Oct 28, 2009

Keeping An Eye On... Alan DeNiro

November is a big month for Keeping An Eye On authors. Out of the half dozen authors publishing work this month, none has more to be excited about than Alan DeNiro. On November 24th, DeNiro publishes his debut novel, Total Oblivion, More or Less. Debut novels are always exciting and you never know what a up-and-coming author is going to do . If I've learned anything from reading the early work of the authors on SF Signal's Watchlist, it's that they knock the ball out of the park when it comes to debut novels. It's almost as if the editors and genre professionals that nominated them did so for a reason. But other than quality, I'm not sure what to expect out of Alan DeNiro. As I started following these developing authors, one of the first things I read was DeNiro's first collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead. Some authors do one thing and do it well; others dabble in different subgenres but never find their niche. And then there are the writers like Alan DeNiro or Neil Gaiman who do things in every genre and then invent several of their own and inexplicably their stories work. Skinny Dipping was a veritable cornucopia of ideas that was as creative and memorable as it was unpredictable and unique.

So when I had a chance to talk to Alan DeNiro I took advantage of the opportunity to find out a little bit more about Total Oblivion and how he manages to write such unique material.

SoY: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently?

ADN: Well, there has been quite a lull for the last year or so but I do indeed have some things coming out in the remainder of 2009. The novel of course (Total Oblivion, More or Less) which drops 11/24. I also have some stories coming out in Strange Horizons, Interfictions II, and Paraspheres 2. And an essay on Van Vogt which is coming out in an Aqueduct Press critical volume. I've been working on more essays on speculative literature lately.

SoY: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this, what is the one single piece of work of yours (novel, short story, etc.) would you like them to read?

ADN: It's really hard to say, so I'll hedge my bet with two answers: Total Oblivion, More or Less, and The Stations, which is a 165 page speculative poem. Those are the two works that I'm likely most proud of--which hopefully has a good correlation of what people would like to read (or is at least indicative of the different things I like to write). Also, I'd love to get into some cave paintings someday.

SoY: Some of the stories in Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead almost defy classification. What sub-genres are you most interested in? Is there a difference in what subgenres you read and the ones you write?

ADN: I really don't think in subgenres. Occasionally I'll try to start in a subgenre and then it goes woefully awry. I mean, awry in terms of the subgenre, but all the same it will go where the story needs to go. I have a recent story called "Moonlight Is Bulletproof" which is theoretically a futuristic detective story but it somehow throughout its drafts wended into narrative topography involving Persian gardens and little imps with swords jumping around. I pretty much read in the same fashion that I write, so I don't really dwell on categories all too much.

SoY: Can you tell us anything more about your upcoming novel? Is it set in the same world as your short story “Our Byzantium”?

ADN: That's a great question--I would say no, although there are definitely similarities. In the short story, the anachronistic invasion was more of an extended metaphor. The novel is much more "lived in" with the invasion, although I deliberately tried to avoid much of what would be called "classic" or traditional fantasy world building. So I guess in that sense there is a similarity.

SoY: Whats on your plate after Total Oblivion, More or Less?

ADN: I've started working on two novels, I mean, not EXACTLY at the same time. But two "in the mix" as they say. One set in a near future MMORPG, and another one involving dragons. Aside from that, the usual peppering of short stories, poems, essays and reviews.

SoY: What are your writing habits like? Do you have any peculiar writing habits that somehow work for you but everyone else would find quirky (and/or insane)?

ADN: No, I'm pretty normal in that regard (whatever that means). I do most of my writing on the weekends because of my day job, and just squeezing time here and there during the week. In terms of actual practice I've been all over the map, trying to find what works and what doesn't. I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to the actual techniques and structures of storytelling.

SoY: An incident occurs resulting in your removal from the list of up-and-coming genre stars. What is the most likely cause of that incident? Who do you nominate in your place?

ADN: Haha...maybe people suddenly decide I'm not much of a genre writer. There are a ton of great writers out there, overlooked writers. Although he's certainly not "up and coming", one person I can definitely think of is Mark Rich, who people should read if they haven't had the chance to. He has a marvelous range--everywhere from Analog to the small press genre zines. He has two recent collections out--great stuff!

SoY: One of my favorite things about your shorter fiction is how it is undeniably genre fiction but the narrative style still feels very “literary” (albeit in a very hard to describe way) As an author who has dabbled across genre boundaries, do you have any opinions on the “ghettoization” of science fiction/fantasy/horror?

ADN: I'm fully against it. I actually don't think it happens as much as people within the genre suppose. And when it does happen it's usually self-imposed.

SoY: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

ADN: Meeting readers at readings, online, wherever. That has been the real trip. I have been very lucky in my writing life.

SoY: What will the short fiction marketplace look like in 5 years? Would a iPod-like fiction device/delivery system represent a game changer?

ADN: That would be very cool. But I think it's going to somewhat different, not radically different. The biggest change, which I already see happening, might be the blurring of the line between blogs and online magazines. Is that good or bad? It is certainly different. I think it's going to disappoint writers who are craving the stability of a "pro", "semipro" and "fan" hierarchy. I'm not really into that, so it doesn't make too much difference to me. The more potential readers, the better.

SoY: I’ve avoided asking this so far but where do you get your ideas? Cuttlefish? The Friendly Giants? If I Leap? Your stories work from some of the strangest premises I can recall.

ADN: The first I think began in the exploration of that voice. The second came from the epigraph. The third...wow, that was written so long ago, I don't even remember. I think it had to do with thinking of the character of the Goodbye Girl, and what that could mean. As you can see, it's really different for each story. (And thanks, I think?)

SoY: Along the same lines, what authors have been most influential toward your own personal writing style?

ADN: Let's see...Gene Wolfe, Cordwainer Smith, J.H. Prynne, Lorine Niedecker, Gogol, Alejo Carpentier, Jack Spicer, Simone Weil, W. B. Yeats, James Tiptree, the Old Testament prophets. These writers are really deep in the DNA, so it might not be apparent with specific projects.

SoY: What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

ADN: If you mean the last 12 months, Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani. One of the most baffling books I've ever read. But I love it.

SoY: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]

ADN: Why yes, yes there is. My blog, Goblin Mercantile Exchange, is probably the best place to start. With the novel coming out I'm definitely planning some online shenanigans (er, content) in the upcoming months.

Go buy Total Oblivion, More or Less: A Novel on November 24th. I still don't know exactly what to expect, but chances are you'll like it.

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