Friday, May 29, 2009

I just bought the first issue of Bob Fingerman's new comic, From the Ashes, and of course it's as hilarious, truthful, and warped as all his work. Stylewise, he's like a demented Mort Drucker, gleefully documenting the decline of Western Civilization.

From the Ashes is not only mordantly funny, it's also weirdly poignant, which makes sense since it's about Bob and his wife Michele surviving the end of the world. But nuclear apocalypse is a mixed bag--despite a few cannibalistic freaks, it's not all bad. Hey, no more ringing BlackBerries, balky PCs, or annoying co-workers. In fact no job at all, ever again! And they have each other, which is my favorite thing about the story: how Bob is so crazy about Michele that he's actually grateful for the apocalypse, just so they can finally spend more time together. Billions may be dead, but their sweetly snarky romance (think Robert and Aline Crumb) goes on. If there has to be an armageddon, these are the people you want to spend it with.

Having been an avid follower of Fingerman's work ever since I first discovered it in Heavy Metal magazine back in the '80s, it came as something of a shock when I read in an interview that he enjoyed my novel Xombies. That was huge for me. Bob Fingerman liked my book--whoa.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I've just been re-reading Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis, and am amazed all over again by what an unbelievably gutsy book it is...and more relevant than ever. It should be required reading for every American.

Speaking of which, I hope that the re-release of my book Xombies (as Xombies: Apocalypse Blues) will finally give it a chance to be properly evaluated. Despite the title and lurid cover, it never was intended to be a "zombie novel" (there was no such genre when I wrote it in 2001), but rather a social satire that used "Xombies" the same way Kurt Vonnegut used Ice Nine in Cat's Cradle--as a device to address gender issues, corporate manipulation, assumptions of good and evil, and the human tendency toward self-deception. These were all very much on my mind after 9/11, when it seemed to me that most of America had turned into a horde of mindless zombies. And, like the unfortunate refugees crammed aboard the USS No-Name, we were all in the same boat.

Not many readers appreciated these ideas at the time, but I hope that by now most of my cultural critiques have entered the mainstream. At least no one can accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sometimes I miss hitchhiking. When I was younger I spent a couple of years hitchhiking all over the U.S. and Mexico, and it was the most incredible time. Of course, I could have been murdered by a serial-killer, but at that point in my life I didn't much care. I had just dropped out of school and was living in a crappy apartment in Santa Fe, working as a janitor to support my writing habit. But after a friend of mine died senselessly I lost all sense of purpose. So I bought a used canvas dufflebag, stuffed it with a blanket and a change of clothes, gave the rest of my belongings away (including my portable typewriter), and hit the road. I figured I had nothing to lose--the only other alternative was suicide.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I just spent Memorial Day weekend raking the leaves that are falling from the large maple tree in my backyard. It's a green blizzard out there! You may wonder, as anyone would, why the leaves are falling in Spring instead of Fall (actually, they also fall in Fall, so I get to rake twice a year). Is the tree sick, or dying? I wondered the same thing myself when it first started happening a few years ago. I searched the leaves for any sign of disease, but there was nothing--the leaf-stems were just neatly cut. Spotting a few aphids, I had the tree sprayed...but the leaves still fell. Finally I went on the Internet and found the cause: a wily creature called a petiole borer. This is a species of wasp that plants its eggs in the leaf-stems (or "petioles") of maple trees, so that the larvae chew through the stem. The leaves drop first, then later the grubs, which burrow under the soil and emerge the following Spring as tiny wasps. The Circle of Life! Apparently this seasonal infestation is not all that harmful to the tree, which grows back most of its leaves over the summer. Lucky me, because there seems to be little in the way of pest control--like Steven Segal, petiole borers are hard to kill.

And while I'm boring you with my petty gripes, why is it I don't have any friends who like to fish? I like to fish. As a kid growing up in California I spent my summers fishing almost every day, digging my own bait or buying live anchovies on the Belmont Pier, but somehow I never made any friends who were equally into fishing--I couldn't even get my own son into it! It's a cruel sport, they say, and I have to admit it is an awful thing to do to a living creature (yet no more horrible than the fate of all our meat). So I rarely fish anymore, or if I do I fish alone.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Well, it looks like I'm going to attend both ThrillerFest (NY) and Comic-Con (San Diego) in July, so I'll be covering both coasts. I just wish I had some advance copies of Xombies: Apocalypse Blues to hand out--it seems kind of silly to promote a book that won't be available for three more months. But I'm working on some cool handouts of my original artwork, and hopefully Berkley/Ace will come through with a flyer and some posters.

Apparently I'll be taking part in panel discussion at ThrillerFest--something about the use of exotic locales in fiction--which should be interesting. And by interesting, I mean potentially disastrous, along the lines of David Brent's attempts at motivational speaking on The Office. My book is about the last girl on Earth, zombies, the end of the world, a submarine voyage, the Beatles, and the downside of Xanadu--I'm not sure this panel is the perfect place for me. But I do appreciate not being automatically relegated to the zombie-shlock ghetto.

Friday, May 08, 2009

I just finished another Xombies illustration--check it out.