Books and more books

Last week I attended the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s fall trade show in Portland, Oregon. I was a guest at the Tuesday morning author breakfast and got to pitch 88 Names to a ballroom full of friendly indie booksellers. I also scored complimentary copies of the other guest authors’ books—the new Joy of Cooking, revised by Ethan Becker (grandson of the original author) and Megan Scott; Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel, about a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, with ghosts; and Ruta Sepetys’ The Fountains of Silence, a historical novel about Spain under Franco.

Before heading home I made the obligatory pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books, signed some stock, and picked up a few more presents:

That’s How to Disappear, by former skip tracers Frank M. Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan; The H.P. Lovecraft Book of Puzzles by Dr. Gareth Moore; and Julio Cortázar’s Literature Class, a collection of lectures on writing Cortázar gave a Berkeley in 1980.

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I’m 54 today

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We have a cover

Behold the cover for my forthcoming novel, 88 Names (details in my last blog post). The artist is Jarrod Taylor, who also did the cover for Lovecraft Country, as well as an early concept cover for The Mirage.

This time around Mr. Taylor delivered a number of cover ideas, all cool in different ways, but this one was my favorite. It’s a great fit for the story, but the thing that really sold me was the visual pun of the paper name tag as VR goggles: Freaking brilliant, as I told my editor.

In related news, yesterday I signed off on the second pass galleys, the last version of the novel I will see before we get bound review copies later this year. So book #7 is done; time for me to start thinking about what I’m going to write next.

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My next novel is 88 Names, coming March 17, 2020

Earlier this week I finished reviewing the galleys for my next novel, 88 Names. I’ve been teasing this for a while, but here’s the official catalog description:

The critically acclaimed author of Lovecraft Country returns with a thrilling and immersive virtual reality epic—part cyberthriller, part twisted romantic comedy—that transports you to a world where identity is fluid and nothing can be taken at face value.

John Chu is a “sherpa”—a paid guide to online role-playing games like the popular Call to Wizardry. For a fee, he and his crew will provide you with a top-flight character equipped with the best weapons and armor, and take you dragon-slaying in the Realms of Asgarth, hunting rogue starships in the Alpha Sector, or battling hordes of undead in the zombie apocalypse.

Chu’s new client, the pseudonymous Mr. Jones, claims to be a “wealthy, famous person” with powerful enemies, and he’s offering a ridiculous amount of money for a comprehensive tour of the world of virtual-reality gaming. For Chu, this is a dream assignment, but as the tour gets underway, he begins to suspect that Mr. Jones is really North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whose interest in VR gaming has more to do with power than entertainment. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Chu also has to worry about “Ms. Pang,” who may or may not be an agent of the People’s Republic of China, and his angry ex-girlfriend, Darla Jean Covington, who isn’t the type to let an international intrigue get in the way of her own plans for revenge.

What begins as a whirlwind online adventure soon spills over into the real world. Now Chu must use every trick and resource at his disposal to stay one step ahead—because in real life, there is no reset button.

Per my usual m.o., the book is a departure from what I’ve written previously, but it’s probably closest in tone to Bad Monkeys. Much of the story takes place in virtual-reality environments where you have total control over how you look and sound, and since most of the characters John Chu interacts with—not just Mr. Jones and Ms. Pang, but his coworkers and his ex-girlfriend—are people he’s never met in real life, it’s a constant guessing game as to who he’s really dealing with and what they’re really after. That’s about all I can say without getting into spoiler territory, but I think the novel is a lot of fun, and the in-house buzz from HarperCollins has been great so far.

88 Names is due out March 17 of next year. It’s available for preorder right now.

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With author Jo Lendle at Elliott Bay tonight (5/14)

Tonight at 7 PM I’ll be onstage at Elliott Bay Book Company, talking to German author Jo Lendle about his novel All the Land, which has just been translated into English. The book is a fictionalized account of the life of polar researcher Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), who originated the modern theory of continental drift. If you’re in the Seattle area you should definitely come by and see us, but even if you’re not, you should pick up a copy of the book, which is great:

He looked through the sheets one by one, then crumpled each piece and tossed them over to the cold fireplace. He missed it every single time. The white paper balls bounced off the surrounds and rolled briefly across the kitchen floor before coming to rest. He kept the four best drafts. The tool chest contained a few nails and a hammer, and Wegener used them to affix the pictures to the wall above the fireplace, next to the cast iron pokers.

They showed the prehistoric face of the Earth. Wegener had spent the day cutting continents out of stiff card and transferring the most important characteristics to them: directions of the glaciers’ motions, occurrence of rare species of flora and fauna. Then he had pushed the pieces to and fro on the tabletop like glasses at one of the seances all the world was talking about. What ghosts was he trying to summon? When the pieces refused to fit he had cut, torn and folded them until everything finally tessellated: abrasions, habitats, coasts. Then he had constantly retraced the continents’ paths, how they split, divided, separated off and drifted into their present positions. He had repeated the movement until his hands knew them by rote, forwards and backwards, in a single moment overcoming distances for which the continents had taken millennia.

Then he had traced the various phases onto new sheets and finally coloured the surfaces of the continents as far as the pencil stumps had allowed. He had chosen a pink pencil for the ur-continent, because it was closest at hand. While the ur-continent was a single mass in the first picture, in the consecutive sketches it separated ever further, each surface drifting gradually away towards its present position.

Only now that the series of pictures was on the wall did it occur to him that their course looked like a flower slowly opening its pink blossom. Or a plate breaking very gradually. No, thinking about it, it was an embryo, lying curled in the first picture and then growing continually, the little head rising, the foetus stretching out arms and legs and taking ever greater shape. As long as one did not get confused by the head and limbs gradually separating off from the rump. Wegener picked up the last piece of pink and wrote beneath the first picture: All the Land.

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I’m coming to Brooklyn on April 16

On Tuesday, April 16, I will be appearing on stage with Victor LaValle (author of The Ballad of Black Tom) and Ruthanna Emrys (Winter Tide) at the Film Noir Cinema in Brooklyn, NY. We’ll be doing a town hall-style discussion hosted by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies entitled “The Shadow Over Lovecraft: Interrogating H.P. Lovecraft’s Racism.” The event starts at 7 PM; author Rodney Perkins (Cosmic Suicide) will moderate.

Admission is $15 in advance and $17 at the door. Hope to see you there!

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Now en français

Presses de la Cité’s edition of Lovecraft Country is out today. French language translation by Laurent Philibert-Caillat:

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Proof-of-life news post

Sorry things have been so quiet on the blog lately. I’m not dead, just finishing up a new novel. More details on that soon. In the meantime:

* The Taiwanese edition of Lovecraft Country was published in January by Cité Publishing Group.

* Ediciones Destino is publishing their Spanish edition of Lovecraft Country on March 12.

* The French edition of Lovecraft Country drops March 28 from Presses de la Cité.

* The UK paperback edition of Lovecraft Country will be out May 30 from Picador.

* Next month, I will be coming to New York City for a special event hosted by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. I’ll be appearing on stage with Victor LaValle at the Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave., Brooklyn) for a town hall-style discussion entitled “The Shadow Over Lovecraft: Interrogating H.P. Lovecraft’s Racism.” The event is on Tuesday, April 16, from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door.

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Michael K. Williams will play Montrose in Lovecraft Country

Deadline Hollywood reports that Michael Kenneth Williams has been cast as Montrose in the upcoming HBO adaptation of Lovecraft Country.

This is amazing news, and also very surreal for me: Back before the book was even optioned, when I would play the “Who would you cast as X?” game, Williams as Montrose was always one of my first picks, though I never in a million years believed it might actually happen. In short, Wow!

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