a year of thank yous

This year has been a very strange one full of the good and bad.

It began with me penniless, owing the bank too much money, there were a few floods that ruined some of my belongings [including difficult to replace books], but then I also got engaged to the most wonderful person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

So I just want to take the time to thank everyone who made it possible.

I think my biggest thank you goes to Nate Tower.

Nate organised the entire fundraiser, compiled, and edited the anthology. He’s also just an awesome person.

Thank you to everyone involved in the anthology, from artwork [Ryan W Bradley] to the stories, to every single person who gave money to get me back on my feet. I really can’t thank you enough.

And! I haven’t forgotten about all of you! I still owe some people their rewards, which are horribly late, but I’ll be getting them ready and out to you as soon as I can.

Thanks to D Foy for giving me a place to sleep in New York and for being just a generally awesome person, both online and in real life. If you ever get a chance to spend time with D Foy, definitely do it. He’s smart and fearless and just a total badass with a big heart.

Thanks to Sean Doyle and Jacob Perkins for hanging out with me in New York and sharing some awesome conversations. If you’re ever in Brooklyn with nothing to do, just stop by Mellow Pages. Awesome people are there.

Immense thanks to Sarah Burton, my dear friend from Ireland, who gave me a bed when I was in New York. I never realise how much I miss seeing her every day until I get to spend some time with her again, which is far too infrequent.

Thanks to Phil Jourdan for taking a big risk on Twilight of the Wolves, which will always be a novel that few will read, and fewer will enjoy. But Phil took the chance and now I have my novel out in the world. And though it’s little loved, I think it’s the best writing I’ve ever done. Maybe ever will do. Also, Phil’s just an awesome friend and I miss hanging out with him.

Michael Seidlinger for publishing the first novel I ever wrote, Noir: A Love Story.

Thanks to Cameron Pierce and Kirsten Alene for convincing me to go to Bizarrocon, which is definitely the best convention to go to. More than that, thanks for being awesome people. Maybe two of my favorite people in the indie press community.

Big thanks to everyone who was awesome at Bizarrocon, from Carlton to Rose to Shipp, and on and on. Bizarrocon was an amazing time.

David and Rios: you two are the winds beneath my baby bird wings!

Berit Ellingsen for sharing her thoughts and words with me. She’s one of my favorite people to talk to. Always so insightful and intelligent and interesting.

Joe Owens for being a generally amazing person. He’s so unbelievably generous, enthusiastic, and just hyped on being alive. Excited to see you in Minneapolis next year!

Molly Gaudry for being Molly Gaudry, which is something the world needs more of.

Steve Erickson for validating my entire writing life by writing such a generous blurb for my novel. He’s the reason I write novels at all, the reason I pour my life into this day after day, and, to me, he’s the greatest american writer living. His kind words made so many other things worth it.

Janice Lee for being the coolest lady I met this year and for being smarter than me and better at me than most things, but never making me feel like the big dummy I am. She’s also consistently one of the funniest people on the internet, whether you realise it or not. Also, who else do I get to share so many Power Rangers stickers with?

Peter Liu for being such a positive and amazing force in the indie lit world and for being so kind and brilliant.

And Peter and Janice together made Entropy happen and asked me to be a part of it, which is awesome, because Entropy is easily one of my favorite websites, and not just because I’m a contributor there. You two are geniuses and deserve way more attention for how awesome you are.

And then, of course, Kyle Muntz who seems to read all of my fiction once I’m finished writing it and is willing to tell me if it’s terrible or not. Also, if you see me online, it’s probably because I’m talking to Kyle. Sometimes I think I talk to Kyle more than I talk to the people I live with. Kyle’s also hilarious and awesome and everyone needs a little Kyle in their life.

Probably so many more people to thank, but I’ll leave it here.

For all named and unnamed, thank you so much for this year.

I hope your 2014 was swell, and I hope 2015 is even better.

I’ll be getting married, so it’s already looking bright.

Thank you, Chelsea Michaels, for taking this silly existence I’ve had for so long and turning it into something magical.

the best indie press books i’ve ever read

Rather than do a year end list or anything like that, I’ve decided to just talk about what books I think are the best ones that I’ve read since I started reading indie back in, like, 2008. These are in no order, but just kind of grouped by writer because it’s easier for me to remember them that way. This is by no means a complete list of the best indie books published in the last however many years. These are just the best of what I read.

No preamble!

Ledfeather by Stephen Graham Jones, FC2

The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto by Stephen Graham Jones, FC2

I’ve read both of these books by Stephen about four times, and they keep getting better. I’m not sure if I’d love contemporary literature as much without these novels. They’re some of my favorite books written in history, and I rank Ledfeather right up there with anything by Virginia Woolf or Ursula K Le Guin, which is a big compliment, if you’re me.

The Book of Lazarus by Richard Grossman, FC2

Girl with Oars & Man Dying by JA Tyler, Aqueous Press

Water by JA Tyler, Civil Coping Mechanisms

JA Tyler is endlessly underrate and overlooked. He’s maybe the most innovative writer in indie lit, and some day he’ll get his recognition. He published some of the best and most transformative books of the last decade and he wrote several of them too. More people need to love JA Tyler. More people need to be like him.

The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised Men by Gabriel Blackwell, Civil Coping Mechanisms

The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss, MudLuscious Press

I have almost too much to say about this novel. I think it’s the best book to come out of indie lit ever. Like, far and away so much better and impressive than anything else the rest of us are even trying to do.

We Take Me Apart by Molly Gaudry, MudLuscious Press

Beautiful and perfect. One of the books that introduced me to the wonderful world of indie lit and I revisit this book pretty often. Still waiting on whatever comes next from Molly. She’s another secret genius.

Poisonhorse by Brandi Wells, MudLuscious Press

Billie the Bull by xTx, MudLuscious Press

Wasn’t really a fan of xTx until this little book. It’s nearly perfect. It might even be completely perfect.

Black God by Ben Spivey, Blue Square Press

This novel, man. It’s almost too much. It’s like reading your own brain falling apart and rotting in your skull. But somehow beautiful and just as heartbreaking. This is a book everyone should read.

American Monster by JS Breukelaar, Lazy Fascist Press

The closest a book’s come to Samuel R Delany’s Dhalgren probably ever. Breukelaar is one of the best new writers around and I can’t wait for whatever comes next. Read this book. There’s really nothing else like it.

The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan: Volume 1 by Scott McClanahan, Lazy Fascist Press

If you don’t know Scott McClanahan, what have you been doing with your life? Funny and heartbreaking and amazing. These are the kinds of stories I would never be interested in if you told me what they were about, but I’m not sure there’s a better reading experience than a McClanahan book.

No by Ocean Vuong, Yes Yes Books

He makes me want to be a poet again, which is something I gave up on back in high school. Since reading this, I’ve written four poetry collections. So, yes, you should read this.

Collected Alex by AT Grant, Caketrain Press

Rain of the Future by Valerie Mejer, Action Books

Dark Matter by Aase Berg, Black Ocean

Butcher’s Tree by Feng Sun Chen, Black Ocean

Ordinary Sun by Matthew Henriksen, Black Ocean

Rather than talk about these books individually, I’ll just say you need to be reading Black Ocean. Every book they put out is pure brilliance.

Edie & The Low-hung Hands by Brian Allen Carr, Small Doggies Press

Brian Allen Carr, another underrate and unknown genius. No one writes like him. No one even thinks like him. I think he may be insane, but it’s the kind of insanity that makes me want to follow him to the ends of the earth.

Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger, MacAdam Cage

Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Lie, Signal 8 Press

Understories by Tim Horvath, Bellevue Literary Press

Quintessence of Dust by Craig Wallwork, KUBOA Press

These three collections by Wallwork, Horvath, and Tieryas are the best collections to come out of indie lit, in terms of quality and diversity. They’re full of big ideas, beautiful worlds, and so much humanity. I don’t typically like short story collections, but these are probably the best ones to read outside of Yasunari Kawabata.

Town of Shadows by Lindsay Stern, Scrambler Books

This little book comes from another dimension, I swear. I’ve Sterns next book as well and it’s somehow even better. Stern is too young to be this good but she writes stories I wish I could write and she writes them in ways I never thought possible. She very well could become my new favorite writer if she keeps this up.

The Empty City by Berit Ellingsen

Beneath the Liquid Skin by Berit Ellingsen, Queen’s Ferry Press

Berit’s books are so different but so perfect. Beneath the Liquid Skin is a collection of fantasy stories that are so full of originality and oddness that they feel like they come from nothing and nowhere. And then The Empty City is so perfect in its quietness. It’s a beautiful book about silence. And, if you follow this site, you know that’s probably my favorite thing. I’ve read her next book as well, and it’s perfect. More people need to know Berit’s work, because she’s one of the true originals.

The Word Book by Mieko Kanai, Dalkey Archive Press

Witz by Joshua Cohen, Dalkey Archive Press

A Heaven of Others by Joshua Cohen, Starcherone Books

Discovered him through Steve Erickson, who’s probably my hero, and I fell in love with Cohen’s work. He’s up there with Kloss, writing so much better than the rest of us could ever hope. And these two books are so completely different that it’s hard to imagine one person doing such disparate things so much better than you can do any one single thing.

The House Enters the Street by Gretchen Henderson, Starcherone Press

The Half-Finished Heaven by Tomas Transtromer, Graywolf Press

For All the Wretched, Beautiful & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed  by Hosho McCreesh, sunnyoutside press

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Mariner Books

We Make Mud by Peter Markus, Dzanc Books

What Precision, Such Restraint by Phil Jourdan, Perfect Edge Books

I hated this book when I read it. If Phil wasn’t a friend, I probably never would’ve finished it. But it’s a collection that keeps brewing in my skull, and it grows on me more and more each month. The entire book is an experiment, and one I’ve never seen attempted. I think the whole is better than the individual stories, but that whole is probably one of the greatest literary tricks I’ve ever experienced. Phil’s a wizard, children. He also makes groovy tunes.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich, Two Dollar Radio

I think indie lit began here for a lot of us. Again, discovered her through Steve Erickson and I’m so glad I did. I love this novel, though it’s by no means an easy one to read or love. It’s chaotic and beautiful and grotesque. It’s hobo junky vampire teens and it’s absolutely brilliant. I wish she had more novels out because I need more of her. The world needs more of her work.

Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita, Coffee House Press

how to be human on thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

I’m lucky enough to have never known what Black Friday was until I was about eighteen and was meant to work one. Fortunately, I didn’t have to due to a fever of 105 degrees, which is sort of life threatening, but whatever. Anyrate, I see and hear a lot about it. But I never really did until about three years ago. I don’t know if it’s because I just have never had interest in going shopping on any specific day or if it really wasn’t a real thing until very recently. And I don’t really care which of those it is.

It’s obviously a tragedy, Black Friday. To force people to work insane hours so you can fight strangers for things you probably don’t really want or need. Especially because you can get better deals online without all the fighting.

But then you’re also pushing those workers in the giant mausoleums amazon builds to ship things on time. Giant warehouses filled with people sprinting back and forth to keep the job that’s quickly killing them so they can feed their kids, keep a home or apartment.

Small Business Saturday is meant to be a reaction to Black Friday, to pull people out of department stores and so on. Or I guess that’s the idea.

The result seems to be that we expect everyone to slash prices for the things they sell. We expect people to be working longer hours to accommodate us while we decide if their small business is worthy of our money.

And Cyber Monday seems to sort of be a reaction to this. I see a lot of small businesses try to take advantage of it by running awesome deals and using the internet to spread word.

But all of this is commercialism. You can’t fight the dehumanisation of commercialism and corporatism by adding your own brand of commercialism to the noise. You don’t fight price slashes with more price slashes. And you don’t support small businesses by making them work on the holidays that you think should be spent with families.

I have no interest in talking about the historical context of Thanksgiving. That’s been well covered for quite a long time by people smarter than me. And it’s fine to point that out. It’s perfectly legitimate to point out that this holiday is built upon the genocide of people. But if you’re going to do that, you may as well do this at every holiday. I especially see atheists do this with christmas or easter, but they never really mention the cultural imperialism that goes along with that, the kind that goes along with most holidays that people in the west celebrate.

So, yeah, understand and acknowledge the historical context, but be willing to accept that meaning changes and people are allowed to celebrate being with their families. You can say people should do that every day, but many of us don’t live near our families or get vacation time to see them often or at all. Thanksgiving, for many people, is an excuse to have a sliver of time off to be with their family, who they may not have seen since the previous christmas or Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s built on a tragedy, but so is the whole damn country. So is the whole damn world.

Every day in the First World that allows us to remain in the First World is because of the tragedy of billions of people in the Third World. Billions. Your phone, your computer, your clothes, your food, everything you own.

So don’t try to make people feel bad because they’ve chosen to make Thanksgiving special, even though it comes from a horrible event. Don’t stand on your mountain of morality and preach how you’re better, because you’re not. You’re just like everyone else.

Children weaved your clothes. Children made your technology. Children who will never be remembered, who will die too soon.

This is a reality we accept every single day without even blinking or skipping a breath, so come off that mountain and live in the forever tragedy that is the modern world.

It’s good and proper and right to try to make things better, but don’t moralise to people who are just trying to have one good, happy day out of the entire year where they can try to forget about the pain of existence and the world. Where we can pretend the earth isn’t screaming.

And so let people be with their family. Let people try to escape the commercialism we’re constantly drowning in.

You know how you fight Black Friday?

Don’t participate. Don’t reduce the price of your wares. Don’t open your store. Don’t accommodate the rabid population’s need for deals or their lust for spending money.

If you’re someone who doesn’t own a business, then don’t spend your money. Don’t spend it anywhere. Don’t go to the lines or the stores. Don’t buy things online. Don’t spend your Saturday forcing small businesses to stay open so you can pat yourself on the back about being so progressive because you managed to not spend money for one single day when a lot of other people are spending it.

Join the protests or shut up.

Don’t rant on social media about how you’re better.

Stay inside. Spend time with the your family or friends, the ones you barely get to see because of time and/or distance. Be a human on Thanksgiving and the following weekend.

Don’t participate in Cyber Monday. Don’t fiend for commercialism, for things.

Be the human you wish everyone could be, including yourself.

Read a book.

Watch bad television.

Argue with your parents about politics and religion.

Eat too much food and laugh about being a fat idiot.

Post stupid pictures online about things that no one really cares about.

And have the kindness, the graciousness, to let people have a weekend of peace.

Because holidays are not really about remembering or commemorating anything. We can say they are, but they’re not.

Holidays are for us. They’re selfish and that’s okay. They let us forget. They let us wash the pain away. They let us be human and fight to be better the other 360 days of the year.

So don’t be a dick. Don’t moralise. Don’t set yourself apart from humanity.

We’re all in this together, as ugly and foul as it may be.

These days together allow us to find beauty and inspire us to keep fighting.