“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 Now we’ve collaborated on another piece, this time for Nathan’s PhD, working from a new, as-yet-unpublished story of mine called “God.”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:

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“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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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):

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“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!

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(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?

A Few Updates

Very happy to announce that my story “The Rock Eater” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) will be in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5 (which will sadly be the final volume of this eerie, magnificent series). Many thanks to editors Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly for choosing the story—I worked on it obsessively for five or six years and am so glad to see it being recognized.


A few months ago, actress Stana Katic (of Castle and Absentia) read my story “The Man, the Restaurant, and the Eiffel Tower” (also from Tales of Falling and Flying) at a Selected Shorts event at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. That performance is now available on the Improbable Dreams episode of the Selected Shorts podcast.

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This Sunday, October 28, I will be talking to Micah Perks about her new book, True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape, at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. It’s also Skylight’s 22nd Birthday Party, so come on down! 5:00pm.

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On Thursday, November 1, I’ll be at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills at 7pm for a special screening of Sneakers, one of my all-time favorite movies, and afterwards I’ll be talking about it with Roxane Gay (author of Bad Feminist and Hunger) and Mariel Garza of the Los Angeles Times.


And finally, on December 12 (and this is pretty amazing), I’ll be in New York to see the Selected Shorts Dance In America program, which will include an adaptation of my story “The Cape” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) choreographed for dance by Gabrielle Lamb of Pigeonwing Dance. Still can’t believe this is actually happening, but I guess it is?? Can’t wait.

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That’s all the news for now! If you’re looking for some new stories of mine to read, you can find “The Vatican” over at Electric Literature, “The Friend with the Knife in His Back” at the Kenyon Review, and “Mystery (The Third Man)” at Wigleaf (which is also running a short interview with me). Other stories are upcoming soon in A Public Space, Coachella Review, Cherry Tree, Post Road, and more. Enjoy!


My 2017 in Reading and Writing

My second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, was released by Penguin in September. It got a great review from NPR, a starred review in Kirkus, and was chosen as one of The Paris Review Staff’s Favorite Books of 2017.

I was profiled on the front page of the LA Times Book Section and interviewed by Steph Cha at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I appeared on OtherPpl with Brad Listi and went to the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where I bought a great sweatshirt and ate some delicious cookies. My story “The Monster” appeared on Selected Shorts, read by John Cameron Mitchell (a.k.a. HEDWIG!).  Tales of Falling and Flying went into a second printing.

My book tour took me up and down the east and west coasts, as well as to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado (where I first read H.P. Lovecraft and P.G. Wodehouse when I was little). While I was there, I stopped off at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and gave a guest lecture and drank a lot of coffee.

I signed with Rich Green at ICM to handle film & TV rights, and with Jessica Craig at Craig Literary to handle foreign rights.

I continued to teach short story writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and spent the summer up in the mountains, teaching adults and high schoolers at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program in Idyllwild, CA.

I had eleven stories published in magazines and journals in 2017, including in TASTE, Fusion, The New York Tyrant, The Sewanee Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Hobart, Lithub, and Eleven Eleven. I also had stories accepted by Post Road, The Kenyon Review, and A Public Space; looking forward to seeing those in 2018.

As for reading: it was a good year. I read 156 books, and only hated a few of them. My favorite by far was The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume One by Robert Caro, which my dad had been telling me to read for 25 years. Well, it turned out he was right. I’ve found that I can’t do this book justice by talking about it, so all I will say is this: I didn’t know a book could be so good.

Beyond that, I loved Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah Bookbut I love everything Scott McClanahan writes, so that was no surprise. Other favorites: Colonel Rutherford’s Colt by Lucius Shepard (which really needs to be republished with a better cover, for god’s sake), Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg, Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler (her whole Patternmaster series is amazing), We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser, The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (probably the most fun I had reading a book all year), Submission by Michel Houellebecq, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Abbot Awaits by Chris Bachelder, Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (the best book of interlocking stories I’ve read since J Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest), Outline and Transit by Rachel Cusk, Behold the Void and Sacculina by Philip Fracassi, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (with a new forward by Jenny McPhee), Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott, Use of Weapons by Iain Banks, They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel (a picture book which made me inexplicably burst into tears at the end), Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, Acorn by Yoko Ono (which I liked even more than Grapefruit, if that’s possible), Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (which is completely bonkers btw), and Work by Bud Smith– which, besides being hilarious, heartbreaking, and almost frighteningly brilliant, turned out to also be the first (and only) book I’ve ever read that actually mentioned me in it. I existed in the book! How crazy is that?

What else? I also really enjoyed For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records by Brian Slagel & Mark Eglinton (though, to be honest, I will read and enjoy anything about 80s thrash metal), and Aaron Burch’s Stephen King’s The Body, which taught me not a whole lot about Stephen King’s “The Body,” but quite a bit about Aaron Burch’s life and childhood, and, by extension and comparison, my own. I also had a great time rereading The Dark Country by Dennis Etchison, which I hadn’t read in years, and which turned out to be even scarier and more beautifully written than I remembered. I continued my journey through Richard Stark’s Parker novels, particularly enjoying The Seventh and The Rare Coin Score. I read three books by Marcy Dermansky (Twins, Bad Marie, and The Red Car) and three books by Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling), loved them all, and look forward to reading everything else they ever write.

My favorite stories I read this year were: “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” by Kevin Moffett, “Toda Luna, Todo Año” by Lucia Berlin, “Mandala” by Philip Fracassi, “Soldier of Fortune” by Bret Anthony Johnston, “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, “Zolaria” by Caitlin Horrocks, “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “It Only Comes Out At Night” and “It Will Be Here Soon” by Dennis Etchison, “The Siege at Whale Cay” by Meghan Mayhew Bergman, “After the People Lights Have Gone Off” by Stephen Graham Jones, “The Grammarian’s Five Daughters” by Eleanor Arnason, “My Flannel Knickers” by Leonora Carrington, “The Fall River Axe Murders” by Angela Carter, and “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser.

If anyone wants to see everything I read during the year, you’re welcome to friend me on Goodreads.

My reading resolution for 2018 is: I will no longer force myself to finish books I don’t like.

Fuck ’em.

On a personal note, I also went to Sweden and Finland for a week in 2017, and had a great time! I took precisely one photo. Here it is:

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Happy 2018, everybody! Let’s hope it is full of wonders.