“We used to call this Café High,” author Sean Wilsey says of Café International, our meeting spot, before letting out a hearty chortle. By “we” he means his late-80s classmates at the Urban School, the private prep school 10 blocks or so from the Haight and Fillmore coffee shop. By “high” I assume he’s alluding to marijuana in some form or another, but I’m too intrigued by Wilsey’s instant openness and nostalgia to probe. Despite four other high schools (he never graduated), myriad other cities (he doesn’t come back to San Francisco very often anymore), and 25 or so intervening years (he’s pushing 45), Wilsey still grasps the vibe of his native hood with the exactitude of a lifelong resident.
Smith Henderson is all smiles. His debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, has been receiving rave reviews since its release two weeks ago, has a 100,000 copy pressing from HarperCollins, and was recently called "the best book I’ve read so far this year" by Washington Post critic Ron Charles.
"I was not expecting the Ron Charles thing ... that was amazing," Henderson says, sipping his beer on the outdoor patio of Farley’s East in Oakland. (He'll be reading from the book Tue/17 at San Francisco's Book Passage.) While the degree of success that the book is receiving tickles Henderson, he doesn’t pretend to be shocked that people are enjoying his work. "When people tell me 'I love your book,' I’m happy, but not chagrined. I wrote the book toward my interests, so of course I like my book." Henderson smokes a cigarette as he chuckles.
Fascinated with the possibility of future disasters, Newitz set out to learn all there is to learn about the history of mass extinctions on Earth. From megavolcanoes to meteor strikes, the common thread of disaster on this planet is that something has always survived. An impressive amount of work is being done to make it possible for us to continue this streak of survival, and we all possess some tools of survival already. Read more »
Former SF resident Dee Simon wrote a very funny, very raunchy book of short stories about his experiences spinning tunes at local strip clubs; it's called Play Something Dancy. Clearly I had to talk to him and get the inside scoop.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Standard first question: how did you become a strip club DJ?
Dee Simon I moved to SF in 2000 to pursue a career in broadcasting. Unable to land a paying radio job, I started hosting Rampage Radio at KUSF 90.3FM and eventually found a job in production at The Industry Standard magazine. The Standard was very successful for about a year and then folded once the crash happened. I was unemployed for about eight months until that fateful day I ran into my weed dealer who hooked me up with an audition at a club on Broadway, which launched my illustrious five-year career as a DJ at clubs across the city.
SFBG When you lived in San Francisco, I used to see you at punk and metal shows all the time. Did you ever get to sneak that kind of music into your playlist?
"I write so that I don't forget the fascinating and heartwarming things people tell me," explained Chuck Palahniuk. He was at the Castro Theatre Mon/16 to chat about his newest book, Invisible Monsters Remix. Some audience members were disappointed that the event didn't include a book signing — but no one could deny Palahniuk's earnest nature and his deep connection to his fans.
To those who only know Palahniuk as the author of the cult hit Fight Club, one might think the man behind this contemporary classic of anarchy and disgust at our capitalist society could be a shady character. But the mind that concocted that (and other) twisted fables anchors his outlandish tales with an incredibly human element to his characters. If you look beyond Fight Club's bloody mayhem (vividly depicted in its popular film version), you'll find a story of how a white-collar businessman combats loneliness and isolation, and finds fulfillment in embracing chaos. Palahniuk is certainly not afraid of being politically incorrect in his books, but he is a much more relatable guy than you might think.
Sam McPheeters has a way with words, and that has translated from lyrics to journalism to his first official solo novel, The Loom of Ruin (Mugger Books, 2012).
The former frontperson to a trilogy of exciting punk and experimental acts (Born Against, Men's Recovery Project, Wrangler Brutes) has long written columns for the likes of VICE Magazine and more, along with his own fanzines. But his first published output came at age 12, Travelers' Tales – a patched-together local legends book assembled with a neighborhood teen. Read more »
If you're an aspiring time traveler, you need to pick up a copy of the brand-new how-to book So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel(Berkley Trade, 326pp., $15). If you are already a time traveler, you should probably pick up a copy, read it, then go back in time till before you time-traveled in the first place, and use your new knowledge wisely.
Wait, does that make any sense? Time travel is some intense and tricky stuff. I got ahold of authors and time-travel experts Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch for further intel on the matter.
SFBG The book contains several film references (Back to the Future, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, The Terminator, etc). In your opinion, which film offers the most accurate depiction of time travel? Which is the least accurate?
Phil HornshawBack to the Future is a pretty reliable resource for the perils of time travel, even if it does take a few liberties in the service of being awesome. Granted, you can’t go into the future and find yourself there — how could you be there in the future if you left from the past? — but the ideas of timelines being corrupted and for the most part, of needing antecedents in the past in order to create the future, is handled pretty deftly in Back to the Future.