Slatter, INK and FUR

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Weeks don’t get crazier than this

mohawk girlDue to a confluence of circumstance, I taught every day and every night this week, either live or online. Summer ends here in a screaming frenzy of cicadas under a 40 degree Celsius sun and nights too hot and too still to mention. Lie there and hope for morning. Last night I finally fell asleep with my head at the foot of my bed, naked except for an ice pack clutched to my chest.

In other news, a new two-book contract in the works with a powerhouse indie publisher I’ve had my eye on for a while, more as it unfolds. Racing to finish the collection for another publisher who also needs to remain nameless for now. And if that wasn’t enough, some other brouhaha around a prize for which American Monster is being considered. Or something. Also on the QT for now. One of those weeks where everything and nothing happens at once.

On the way to work yesterday, I listened to Rayya Elias talk about her new book, Harley Loco. I didn’t know who Elias was before this. I’ve always liked the idea of hair as an act of rebellion.

Because the night…

So tonight I teach a course I’ve never taught before at a school I’ve never been to before, to students I’ve never met, who think they’re going to be taught by someone else. Cool.

‘Cyber-Hippie’ Michael Hart dies

Micheal HartSad to see that at the ridiculously young age of 64, Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, was found dead at his home in Urbana, Illinois. Described by admirers as an ardent technologist and futurist, Michael Stern Hart was to the eBook what Grove Press’s Barney Rosset was to print—making out-of-print literature available to millions, here and now.
Project Gutenberg, begun by Hart on July 4, 1971 with the typing of the Declaration of Independence and downloaded by six people over the Arpanet, grew in increments over the first two decades. To support the project, Hart worked a variety of odd jobs, furnished his house from garage sales, built his own computers from discarded components, and avoided doctors. By 1989, Project Gutenberg had completed its 10th eBook, but it was only after typing in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland that Hart really saw the writing on the wall.  A bunch of kids he knew and their friends were so excited about reading Alice on the computer that they all climbed onto the one chair in front of the monitor, breaking the chair and  crashing them to the floor. Yet they still kept reading.

To say that Hart was encouraged was just one of the many understatements that could be applied to this larger-than-life guy. He began work with a new fervor, digitizing one literary text after another, convinced that the future of reading was electronic, and that one day we would be able to hold a world of words in the palm of our hands. From that day on, according to the LA times,  ‘any time anyone owed me a favor’ he said. ‘I said, ‘Here, type in some Hamlet.’

PG now offers more than 30, 000 free books in sixty languages. Today the most read ebook on Gutenburg is the Kama Sutra (25,000) downloads, followed by The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (18,000) downloads. According to the NY Times, it relies on the work of volunteers who scan and proofread without pay, adding to its list at the rate of hundreds of books each month.

The NYT quotes Hart as saying in 1997, after having created only 313 ebooks on PG, that he was ‘just waiting for the world to realize I’d knocked it over’. A year later, Wired Magazine named Hart as one of the 25 people who were ‘actively, even hyperactively inventing tomorrow.’ Steve Jobs was included on that list.

Moving Right Along

Last couple of weeks of teaching and I have never been so glad to see the end of semester. From having to be front and center in class two hours after getting off the plane from LA, to getting sick, to being chased around campus by a crazed underachiever, it has been a hellacious semester. A Hellester, in fact.

Worst moment? Panic attack in the middle of a class on The Wasteland, the whole class watching me hyperventilate. Best thing? Rereading Mrs Dalloway and getting to know a new colleague who is writing a very clever, exhaustive PhD on drag queens.

Looking forward to knocking over the marking and wrapping American Monster, which has jumped in the last week from p 50 to p 100 of the rewrite. 50 pp to go.

A month of firsts

It has been a month of firsts in a year of firsts. Last week, I was interviewed for the first time ever, an out-of-body experience if there ever was one, so watch this space; I sent off my first collection of shorts to the sublime and savvy Le Zaparogue, got my first cover art, and my first foreword —authored by the formidable Kris Saknussemm. Oh, and I bought my first Crock Pot.

So I finally have one of those volcanic, bubbling, gloppy mechanical kitchen monsters that my friends used to have when I was a kid.

And, I’m thinking for the first time in a long time about friends. Not a strong suite of mine, I’ve always thought, being a friend. But lately I’ve been getting to know some really smart, creative people, and I’m letting them be my friends, and am hoping, for the first time, that I measure up.

The monster’s back

It feels okay. I’m inspired and motivated by knowing it’s there, what I saw and who I talked to. I visited the grandmother I miss every day at the cemetery, which was harder than I thought it would be, hung out with my family, wore out the handycam, and flew across the country at night for a two hour lunch with my agent in NYC. The subway spat me out at Times Square. I hung out at the Village and the cab took me home past my past—Queens Blvd. And up until the terrible news from HIS home, Christchurch, I got a kick out of seeing the old man in vacation mode. All in all, just what the psyche doctor ordered.
So now, back to hard hard work. We landed at 6 am on the 28thand I was teaching by 10. Yesterday felt the strain, but ready to kick it now, like any good American Monster.