The Golden Globe Awards ceremony starts this evening at 5 PM Pacific, and Lovecraft Country is nominated in the Best Television Series — Drama category. I’m told it’s a long shot — we’re up against The Crown, and the lack of individual actor nominations is also a bad sign — but for me personally, it’s thrilling to even have a horse in this race.
And while we’re on the subject of horse races, there are still a few hours left to vote for Lovecraft Country in the Polish Readers’ Choice Book Awards. Details here.
In another bit of translation related news, the Polish edition of Lovecraft Country has been nominated as Best Horror Book of 2020 for the Readers’ Choice Book Awards in Poland (which, as I understand it, is their equivalent of the Goodreads Choice Awards).
Voting is open to the general public on the awards website through midnight Central European Standard Time this Sunday, February 28. (If you don’t read Polish, I’d recommend using a browser like Google Chrome that has a built-in translator.)
If you do decide to vote, be sure to check out the other award categories. My friend Ted Chiang’s book Exhalation is nominated in science fiction.
To celebrate the trade paperback release, we’re putting the pod back together. The 88 Names podcast will drop new episodes starting on March 9. Confirmed guests include role-playing game design legend Mike Pondsmith (aka “the guy who killed your Cyberpunk character”), NASA/JPL star Sasha Samochina, medical education technology researcher Dr. Todd Chang, and the “Dungeon Dudes,” Montgomery Martin and Kelly McLaughlin.
And speaking of the Dungeon Dudes, I will be a guest on their Twitch channel, making a two-part run through the Dungeons of Drakenheim, on March 23 and March 30, starting at 3 PM Pacific/6 PM Eastern. This will be my first time playing a live D&D session since Ronald Reagan was president, so I’ll be boning up on the new 5th edition rules before the show (I’m told negative armor classes are bad, now).
One other bit of news: the Blu-ray edition of the first season of HBO’s Lovecraft Country is out today.
Back in the Before Time, when booksellers and authors could hang out in enclosed spaces without wearing masks, Phil Bevis of Chatwin Books asked if I’d write an introduction to an H.P. Lovecraft collection he was planning on publishing.
The book, Call of the Dreamlands, is out now. In addition to my intro, it contains seven stories drawn primarily from Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle: “The White Ship,” “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” “Polaris,” “What the Moon Brings,” “Hypnos,” “Ex Oblivione,” and “The Strange High House in the Mist.”
Call of the Dreamlands is available in two formats: a paperback edition for $8.95, and a limited, numbered hardcover edition, signed by me and illustrator Dean Kelly, for $85. You can order from the Chatwin Books website, or pick up a copy from Chatwin’s retail store, Arundel Books, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
Weird year. On the one hand, 2020 has been the high point of my career—Thanks, HBO! Thanks, New York Times bestseller list!—but on the other hand, yeah, it was still 2o2o.
Despite social media’s constant attempts to convince me otherwise, not everything was terrible. Here are some of the things that gave me joy over the past twelve months:
* Star Trek: Discovery — Other than Lovecraft Country, my favorite binge-watch of 2020 was this recent entry in the Star Trek franchise, currently wrapping up its third season. My wife, who loves Discovery as much as I do, initially wondered why we hadn’t heard more online buzz about the show. No doubt part of the explanation is that you need to sign up for CBS All Access to stream the series, but it probably also has something to do with the fact that Discovery presents a darker and more violent future than is typical for Star Trek. Mike Stoklasa and Rich Evans, reviewing the series over at Red Letter Media, suggested that Discovery‘s tone is more akin to Battlestar Galactica than the fun, wish-I-could-go-live-there pajama-clad future of traditional Trek, which I think is a fair point. But Lisa and I loved Battlestar Galactica, too, and we’re fine with grafting that sensibility onto the Trek universe, especially when it’s so well written and acted. Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh are particularly good in this, and Anson Mount made a great Christopher Pike.
* Island of the Sequined Love Nun, plus cookbooks — Despite the lockdown, I was too distracted to do much long-form reading this year. I started a lot of novels, but one of the few I managed to finish was this delightful comic adventure by my friend Christopher Moore. Set in Micronesia, it’s a Cargo Cult story that weaves in other plot elements most authors would never think to combine (sound familiar?). To say more would be spoiling it, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Though I didn’t read as much as I’d hoped, my book lust certainly hasn’t gone away. In particular, I spent a lot of money on cookbooks. My prize acquisition of 2020 is Peter P. Greweling’s Chocolates & Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner. Published by the Culinary Institute of America, this is a book for professionals that includes not only recipes and techniques, but tips on setting up a production line (with different equipment and space requirements depending on how many artisan truffles you want to make in a given day). I doubt I’ll ever use it, but it’s fun to leaf through it and salivate at the photographs.
* Messing about in virtual reality — Unless your name is Barack Obama, this was not a good year to try to publicize a new book. One advantage I had with 88 Names is that the novel’s virtual reality theme readily lent itself to online promotion. When the pandemic forced the cancellation of my book tour, I already had a number of online events lined up (most notably the 88 Names podcast, for which I am indebted to Blake Collier, Darryl Armstrong, the Threaded Zebra Agency, and Rise Up Daily). Not only did this give me something to fall back on immediately, it meant I had all the hardware and software I needed to do additional remote interviews and appearances.
I ended up trying a lot of different online platforms. Zoom is ubiquitous for a reason, but the one that left the biggest impression on me was Sansar, the VR version of Second Life. The technology still has some issues, but my appearance on the Drax Files Radio Hour, and subsequent visits to the Second Life Book Club, gave me a real sense of what future publicity tours might look like. While I did miss meeting fans and booksellers in person, I was happy to skip the long plane flights.
Of course, I also used my Oculus headset to play games. My standout favorite was In Death, a first-person roguelike that casts you as an archer fighting your way across Purgatory. Other games and experiences I enjoyed include Beat Saber, Superhot VR, Space Engine, The Under Presents, and Manifest 99. And in the non-VR realm, the games I had the most fun with this year are Hearthstone, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Oxygen Not Included, and Titanfall 2.
* Feminine Chaos podcast — Smart contrarian culture commentary by Phoebe Maltz Bovy and Kat Rosenfield, aka “Phoebe and Kat discuss that thing people have been ranting about online.” A nice antidote to the Twitter doomscrolling I did way too much of this year. In addition to their Patreon-supported main feed, they have a back catalog of episodes on Bloggingheads.TV, featuring occasional cameos by Rasputin the cat.
* Hacksmith Industries’ plasma lightsaber — Last, but definitely not least, the YouTube algorithm recently decided that I needed to see this video from Hacksmith Industries, a makers’ group who build real-life versions of sci-fi and fantasy tech:
There’s also a test video where they use the saber to cut through all kinds of stuff. A festively destructive note to end the year on.
My old friend and mentor Professor Alison Lurie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Foreign Affairs and The War Between the Tates, has died at the age of 94.
I met Alison in my junior year at Cornell, when I took her creative writing class. I’d just started writing Fool on the Hill, the novel that would serve as my senior thesis in Honors English. Alison liked my work and encouraged me to send the finished manuscript to her agent, Melanie Jackson. Melanie liked the book too, and sold Fool on the Hill to Atlantic Monthly Press just six months after I graduated. Without Alison’s generosity, the arc of my writing career would have been very different—if it had happened at all.
It had been many years since I’d seen Alison in person, but we emailed from time to time, most recently in September when we exchanged happy birthdays (we were born just five days—and several decades—apart). I’m very glad I took the opportunity to say thank you to her one more time.
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 / email@example.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.
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.
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.