science-fiction satire of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, written in the 1990s and set in the distant future year of 2023.

Rather than try to summarize the plot of this novel, I will direct you to the description of how I came to write it. If you find this origin story intriguing, then Sewer, Gas & Electric may be your cup of tea; if you are puzzled or appalled, you should probably read something else.

Fool on the HillA comic fantasy set on the Cornell University campus circa 1987. The cast of characters includes a retired Greek god, a lovesick writer-in-residence, a dog and cat in search of heaven, a group of modern-day knights, a race of magical sprites at war with an army of sword-wielding rats, and a giant wood-and-canvas dragon that comes to life in the novel’s climax.

This was my first published novel, and I think it holds up pretty well, especially as a time capsule of the era and the place in which it was written. If you’re a Cornell alumnus, a nostalgic adult of a certain age, a current college student who doesn’t mind dated cultural references, or a Matt Ruff fan curious about how I got my start, this could be for you.

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For All Nerds

Last week I was a guest on the For All Nerds podcast with Tatiana King and DJ Benhameen, talking about Lovecraft Country (my appearance starts at the 33:30 mark). This was my second visit to the ‘cast—I was previously a guest back in 2017, when they were known as the Fan Bros Show—and just like last time, I really enjoyed myself. For more Lovecraft Country conversation, be sure and check out the weekly “Safe Negro Podcast” editions of For All Nerds, where they go in-depth on each episode of the HBO series (starting with “Sundown,” here).

In other news:

* I am still answering reader questions over at Goodreads.

* On October 2 at 5 PM Pacific Time, I’ll be making a remote appearance as part of Novel Nights, a fundraiser to support Seattle’s Hugo House. If you’d like to contribute, you can buy tickets to individual events—other featured authors are Erik Larsen, Pramila Jayapal, Jess Walter, Sharyn Skeeter, and Neal Bascomb—or get a full series pass to all six Novel Nights.

* As of today, Lovecraft Country is on the New York Times bestseller list for the fourth week in a row!

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I’m 55 today

It’s been a weird mess of a year, but on balance I’m a very happy boy.

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Lovecraft Country: Sanctum

It seems like years ago now, but back in March I published a new novel, 88 Names, that is set largely in virtual reality (you can read more about the book here and listen to the official podcast here). My real-world book tour fell victim to the pandemic, but because of 88 Names’ subject matter, I ended up doing a number of events in VR, including a virtual book reading, an interview in Sansar, and a couple of visits to the Second Life Book Club (April 8, July 1).

Tonight, VR comes to Lovecraft Country. HBO and The Mill have created Sanctum, a series of three virtual reality events that will be hosted on VRChat. The first event, “Garden of Eden,” features afrofuturist art installations by David Alabo, Devan Shimoyama, and Adeyemi Adegbesan. Attendance in-world is invite-only, but the event will be livestreamed on YouTube, here, starting at 7 PM Pacific/10 PM Eastern.

And on a semi-related note: Lovecraft Country is once again on the New York Times trade paperback fiction bestseller list, climbing to the number 4 spot this week. I’m in good company, too, as Octavia Butler appears on the list for the first time ever—her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower debuts at number 14!

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#5

It was only a couple of days ago that I gently corrected an interviewer who’d referred to Lovecraft Country as a bestseller. Although sales of the novel had increased significantly since the premiere of the HBO series, so far as I knew it had only achieved bestseller status in some very specific Amazon subgenre categories.

But yesterday afternoon, the New York Times, continuing its tradition of giving me early birthday presents, made it official: On September 6, Lovecraft Country will debut at #5 on the trade paperback fiction bestseller list.

To say that I am thrilled about this would be an understatement. Before I go back to bouncing off the walls with glee, I wanted to say a quick thanks to the many folks who helped bring this book into the world, starting with my cadre of editors at HarperCollins: Tim Duggan, who bought Lovecraft Country but left Harper to work at Random House before I delivered the manuscript; Barry Harbaugh and Maya Ziv, who did the actual editing; and my current editor, Jennifer Brehl, who saw me through publication after Maya went to work at Penguin. I’m grateful as well to Jonathan Burnham, my Friend in High Places; my awesome production editor and fellow language nerd, Lydia Weaver; and my publicists, Rachel Elinsky and Heather Drucker.

My biggest thank you goes to my agent Melanie Jackson, who’s been looking out for me since 1987, when she sold Fool on the Hill to Atlantic Monthly Press just six months after I graduated Cornell University. This is her success too, and I’m very glad we’ve both lasted long enough to enjoy it.

#5!

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