Inhuman Swill : Fiction

Main

January 13, 2012

@MayorEmanuel needs you (for Hugo)!

mayoremanuel-book.png Hugo Award nominations are now open, and that means it's time to make good on my threat promise to spearhead a campaign to get the @MayorEmanuel Twitter stream nominated.

As you may recall, Bob, @MayorEmanuel was the anonymous but highly popular tweeter who created a profane and fantastic alternate Chicago during the course of our 2010-11 mayoral election season. Though it started out as something of a lark, by the time it wound down on the night of the election the stream had grown into one of the most absorbing works of science fiction of the year.

The author soon revealed himself to be Chicago journalist and educator Dan Sinker, and late that summer the tweets appeared from Scribner in book form, collected and annotated, as The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

I think this innovative story is deserving of a Hugo. At the very least, a nomination for this most Chicago-centric of SF works would be appropriate in a year when Worldcon comes to our fair city. I've consulted with experts, and we agree that we're best off to nominate @MayorEmanuel in the Best Related Work category. If you're with us, then for consistency please fill out your nominating ballot in that category exactly as follows, including the asterisks:

TITLE: The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel
AUTHOR: Dan Sinker
PUBLISHER: Scribner

The book is essentially a work of non-fiction that describes and fully annotates the process of writing the original work, even though the tweets are included in full. For that reason, calling the book a Related Work seems to fit best. We think it would be dicey to attempt to nominate a Twitter stream in one of the fiction categories.

Anyway, if you're not familiar with @MayorEmanuel and want to catch up, the annotated book is a terrific place to start. And here are a few other relevant links to get you going:

@MayorEmanuel in 2012! Together we can make a difference.

awards | chicago | conventions | fiction | hugos | internet | mayoremanuel | politics | science fiction | twitter

December 5, 2011

New short fiction: "Stand Up"

A brand-new short story of mine, "Stand Up," is available now at the group blog This May Get Awkward:

"Stand Up"

The good folks at TMGA (in the person of the estimable JD Adamski, an MVP of the Tuesday Funk reading series I co-produce) asked me a while back to contribute a story, and I'm glad I finally had a chance to oblige them. I hope you like it. It's short.

"Yeah—mothers," said the comedian, running a hand through his sparse hair. "Don't you just hate 'em?"

Uncertain charges of laughter detonated here and there around the club. It was all in the delivery, and in the modest credit he'd accrued up to now with the audience.  [read more]

Dedicated to the career path I did not follow?

comedy | fiction | park slope | science fiction | short fiction

March 1, 2011

@MayorEmanuel unmasked

The man behind the curtain has been revealed. Well, really, he came out from behind the curtain himself. As reported by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, a journalism instructor at Columbia College in Chicago, Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel and one of the founders and editors of the zine Punk Planet.

Having myself waxed rapturous over the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that the mystery is no longer a mystery. I'm not nearly as disappointed as Jim DeRogatis is, because, hey, that Twitter account was a brilliant, engrossing, and uplifting example of a new form of literature, accidental as that might have been, and its author has every right to reap the benefits of his achievement. My disappointment is more that of a fan for whom part of the thrill was the not knowing, and the hope that we would never know. Did you honestly want to know for certain whether or not that top in Inception was ever going to stop spinning? I didn't.

But to be pragmatic, it was probably better that Dan Sinker control the revelation than that someone else out him, which no doubt would have happened sooner or later. And at least now we know whom to nominate for that Hugo next year in the Best Related Work category. (Hey, Chicago in 2012!)

Hats off, Mr. Sinker. As your character wrote: "Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes."


I had been meaning to do this anyway, but here's a selection of some of my favorite @MayorEmanuel tweets, selected by the very scientific method of searching my own tweet stream for the nuggets I retweeted over the past few months. I've provided a bit of context where necessary.

Motherfucking pro tip: soy sauce and fucking cognac. Motherfucking amazing.
9 Dec

[WINTER PARKING IN CHICAGO]
Axelrod is a motherfucking parking-space shoveling artist. They should hang his fucking shovel in the Art Institute.
26 Dec

He's marked his space with 14 lawn chairs, an ironing board, and a pyramid of milk crates. He'll fucking shank someone if they move them.
26 Dec
[/WINTER PARKING IN CHICAGO]

Jesus fucking Christ, there is not enough motherfucking coffee in the whole fucking world this morning.
29 Dec

[ANGRY BIRDS]
Fuck these Angry Birds right in their motherfucking feathered fucking vents.
30 Dec

These giant bowling ball red birds would be motherfucking amazing if this whole game wasn't fucking me in the ass right now.
30 Dec

All I want right now is a motherfucking cheeseburger and to claw my goddamn eyes out. Instead I'm fucking flinging these fucking birds.
30 Dec
[/ANGRY BIRDS]

[RESIDENCY HEARING]
Carl the Intern's at the circuit court with three pounds of my shit in ziplock bags. He's tossing 'em if the verdict comes in wrong.
4 Jan
[/RESIDENCY HEARING]

Fuck this motherfucking brutal fucking cold right in its frozen fucking asshole.
21 Jan

[BEARS-PACKERS PLAYOFF]
We finally got Spielberg to take off his cheesehead, but he's got a Packers doo rag on underneath it. What the fuck.
23 Jan

Kanye's choking back fucking tears: "Cutler's knee injury is a nice match for my heart injury."
23 Jan

CALEB FUCKING HAINE! YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL FUCKING MAN!
23 Jan
[/BEARS-PACKERS PLAYOFF]

Double birds to the motherfucking world. TO THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD.
24 Jan

[ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RESIDENCY RULING]
We're all fucking crying and laughing and barking and quacking and the city has never looked more beautiful, and in four weeks I'll be mayor
27 Jan

Now we're all crammed in Axelrod's fucking Civic, the ceiling's still dented in, driving down Lake Shore Drive, just fucking freestyling.
27 Jan
[/ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RESIDENCY RULING]

[BLIZZARD]
Report from Axelrod's weathercenter has the big storm hitting later this afternoon. Perfectly fucking reasonable to get drunk now.
1 Feb
[/BLIZZARD]

[CAMPAIGN SPEECH AT THREADLESS]
Speech preview: "We're Chicago. Maybe--just fucking maybe--we can build something better than stupid T-shirts and half-off deals."
8 Feb

Original plan was to do this speech at Groupon, but now everyone thinks they're fucking assholes. Note to self: Lay off the Tibet jokes.
8 Feb
[/CAMPAIGN SPEECH AT THREADLESS]

Hanging out with nerds at Google today. Up half the night building up my elfin sorcerer, in case anyone throws down a motherfucking 20-side.
10 Feb

Snow stopped, week's done, MOTHERFUCKING BEER O'CLOCK, BITCHES.
11 Feb

Our Grammy party got ruined when we remembered that the Grammys are motherfucking awful.
13 Feb

HOLY FUCK, THE MOON IS MOTHERFUCKING ENORMOUS.
18 Feb

[ELECTION DAY EVE]
Hambone just brought the schedule: (1) shake 10,000 voters' hands (2) pick up Ari from the airport (3) keep Ari away from voters. Fuck.
21 Feb
[/ELECTION DAY EVE]

[SACRIFICE IN THE TIME VORTEX]
"There must be something we can do..." But there's not. Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes.
23 Feb
[/SACRIFICE IN THE TIME VORTEX]

This can only give a bit of the flavor of the feed, if you haven't followed it. For two good distillations of the story's climax, I still recommend you read Tim Carmody's "The Two Mayors" and "The Last Hours of @MayorEmanuel."

chicago | fiction | internet | mayoremanuel | politics | science fiction | twitter

February 24, 2011

Into the time vortex!

The most entertaining and rewarding piece of fiction of the past six months has been, without a doubt, the Twitter stream of @MayorEmanuel. (Sorry, Mongoliad.)

@MayorEmanuel @MayorEmanuel is, or was, a delightfully profane Rahm Emanuel impersonator whose tweets started appearing six months ago, after the real Emanuel expressed his intention to enter the Chicago mayoral race. (Tagline: Your next motherfucking mayor. Get used to it, assholes.) The tweets were drop-dead funny—so much so that I'm sure I retweeted them more frequently than I've retweeted anyone else's—but at first seemed like little more than an amusing and perceptive piss-take on the real Rahm and Chicago politics.

But then a surprising thing happened. Characters from @MayorEmanuel's entourage began to develop, some based on real people (David Axelrod), others fictional (Carl the Intern, Quaxelrod the mustachioed duck). Storylines began to emerge. Riffing off the real ups and downs of the Emanuel campaign, the daily news, and even the weather, the tweets led followers through the dark underbelly of a fantastical Chicago populated by celebrities and politicians, by the famous and the infamous, by the living and the dead alike, with the gang often tooling around town in Axelrod's beloved but increasingly damaged Honda Civic. (Even the real Rahm tried to insert himself into the story, famously offering a large donation to charity if the anonymous author would come forward.)

From Jane Byrne's secret dungeon to a harrowing ride through the flooded sewers beneath City Hall, from New Year's Eve bacchanalia with Kanye West to Mayor Daley's secret celery dome, the story blended an insider's knowledge of the minutiae of Chicago politics and an intimate familiarity with the geography of the city with a stew of pop-culture references and jaw-droppingly absurdist comic sensibility to create a prodigious, profane, and ultimately moving kaleidoscope world that nonetheless captured the essence of this city-like-no-other. Wilco and Gene Siskel, Groupon and Threadless, even celery salt, that key ingredient of the Chicago dog, all get their moment in the spotlight.

You'll note, I did say moving. The night before the election, the narrative took a cosmic and elegiac turn, with @MayorEmanuel snatched away for a tutorial in the secret powers of which Chicago mayors are custodians. I don't want to spoil the story, but let me just praise the brilliance with which the promise of that sequence was fulfilled last night. In an inspired feat of improvisation, the unknown author actually wove the real hailstorm taking place outside our windows into the climax of the story, and somehow managed to time the culmination of @MayorEmanuel's hero's quest with the single giant peal of real thunder that reverberated over the city (and that not to mention scared the crap out of my dog).

Timothy Carmody has compiled and annotated some of the key tweets from the past few days here and here, and I urge you to read through them if you haven't been following the story. But really, to experience the story properly, you had to be following it as it unfolded, and even more so, you had to be in Chicago at the end to properly appreciate that cathartic thunderclap of a conclusion. Sorry, everyone else.

In all seriousness, I want to nominate the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream for a Hugo. (Best Short Story? Best Dramatic Presentation? I don't know.) It's too bad the story had to wrap up in 2011, since that won't make it eligible until next year, if it's even eligible at all.

But moreso, now that the campaign season and the election and the story itself are over, I want to state for the record, a la those West Wing bumper stickers, that @MayorEmanuel will always be my motherfucking mayor.

chicago | fiction | hugos | internet | mayoremanuel | politics | science fiction | twitter

November 16, 2010

Frey-ing fish in a barrel

After reading last week's New York Magazine feature article "James Frey's Fiction Factory," I was tempted to post another jeremiad against the author who proves himself time and again the slimiest, most brazenly unapologetic charlatan to disgrace our industry in the past decade.

Fortunately, doing so would be redundant, since I can just send you to John Scalzi's two excellent posts analyzing Frey's latest hijinks:

  • The Man in the Frey Flannel Suit
  • An Open Letter to MFA Writing Programs (and Their Students)

    All I will add is that you should never sign a contract with a man who claims there's no difference between fact and fiction.

  • fiction | memoirs | publishing | scams | writing | young adult

    November 12, 2010

    Smoke

    I make it my general practice
    not to drink and write.
    At least, I try not to drink
    when writing fiction,
    where the prose should be clear
    and lucid as water,
    even as it refracts the light.

    But poetry's a different matter.
    A little whisky never
    hurt a poem. Not much, anyway.
    Certainly not this
    glass of it, distilled from smoke
    that might have
    scribbled words like these in
    the air as it
    jittered away, leaving only this
    amber residue,
    not so transparent as it appears.

    Smoke

    alcohol | fiction | poems | scotch | whisky | writing

    October 20, 2010

    I know your heart, Joseph Purcell

    I love the AMC series Rubicon so much that I tracked down a copy of one of the out-of-print collections of producer/writer Henry Bromell's New Yorker short stories from the '70s. I've started I Know Your Heart, Marco Polo, and so far I'm very taken with the hallucinatory prose style. Can't wait to finish it.

    I think it's the first time that someone's television work has prompted me to seek out his or her fiction. Racing through The Wire is what finally prompted me to read David Simon's non-fiction Homicide, a book that had been mocking me from the shelf for twenty years. (Interestingly, Bromell also worked on the Homicide television series.) I started watching Justified precisely because I was a fan of the Elmore Leonard novels featuring Raylan Givens. (Of course, it also didn't hurt that Timothy Olyphant from Deadwood was playing the character.)

    But I'm pretty sure the Bromell conversion is a first. If I keep enjoying the stories, his novel Little America, a semi-autobiographical (I gather) tale of a son trying to understand his father's C.I.A. career, sounds pretty interesting.


    Any of you other Rubicon fans recognize the name Joseph Purcell?

    books | fiction | television | writers

    September 9, 2010

    My funky Tuesdays

    One of the most exciting and unpredictable reading series in Chicago is Tuesday Funk, which takes place the first Tuesday of every month upstairs at Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville. Tuesday Funk has hosted wild-eyed poets, doe-eyed troubadours, and more excellent fiction, verse, and essays read live than you could shake a blue pencil at. I've been fortunate enough to have been asked to read there four times in the past couple of years myself, and I'm proud to have been considered an adjunct member of the Tuesday Funk family.

    Reinhardt Suarez and Hallie Palladino of the Gothic Funk Nation have run the eclectic series with scary efficiency for nearly three years, but they're both moving on to greener pastures. I'm very pleased and more than a little humbled to announce that I will now be co-producing Tuesday Funk together with Sara Ross. We hope to keep the same great mix of genres and disciplines that has made the series so much fun in the past, while throwing in some curve balls to keep things fresh and interesting. We have some big shoes to fill.

    While I never want the series to get away from its roots as a showcase for Chicago writers, I'd love to bring more out-of-towners into the mix too. So if you're a writer (or something similar) and plan to be in Chicago the first week of any given month, please drop me a line and I'll see if we have room for you. We'd love to have you.

    Oh, another thing. Chicagoans, please mark your calendars for our next reading on Tuesday, October 5, 7:30 pm, at Hopleaf. I'll be reading again that night, together with a full slate of compadres, but most importantly we need to keep our attendance high so we can continue using Hopleaf's upstairs bar month after month. More reminders will follow, but I hope to see you there.

    And finally, thanks to Hallie and Reinhardt for all their hard work, for their continued input and advice, and for entrusting us with their baby. We don't plan to let you down.

    appearances | chicago | events | fiction | hopleaf | literature | non-fiction | poetry | readings | tuesday funk

    Featured Book

    William Shunn

    About This Archive

    This page is an archive of recent entries in the fiction category.

    feuds is the previous category.

    film is the next category.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

    Archives