Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Shya Scanlon has started a little series of interviews on Facebook. Reprinted with his permission, here it is:

Facebook Tiny Interview Series: Matthew Simmons

Shya Scanlon: Are you ready, Matthew?

Matthew Simmons: Sure thing.

Shya Scanlon: You are the author of A Jello Horse—a novella out from Publishing Genius--a contributor at HTMLGIANT, The Man Who Couldn't Blog, and you've been an editor for Hobart and before that, for Monkeybicycle. You're basically a big fat writing scenester. Tell me a little about your own publishing project: Happy Cobra Books.

Matthew Simmons: When I decided to put together a bunch of really short things I'd written in a cover and call it a chapbook—Creation Stories—I figured I needed a to give myself a publishing name. I never really intended to do anything else with it, but sort of ended up approaching a couple of other writers and being approached by a couple of other writers, and next thing I knew, I had a website and a couple of stories to turn into chapbooks and ebooks and some obligation to do so.

In my defense, everyone else seemed to be doing it at the time. And it felt like I needed yet another distraction to keep me from my own writing and editing.

Shya Scanlon: Did it work? How long can you go without writing before you start to feel like a bad person?

Matthew Simmons: Pretty long, actually. After I finished my MFA program I went months without being able to write a word. In the time since, I've edited and written a little, but not as much as I'd like. All the other things I do make me feel connected to writing, though, and I sometimes wonder if it's a bad thing. Sure, I haven't finished that novel, but I posted a short, craft-oriented observation on HTML Giant a couple of days ago, so I'm still engaged in the work in one respect, right? I'm still preparing some material for a Hugo House class, right? I'm still doing it, aren't I?

Maybe not. I mean, aren't there enough venues for writing-related work to be done that I could distract myself with them for the rest of my life and never write another piece of fiction? I like my blog, and I like interviewing people/editing interviews for Hobart, and I like HTML Giant, but what if they are killing my novel?

Shya Scanlon: I know what you mean. There are many places to scratch right around the perimeter of the itch itself—so close, in fact, that the relief almost feels the same.

In both your book A Jello Horse, and your unpublished collection Happy Rock, you seem to pursue a kind of realism charged with the fantastic—sometimes overtly, as when a narrator's mother is a series of exploding clay Golems, and sometimes more subtly, as in the House of Telephones scene at the end of Jello. Do you think life itself is magical, or do you just wish it were?

Matthew Simmons: Neither, really. The real world is difficult and unpleasant and occasionally very beautiful, and I'm okay with it staying that way—and this is lucky because it is not going to bend to my desires. I want the world on the page to be whatever it wants to be—which is to say whatever my creative impulse wants it to be—and this is lucky because I am in complete control of that world.

Shya Scanlon: Are you really? What are the writers who most influenced you as a young reader, and/or a young writer.

Matthew Simmons: Yeah, I think I am. I suppose that I like to write things that other people want to read, and because of that, I have traded a measure of my artistic independence, and made a kind of non-aggression pact with an audience, but I could break that pact at any time. I could write something that is totally unfriendly, completely unreadable, and alienate readers if want to. I suppose one might argue that without readers there is no writing—that my fiction occurs in the shared space between me and the reader, but I could be my own reader, right? I could produce something just for me, and defiantly decide that it is good and done well even if no one else agrees with me.

It took me a little while to become a reader. As a teenager, though, Douglas Adams led me to William Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut and I've never forgotten what it was like reading them. Vonnegut I can still read, too. Burroughs not as much. But the liveliness of his imagination and the power of his language still influence me, I think. Burroughs is maybe a little too bleak for me now. Vonnegut is dark, but his narrators seem resigned to and above the absurdity of life. He's comforting in that way.

A few years ago, when I was just starting to write seriously, just starting to send my writing out to places that published stories, just started to toy with finding readers for what I was writing, I read Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich. Up to that point, I was tentative about surrealist/fabulist elements in my stories. Ray's book was full of them, and also full of stories that I connected to emotionally. Stories that made me happy and sad. After reading that book, I said, "well, all bets are off," and just wrote what I wanted.

Shya Scanlon: Respond to this observation: It seems to me many writers of our emerging generation see a conflict between "serious" writing and "emotional" writing. Do you think young writers avoid melodrama to a fault?

Matthew Simmons: They avoid it to their detriment, I think. Melodrama, sentimentality, even cliche. It seems like we run from it, preferring instead an arch tone. But I think we will, as we get older, return to it. I think eventually sentimentality and melodrama reveal their benefits to writers over time. A line from a story by Steve Almond: "It takes years to become as soft-hearted and hopeful as I am."

Shya Scanlon: This feels like a good note to end our Tiny Interview on, Matthew. Thank you so much for playing along. If anyone would like to ask Matthew any questions, please use this space to do so.

Matthew Simmons: We ended on my endorsement of melodrama, cliche, and sentimentality!


I read in Portland with the lovely and talented Daniel Bailey on Sunday. Here is a recap.

Mike Daily was there, and he made videos of the reading.

I need a haircut. And to exercise more.


My brother's tumblr blog is still going strong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My brother has a tumblr blog.


Tuesday morning I saw a guy running for the bus stop. He had a double-breasted overcoat, a tophat, and a pair of goggles. He was very steampunk.

But he also had a little beige Totes umbrella.

Totes umbrellas aren't steampunk, right? I mean, just because they have a little button on them that extends them, that doesn't make them steampunk. They're just functional. Steampunk isn't supposed to be functional, right?

The question is: if you aren't going to commit 100% to a look, should you leave the house in the look? I realize it was early in the morning, and it was raining, and it was a Tuesday and the guy was probably on his way to his job—at a comic book shop? at a call center? at Home Depot?—and not on his way to a local steampunk drinkery or danceclub, but he had the tophat. He had the goggles. He had the large, brass-buttoned, double-breased overcoat. Has he just not yet found the right umbrella?

Where in Seattle is the steampunk umbrella store? Does the guy need to borrow a few dollars so he can buy a proper umbrella for his outfit? Should I start a collection here on the blog to buy the steampunk guy a proper umbrella for his outfit? I'll do it, if that's the problem.

Are you out there, steampunk guy with the wrong umbrella? If you are, and you would like me to start some sort of fundraiser for you so you can buy a proper umbrella—one that matches the rest of your look—please feel free to get in touch and I will do it. I'm sure the loyal Man Who Couldn't Blog readers would be willing to help out with a few dollars, and would be willing to spread the word that your look is incomplete, and because it is incomplete, it was jarring for me to have to see you in it, and because it was jarring, it made it impossible for me to blog about anything important, and instead I blogged about your incomplete look, and we'll all gather some money for you to complete your look so that I won't be jarred and I can maybe blog.

This also happens to me—the jarred reaction to clothing—when I see a man in a basketball jersey, athletic shoes, and blue jeans.


I wrote a writing prompt that asks the writer to rot one of her or his stories.


Ginny Parker Woods interviewed Justin Sirois.


Leni Zumas has a blog.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I want again to talk at this time in this place about the thing that is called Dolphin Telepathy. It is very much now an important current thing to discuss, what with dolphins being everywhere in the news right now.

Are you a dolphin? Are you, a dolphin, reading this blog? Can I talk to you via and using telepathy? Let's try it now.

Let's try to communicate here in real time using dolphin telepathy. Think something at me.

Think it.

Come on. Think it. I'm listening.

While you, the dolphin, are trying to think things at me for me to pick up on with the thing that is my mind, I will spend here a moment discussing the efficacy of dolphin telepathy with my not-dolphin readers. I assume that there is a small number of people who read this blog who are not dolphins. I assume, but am not 100% sure because as of right now, Google Analytics does not break out human from dolphin readership in its statistics about this site.


Anyway. Humans, you and I should work hard to make more common and familiar this dolphin telepathy. Dolphins have for us many lessons. Such as there is more than one fish in the ocean. In fact, there are many, and many types as well. Such as there are some really nice things that await you if you are willing to every once and a while jump through a hoop. Such as why not go ahead and swim with people sometimes. Such as—




No. Sorry. I thought I heard something in my brain. I thought I was being contacted.

But and still there is much to benefit for people like us if we begin to expand the amount of dolphin telepathy that goes on in the world. The dolphins would like to tell us much about the water, for example.

Water is almost everywhere. Lots of things are wet. This is what the dolphins know above all else.

What of me? Why not me? Why have I been so blind to this? Why can't the dolphins tell me more about this? Open my eyes? Open my ears? Open my cosmic blowhole?


Thinking, I will.


The Third Policeman is amazing.



Thank you, dear Dennis.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Today is a day for examining what it is that makes you wonder what it is. This is what I've been thinking a lot about. It's hardly a day to pretend other than that.

Like, what if there's a moonfall event tomorrow?

Like, what if all the birds are more or less finished with flying?

Like, what's that word that's supposed to follow the word you've got stuck in your hand?

Like, how will we all cope now that the bees have gone and flown away to space?

Like, really are you satisfied with the way your beard smells?

Like, if dolphin telepathy is just a couple of years away from completion, what will Big Science do with its free time?

Like, are armies on the march because this battle is finished again and they are coming home or are they going somewhere new?

Like, Friday is just another way of avoiding Saturday for 24 more hours, right?

Like, arms get folded more often than we think but no one's really keeping score, are they?

Like, research research research. Is that all we'll ever read a book about?

But, honestly, let's be honest with ourselves. The pillow remains dry. The stairs keep going up and up. The neighbors have your dog hostage. Relax and live a little, am I right?

Yes, I am.

Forward and onward and upward. Blogging is impossible and for another day.


I answered questions about some books I like. I typed "Holy Smokes" twice.


I'll be reading in Portland on November 22 with Daniel Bailey and Bryan Coffelt. I think it's with this store, Ampersand, but it might actually occur at a nearby coffee house. When I know more, I will tell you more.


Shane Jones's new book, The Failure Six, is very good. I have read about four of the failures. I am up to number five. You should buy The Failure Six. And you should read it in a room with a cat watching you read it.

Song for The Failure Six:


Brother Blake has a story here. It's one of my favorites of his.

Someone told me about visiting a museum in Russia that had a room full of jarred still-born fetuses. Someone had sewed tiny lace ruffles around their wrists, and tiny lace collars on their necks.


Frickin' Burch is frickin' awesome.