I’m 49 today

by Matt Ruff on September 8, 2014

hedgebirthdayI have survived another trip around the sun.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Three months to my deadline

by Matt Ruff on August 7, 2014

Guardians of the deadline

No, it’s going well, really. The last bits of Lovecraft Country are coming into focus and the stuff that’s already finished, works. Now I just gotta stick the landing.

Last weekend I left the house for the first time in days and went with Lisa to see Guardians of the Galaxy. The early trailers made it seem like a Marvel version of an Adam Sandler comedy, so I really wasn’t expecting much, but after all the good buzz and reviews we decided to give it a shot. We ended up really liking it. Feels more like a (good) Star Wars movie than a Marvel superhero flick, but that’s fine.

Meanwhile, back at Marvel HQ, studio president Kevin Feige is twisting himself into knots over the question of why he hasn’t yet greenlit a film centered on a female superhero like Black Widow. My guess: When you’re responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of studio money and you like your job, even minor deviations from established formula can seem terrifying. I’m sure they’ll come around on this eventually because the potential profits are just too big to ignore, but in the meantime there’s a niche here for somebody who can figure out how to do a superhero film on an indie-film budget.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Late spring, when the shoggoths start to bloom

by Matt Ruff on June 6, 2014

It involves road maps

Still hard at work on Lovecraft Country.

This week I finished a section of the novel called “The Narrow House,” in which my protagonist’s father, in the course of parleying with a ghost, tells the story of how his own father was murdered during the 1921 Tulsa Riot. Next up is “Horace and the Devil Doll,” in which corrupt members of the Chicago PD wage an unusual campaign of harassment against a 12-year-old boy.

In other news:

* Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations” dropped a couple weeks ago. I found it particularly interesting because it covers a lot of the same historical ground as Lovecraft Country, albeit with fewer Necronomicon references.

* On Netflix streaming, Lisa and I stumbled across The Loving Story, a documentary about Mildred and Richard Loving, who were convicted in 1959 of violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws and given a choice between prison and leaving the state. While in exile in D.C., Mildred Loving wrote to Bobby Kennedy asking for help, and he directed her to the ACLU, whose lawyers eventually argued the Lovings’ case all the way to the Supreme Court. The story is fascinating, but what really makes the documentary is the archival footage of the Lovings themselves, which gives you a sense of who they were and how deeply they cared about each other.

* In the idle diversions category, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Dream Quest, an iOS game app that combines elements of a Rogue-like RPG and a deck-building game. Review here. Strategy tips here.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The Mirage German editionIt’s available in both hardcover and ebook editions. As you can see, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag did a really nice job on the jacket design. The German translation, as with my previous novels, is by Ditte and Giovanni Bandini.

Unfortunately I won’t be coming to Germany on book tour this time around. Maybe for the paperback.

Meanwhile, I’m still hard at work on Lovecraft Country, currently writing the “Jekyll in Hyde Park” portion of the story. More news soon…

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Miraż

by Matt Ruff on January 10, 2014

miragepolish

Just got my complimentary author’s copies of the Polish translation of The Mirage. Aren’t they sexy?

They had a rough time getting here. The first batch got stolen or eaten in transit, and all I received was an empty mailsack with a big hole in the bottom. (Fun fact: the U.S. postal service will still deliver parcels that are obviously missing their contents, even if what’s left of the packaging resembles windblown debris.) The folks at REBIS Publishing very kindly sent a second round by special delivery, heavily armored in multiple layers of cardboard, and this time the books arrived safely.

The translation is by Zbigniew A. Królicki and the cover design is by Michał Pawłowski.

(P.S. The long-awaited German translation of The Mirage is due on March 1.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

25 years

by Matt Ruff on December 31, 2013

fool1stcovI let the actual anniversary slip by unnoticed, but 2013 was my twenty-fifth year as a published novelist.

When you’ve always known what you want to do with your life, and you’re fortunate enough to actually be able to do it, there’s a tendency in hindsight to think of the breaks you got as inevitable. It’s not true, of course. I’ve been very, very lucky and I know it.

So as the sun sets on 2013, I want to say thank you to everybody who helped me get this far, most notably my parents, my wife Lisa, my teacher and mentor Alison Lurie, my agent Melanie Jackson, my publishers and editors, and of course my readers.

Thanks, guys. And have a great 2014.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

An end-of-the-year list for anyone wanting suggestions on how to spend your leftover holiday money/spare time:

Reading

bestofsimpleI didn’t read much new fiction this year. Long-form TV has taken up a lot of the time I used to spend on novels, and when I’m focused on a new novel of my own, as I am right now, most of the reading I do tends to be either research or revisiting old favorites (tops on my repeat list this year: The Haunting of Hill House, No Country for Old Men, and William Gibson’s Bigend trilogy). Still, there were a few good new things:

Layman’s Report, by Eugene Marten — This fictionalized account of the life of Fred Leuchter (aka “Mr. Death”) was my favorite novel of the year.

Langston Hughes’s newspaper column, circa 1954 — As part of my background reading for Lovecraft Country, I’ve been going through old issues of the Chicago Defender, and Hughes’s weekly column is consistently my favorite part of the paper. Some pieces describe Hughes’s experiences traveling around the Jim Crow-era U.S.; others take the form of dialogues between Hughes and his imaginary sidekick Jesse B. Semple (“Simple”). The latter are collected in The Best of Simple.

Fractures, by Lamar Herrin — Though technically I read it in 2012, this was the only book I blurbed this year (“A moving and beautifully crafted family drama, with characters who are more than the usual suspects”), and I wanted to give it another shout-out here. As is often the case with moving and beautifully crafted family dramas, Fractures lacks the sort of high-concept plot elements — e.g., Holocaust-denying electric-chair designers — that make for an easy sales pitch, but just to give you a sense of what I dug about it, here’s a short excerpt from the opening chapter describing how the protagonist once slit his wrist, not because he was suicidal, but because he was trying to figure out if he was suicidal:

[H]e wanted to see if, when the blood appeared, he was willing to let it flow… he’d read that the veins running down his wrist would yield, if cut, a dark blood, which would only ooze out, and that gauze pressed down beneath an Ace bandage would be sufficient to stop it. Flanking the veins and deeper set were the radial and ulnar arteries, and these would yield a bright red blood in a pulsating flow, which would take a tourniquet, in addition to the gauze and bandage, to stop. The arteries brought blood from the heart, oxygenated to that brighter red as it passed through the lungs; after its long, wearying trip through the body, the veins brought the blood back.

He’d intended to cut to the deeper and thicker-walled arteries, so that he would know, know for sure, but had in fact cut only to the depth of the veins… Of course, he accused himself of cowardice… but he also commended himself for not wasting time. He didn’t need the brighter, more youthful blood to tell him what the darker, more traveled blood had already made clear. He wanted to live.

Like I say, not the usual suspects. Check it out.

Watching

upstreamcolorUpstream Color — The second feature film by Shane Carruth, the writer/director of 2004’s Primer. I started watching this with no real notion of what the story was about (other than that it was vaguely science-fictional) and recommend that you do the same if you can. Best, most interesting film I’ve seen all year.

Orange is the New Black — Though binge-watching the entirety of Breaking Bad was my favorite TV experience of the year, this was a very close second.

Cloud Atlas — I wish the economics of film allowed for more ambitious failures like this one. Though the story ultimately doesn’t quite work, boy was it interesting.

Boardwalk Empire — Not your typical Jersey gangster series. Watching the first three seasons, Lisa and I kept remarking to each other how they were doing things with the characters that we hadn’t seen before. And the women’s roles are as compelling as the men’s. Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael K. Williams, and Gretchen Mol are all great in this, though my favorite character is the disfigured World War I vet played by Jack Huston.

The Heat — Melissa McCarthy, where have you been all my life? The forgettable plot (they fight crime, yadda yadda) is just a pretext for gal to misbehave for ninety minutes, with Sandra Bullock gamely playing the straight woman. This left me wanting to see a version of Gravity with McCarthy in the George Clooney role.

Playing

KnJHearthstone — Blizzard’s upcoming World of Warcraft-themed online collectible card game. As of this writing it’s still in beta test, but I got an invitation and it’s my favorite new game of the year.

The game is very similar to Magic: the Gathering, but Blizzard has come up with a much smoother and more user-friendly interface than the current M:tG computer game, so I find it a lot more fun to play. Also, it’s free: You get a limited number of cards to start out, and buy booster packs using gold that you earn by completing quests or winning matches. (There’s also an option to buy booster packs with real money, which is how Blizzard will make a profit, but the game is well-balanced enough, and gold easy enough to win, that you really won’t need to spend money to be competitive.)

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign — An addictive Bejeweled-style match-three combat game with a Marvel superhero theme. Free to play, with an option to purchase extra resources. (One quick play-tip, if you don’t want to spend money: Use all your hero points to acquire extra roster slots, so you’ll have room to recruit new heroes as they become available.) Available on both tablet and PC.

Gone Home — A cool piece of interactive fiction that casts you as a young woman just back from trekking across Europe. You arrive at your family’s new house late on a stormy night and find that no one is home. There’s a note on the door from your little sister saying she’s run away and a frantic message from your mother on the answering machine. Rather than wait for Mom to call back so you can ask her what’s going on, you decide to treat the house like a crime scene and conduct a thorough, room-by-room search, without regard for anybody’s privacy. As one does.

The story that unfolds is a good one, worth encountering unspoilered. There are a few locked doors and cabinets to contend with, but these are less puzzles than means of channeling your progress so you come across the pieces of the narrative in the right order. The key to making it to the end is to examine everything: open every container, read every scrap of paper. And use the map—the one time I got stuck, briefly, I realized I’d somehow skipped a room.

Things I am looking forward to in 2014

Reading: Porochista Khakpour’s The Last Illusion, Nicola Griffith’s Hild, Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway, the finished manuscript of Lovecraft Country. Watching: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending. Playing: More Hearthstone.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

11/22/2013

by Matt Ruff on November 22, 2013

It involves road maps

Holy crow, it’s the end of November already. How’d that happen?

Work on Lovecraft Country continues apace. I’ve passed the halfway mark, and more importantly, the remaining gaps in the story arc have been filling themselves in neatly. I’m not yet at that magic point where I’ve got the complete novel in my head, but I can see it off in the distance now and know that I’ll get there.

In other news:

* Wednesday’s New York Times had a story from the granddaughter of a Bronx landlord who claimed 13-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald liked to shoot at the neighbors with his BB gun. Reading this, it occurred to me that I’ve never seen a film about the JFK assassination that unambiguously portrayed Oswald as acting alone. But once you admit the possibility, he seems like exactly the sort of character who’d decide, on his own, to try to murder a public figure.

* Laurie Anderson wrote an incredible piece for Rolling Stone about her life with Lou Reed, and their last moments together.

* A Buzzfeed staffer ranked all 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is great if you’re in the mood to waste huge amounts of time debating the opinions of a stranger. But what else is the Internet for, amirite?

* Now that the Seattle weather’s turned cold, I put out the hummingbird feeder, and almost immediately got a customer. This led to a breakfast-table conversation with Lisa about whether this was the same hummingbird who visited us last winter. Then, while I was checking hummingbird lifespans on Wikipedia (3-5 years on average, so yeah, it could be the same guy) I noticed that our Anna’s hummingbirds are described as “medium-sized,” which begged the question, “If that’s medium, what does a small one look like?”

Like this:

beehummer

This is a bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. Wish we could lure some to Seattle, but seeing as they are native to Cuba I doubt they’d like the climate much.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The Mirage mini coverFor the next two four weeks, The Mirage English-language ebook is on sale for just $1.99 from all the major U.S. outlets, including Google, iTunes, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

From what I can tell, the sale extends to at least some international markets as well—I’m seeing an equivalent reduction in Kindle edition prices in continental Europe, Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

Also, the Polish-language edition of The Mirage has just been published by REBIS. Cool cover!

UPDATE: The Mirage has been chosen for the Kindle Big Deal, so the sale has been extended through October 28th.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

I’m 48 today

by Matt Ruff on September 8, 2013

birthdayorangutan

Still just .193 on Pluto.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }