“God” in BOMB Magazine

I have a story called “God” up in BOMB Magazine today! I’ve been working on it for a long, long time (even though it’s only 997 words), and am so glad to see it finally out there in the world. Many thanks to BOMB editor Raluca Albu and director Libby Flores for making it happen, and to Victor Boyda for the wonderful art!

God (art by Victor Boyda)

This story has also been adapted to chamber ensemble and voice by composer Nathan Hudson (who previously adapted my story “The Duck”). We’re hoping to schedule some performances of that piece around the country this year.

What I Read and Wrote and Did in 2019

So what happened this year? Well, let’s see. I published 5 new stories: “The Trespassing Forest” and “The Statue in the Park” in Cherry Tree, “It is Illegal to Enter the Graveyard” in Post Road, “Joan of Arc” in The Adroit Journal, and “The Magic Mountain” in A Public Space.

“The Trespassing Forest” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Cherry Tree Pushcart Nominations

I had two previously published stories anthologized: “Carla” in Writers of Mystery and Imagination, and “James K. Polk” in Making History: Classic Alternate History Stories.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, which included my story “The Rock Eater” (from Tales of Falling and Flying), won the 2019 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! It was a thrill to be included, and wonderful to see editors Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly honored for their work.

My story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) was on the Valentine’s Day episode of This American Life again (which makes four times—here’s hoping for more!). My stories “The Cape” and “The Monster” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) popped up on the Selected Shorts podcast, read by Tony Yazbeck and John Cameron Mitchell, respectively. (You can also watch the dance adaptation of “The Cape” which Selected Shorts commissioned from Pigeonwing Dance here.)

Speaking of adaptations, composer Nathan Hudson, who a few years ago adapted my story “The Duck” for chamber ensemble and voice as his Master’s thesis at Stony Brook University, has done it again! This time we collaborated on a new piece, based on an as-yet-unpublished story of mine called “God.” Hopefully there will be some performances of the piece around the country in 2020, so be on the lookout for those!

I also love this poster art by the immensely talented Victor Boyda:

God • Victor Boyda art

What else? A long string of nightmarish “headline” tweets I wrote during the early days of the Trump administration were collected by Julia Ingalls and included in this volume, alongside work by Brendan Constantine, Henry Hoke, Anne-Marie Kinney, J. Ryan Stradal, and other LA literary luminaries.

And finally, it looks like both Tales of Falling and Flying and Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day are being translated into Turkish! This all just happened at the end of the year, so I’m still waiting on the details—but it looks fantastic and I am thrilled by the news.

•••

What else? I went to New Orleans and did a reading at the Disorder Salon along with Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest (and owner of the just-opened Thank You Books—if you’re ever in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by and say hi!). I read some stories in concert with the Sharp & Fine Dance Just Ahead is Darkness show at Soundwave 9 in San Francisco (and was also somehow talked into dancing live onstage). I did readings at LitCrawl LA, the Idyllwild Arts Writers Week, the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Annual Publication Party, the Difficult to Name Reading Series, the Ghosts of You launch party, and with friends Bud Smith and J.S. Breukelaar, among others.

Ben Loory at Stories

I continued to teach short story writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Session. I had students accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the MFA Program at UC Riverside, and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Others had stories published here, here, and here; one put out the second book in her current YA trilogy; and another has her first novel on the way from FSG. The kids make me proud! Amazing stuff.

•••

On a sad note, my mentor Dennis Etchison died this year. He was brilliant, hilarious, and despairing, and his favorite book was Kenneth Patchen’s The Journal of Albion Moonlight. I’d never written a story in my life when I signed up to take Dennis’s writing class at the Mystery & Imagination Bookstore 15 years ago, and I owe him absolutely everything. If you’ve never read anything by Dennis, may I recommend the incredible career retrospective It Only Comes Out at Night. I recommend you don’t read it after dark.

23316484_10155980777915712_2487158407503971401_n

with Dennis Etchison

•••

Reading-wise, 2019 was good to me! I read about 153 books, if my records are accurate (my records are always accurate). Here are some of my favorites:

I wrote a thread about my top 25 or so on Twitter, you can read that over there if you like.

My favorite stories that I read this year were “The Return” by Roberto Bolaño, “Nocturne” by Thomas Tessier, “Remedies” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, “Wild Milk” by Sabrina Orah Mark, “Cecil Taylor” by Cesar Aira, “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky” by John Hornor Jacobs (technically a novella I guess), “The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington, “Kino” by Haruki Murakami, “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders, “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, “Levitation” by Joseph Payne Brennan, “The Last Cheng Beng Gift” by Jaymee Goh, and “Sisters” by Brian Evenson, which had my favorite story opening of the year: “We had just moved in, hadn’t even done anything to our neighbors yet.”

And as always, you can follow all my reading on Goodreads; I’m not as active as I used to be, but who is….

 

“The Magic Mountain” in A Public Space

I wrote a story about a strange little town and a weird book; it’s called “The Magic Mountain” and it’s in the new issue of A Public Space (No. 28), alongside work by Jamel Brinkley, Elisa Gabbert, Kelly Link, and Matthew Zapruder, among others. Find a copy at your local newsstand, or pick up a digital or print subscription here.

Many thanks to Antoine Wilson, Brigid Hughes, and Megan Cummins for making this happen—A Public Space is a truly wonderful journal and this was a dream come true!

 

 

A New Musical Collaboration

A few years ago, composer Nathan Hudson adapted my story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) for chamber ensemble and voice as his Master’s thesis at Stony Brook University. (You can listen to a recording of that here if you like.) Now we’ve collaborated on another piece, this time for Nathan’s PhD, working from a new, as-yet-unpublished story of mine called “God.” The thesis defense will be on December 3rd at Stony Brook on Long Island, but look for a performance near you some time in 2020!

I also love this poster art by the immensely talented Victor Boyda:

God • Victor Boyda art.jpg

“There once was a man who was tired of breathing…”

Joan of Arc

I have a story called “Joan of Arc” in the new issue of The Adroit Journal, alongside work by Oliver de la Paz, Kimberly Grey, and Noor Hindi, and interviews with Mary Ruefle and Heather Christle. You can read it here:

Adroit Journal Issue 30.png

In other news, my story “The Trespassing Forest,” which appeared earlier this year in Issue 5 of Cherry Tree, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize! The issue is only available in print, but you can pick up a copy here if you like.

Cherry Tree Pushcart Nominations.png

And lastly, I just learned that Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, which contained my story “The Rock Eater,” just won the 2019 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! Congratulations to the editors, Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly, and many thanks again for including my story! It was a thrill and an honor.

Year's Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5.jpg

Just Ahead is Darkness

I’ll be in San Francisco this weekend, reading a few stories as part of Just Ahead is Darkness, a show featuring live music and dance curated by my friends Megan and Shannon Kurashige at Sharp & Fine. It’s at Counterpulse at 8pm on Saturday, Oct 26. $20

Sharp & Fine.png

Some other news: My story “The Monster” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) is up on the Selected Shorts Podcast now, read by John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig fame!). The episode (Episode 3: “Fables and Fairy Tales”) also features Maulik Pancholy reading Somerset Maugham’s “Appointment in Samarra”—one of my favorite stories—and Kirsten Vangsness reading “The Fairy Handbag” by Kelly Link.

Other story news: I wrote a story called “Pictures of Heaven,” which will be out next year in the Catapult anthology Tiny Nightmares (a spooky sequel-of-sorts to last year’s Tiny Crimes). I’ll also have stories out soon in Adroit and A Public Space.

On Friday, Nov 1, I’ll be reading a story at the book launch for Cathy Ulrich’s Ghosts of You, the first release from Okay Donkey‘s new publishing arm. Other readers include Anna Vangala Jones and Marisa Crane. Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park — 8pm and it’s free!

Ghosts of You.png

 

 

A Sudden Smothering of Updates

My story “The Cape,” from Tales of Falling and Flying, is on the Selected Shorts podcast right now. It’s Episode 35: Dance in America, as read by Broadway stage actor Tony Yazbeck, and begins around the 21:00 mark.

Selected Shorts Dance in America.jpg

If you’re interested, there’s also a dance based on the story which Selected Shorts commissioned from Gabrielle Lamb of Pigeonwing Dance, and which was performed at Symphony Space in New York last December. You can watch that here if you like (it’s amazing).

In other news, I have a story called “It is Illegal to Enter the Graveyard” in the new issue of Post Road magazine (Issue 35), which should be available for purchase soon.

My story “James K. Polk,” from Tales of Falling and Flying, has been reprinted in Making History: Classic Alternate History Stories, edited by Rick Wilber. It’s a great anthology and a real pleasure to be included alongside Karen Joy Fowler, Harry Turtledove, and Michael Bishop, among others.

I also have a story called “Carla” in Writers of Mystery and Imagination, an anthology put together by some friends and fellow writers as a tribute to the wondrous and magical Bookfellows Bookshop of Glendale, California (1988-2016). My favorite place in the world, while it lasted (and even now).

In other news, I went on a brief whirlwind trip to New Orleans to do a reading at the second ever Disorder Salon at The International House Hotel. I had a great time, drank a lot of French 75s, made a pilgrimage to Congo Square, ate a delicious Shrimp Po’ Boy, and got to meet the amazing Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest, and someday-soon proprietor of the very best bookstore in Birmingham, Alabama. I also failed to take any photos, except this one (that guy on the horse was some asshole):

Jackson Square.jpg

“The Duck” on This American Life

It’s happening again! My story “The Duck,” from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, will be on This American Life this weekend—airing on Friday, Feb. 8th, and appearing on the podcast Sunday the 10th. This will be the fourth time the story has appeared on TAL’s Valentine’s Day episode. Not bad for a duck!

To mark the occasion, here’s the portrait that animator Simon Cottee made of me as a duck (I’m not usually a duck) back when he was making an animated short from the story. You can watch that short here if you like (it’s pretty great and I especially enjoy how all the ducks speak with Australian accents). You can also hear the story adapted to chamber orchestra (!) by the incredible Nathan Hudson over here. Or, of course, you can buy the book!

Ben Loory as Duck by Simon Cottee.jpg

(I like to think I’m a little more dashing, but hey.)

What I Read and Wrote and Did in 2018

First things first: I went to Indonesia in 2018! I read from Tales of Falling and Flying at the Jakarta Post 2018 Writers Series, taught a class the next day at the Jakarta Post Writing Center, and then spent the rest of the time eating, wandering around the biggest mall I’d ever seen, and marveling in horror at the traffic. Then I came home and read The Year of Living Dangerously and reconceptualized everything I’d seen.

After that, I was Guest Fiction Writer at the Antioch University MFA Residency, and gave guest lectures and readings at UCR Palm Desert and the Lighthouse Writers LitFest in Denver. I had two stories from Tales of Falling and Flying performed at Selected Shorts— the first, “The Man, the Restaurant, and the Eiffel Tower,” was read by Stana Katic at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the second, “The Cape,” was read by Tony Yazbeck at Symphony Space in New York, and then performed as dance by Forrest Hersey and Patrick O’Brien of Pigeonwing Dance, as choreographed by Gabrielle Lamb. You can see a recording of the entire dance here.

I was on a panel called “Fiction: Strange and Beautiful” at the LA Times Festival of Books, along with Victor LaValle, Carmen Maria Machado, and Amy Wallen (I mostly talked about my ambivalent addiction to horror movies, I think). I said something on Twitter about how much I love the movie Sneakers, and then within minutes was asked to host a screening of the movie for Popcorn and Politics and talk about how much I loved it with Roxane Gay (who also loves it, because smart people love Sneakers). I got to host three wonderful writers—Damien Ober, Mark Leidner, and Micah Perks—when they came through LA on their book tours. I went to the ICFA conference in Orlando, Florida, where I did a reading with Paul Tremblay and Anna Kashina, and the Readercon conference in Massachusetts, where I did a reading with my friend Maria Dahvana Headley and was on an In Memoriam panel about my friend Kit Reed, who died last year after writing about 7,000 books and making me laugh 100,000 times. (You should buy her collection The Story Until Now, because it’s great and will get you hooked.)

I published four new stories in 2018: “The Vatican” at Electric Literature, “The Friend with the Knife in His Back” at the Kenyon Review, “Mystery (The Third Man)” at Wigleaf, and “Just a Thought About the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile” in the Coachella Review. I’m proud of them all, but I have to say, “Mystery (The Third Man)” is my favorite story I’ve written in years. I wish they could all be like that one.

I also had four stories (“The Dodo,” “The Writer,” “The Ambulance Driver,” and “The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun“) reprinted in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s English language newspaper (they publish short stories in the newspaper over there (what a marvelous place!)). My story “Power Lines,” which appeared in Hobart last year, was translated into Italian by Sara Reggiani and published at Edizioni Black Coffee.

Speaking of translation, my collection Tales of Falling and Flying was translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee and published in Iran this year by Ofoq Publications, the same people who previously published Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day over there. The cover (which features the bat-like creatures from “The Astronaut”) was built, lit, photographed, and digitally manipulated by Majid Kashani, and I love it desperately. You can watch a great time-lapse video of the making of it here.

Other good news: my story “The Rock Eater” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) was included in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5which will sadly be the final volume in the series. Many thanks to editors Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly for that honor. Meanwhile, the 2017 Tachyon anthology The New Voices of Fantasy, which includes my story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! Thereby making me about 1/20th of a World Fantasy Award-winning author. (Don’t tell me it doesn’t really work that way, I don’t want to know.)

Otherwise, what happened? I was interviewed here, here, here, here, here, and here. I taught a lot of classes. I watched a billion movies on FilmStruck (including 19 by William Wellman alone (Midnight Mary being the best of them, you should watch Midnight Mary)) until it suddenly and tragically shut down. I drove a bunch of kids down from the top of a burning mountain, finally got to see Gillian Welch play live in concert, and learned how to play all of Kill ’em All on guitar (and then promptly forgot). I saw Hereditary in the theater twice, Roma twice, Mandy and Mother! both on the same day, and rediscovered The Melvins for the forty-seventh glorious time. Also, my parents had a 50th Wedding Anniversary! So I went to that and took a picture of a cake.

Reading-wise, I read 140 books. The best of them was The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, which nearly gave me a nervous breakdown (the highest compliment I can give). I also loved Brian Evenson’s book about Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which is confusingly titled Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (those people over at Ig Publishing’s Bookmarked division are doing great things but the titles are a little unwieldy).

The best story collection I read this year was When We Were Someone Else by Rachel Groves. It won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and was published by BkMk press, but I’ve never heard or seen a single person talk about it, which is odd, as it was kind of breathtakingly good.

Other books I really loved this year: the mind-bendingly fantastic Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling (recommended to me by the great Jeffrey Ford), The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls, Kudos by Rachel Cusk (a great end to a great trilogy), In the Distance by Hernan Diaz, The Garbage Times/White Ibis by Sam Pink (why is Sam Pink not famous the world over?), Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang (which also has an amazing cover), and The Possessed by Elif Batuman.

Other favorites: Old Open by Alex Higley, Untouchable by Scott O’Connor, Ill Will by Dan Chaon, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell, Minions of the Moon by Richard Bowes, Idiophone by Amy Fusselman, Brown Dog by Jim Harrison, Comemadre by Roque Larroquy, Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (though it was depressing as hell), At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard (also depressing as hell), Oranges by John McPhee (not depressing at all!), The Library Book by Susan Orlean, The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson, IQ by Joe Ide, The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse, Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash, Mystery by Peter Straub, The Shark-Infested Custard by Charles Willeford, Viator by Lucius Shepard, Freedom from the Known by Krishnamurti, and An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans.

I read two books by Simenon, two by Stephen Millhauser, and two by Daniel Woodrell; three by Megan Abbott (Queenpin was the best), Alejandro Jodorowsky (loved The Finger and the Moon), and Ronald Malfi (Floating Staircase was really haunting); four by Philip Roth (then he died and there was a run on his books at the library); and eleven by Richard Stark (culminating in the one-two punch of Slayground and Butcher’s Moon, which was (and should have remained) a hell of an end to the Parker series).

And… that’s about it! Anyone who’s interested can follow my reading over on Goodreads, though I don’t talk as much as I used to on there. I’m kinda tired of the internet.

My reading resolution for 2019: write more, read less.

Did I mention that I’m really proud of this story?