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Black Moon

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Overview

For fans of The Age of Miracles and The Dog Stars, Black Moon is a hallucinatory and stunning debut that Charles Yu calls “Gripping and expertly constructed.”

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ...

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Overview

For fans of The Age of Miracles and The Dog Stars, Black Moon is a hallucinatory and stunning debut that Charles Yu calls “Gripping and expertly constructed.”

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.  Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.  All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.

Kenneth Calhoun has written a brilliantly realized and utterly riveting depiction of a world gripped by madness, one that is vivid, strange, and profoundly moving.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Matt Biggs resides in a world plagued by chronic, unrelenting insomnia: Those few who, like himself, can still sleep become easy targets for the crazed sufferers who are sliding into dementia and death. Only by finding safe places to rest can the inexplicably immune survive this terrifying scourge. Kenneth Calhoun's debut novel drops us into a world that all good workaholics can instantly understand. Worth staying up late to read.

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/13/2014
Even amid a glut of apocalyptic novels that imagine everything from nuclear meltdown to zombies, Calhoun’s debut presents one of the most terrifying disaster scenarios of all time, perhaps because it’s somehow plausible: a worldwide insomnia epidemic turns people into the real living dead, making them prone to hallucinations and fits of anger. In the wreckage of America, where life and dreams are indistinguishable, several characters struggle to find each other while battling insanity and the encroaching nightmare. A onetime ad exec named Biggs, one of the last people still capable of sleep, searches for his wife Carolyn in the pandemonium. Another sleeper, Lila Ferrell, is among the first to see the epidemic coming thanks to her therapist father’s research; after her parents succumb to wakeful fever and threaten her life, she takes to the streets wearing an owl mask. Eventually, she meets Felicia, a lab assistant at a sleep research center determined to reverse the epidemic. Finally, there’s Felicia’s scofflaw lover, Chase, who attempts to take advantage of the situation by stockpiling sleeping pills, only to wind up embroiled in a surreal adventure involving a truck of stolen sheep. The characters and their intersecting narratives are largely a showcase for the author’s almost unspeakably dark vision of a restless world. Calhoun’s depiction of the collapse of language, reason, and love in a world without sleep is unflinching, and—scariest of all—it feels brilliantly contemporary. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Calhoun’s depiction of the collapse of language, reason, and love in a world without sleep is unflinching, and—scariest of all—it feels brilliantly contemporary."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Calhoun’s literary dystopia, which features beautiful writing, arresting imagery, and powerful metaphors, will appeal to fans of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles. . . . A deeply lyrical exploration of humanity at the extremes.”—Library Journal (starred review)

"Surprising and unpredictable. . . . In his first novel, Calhoun paints an all-too-believable landscape. . . . His dark tale is allegorical and relevant in today’s zombie-infatuated zeitgeist. This clever twist on the dystopian formula is a standout." Booklist
 
"Surreal. . . . Calhoun’s premise is brilliant."—Kirkus 

"Black Moon is the kind of book I envy as a writer, and seek out as a reader—a novel of ideas wrapped in a gripping, expertly constructed story, full of feeling and intelligence." —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

"Black Moon is tremendous: smart, beautifully written, and artfully plotted. Kenneth Calhoun’s story is so engagingly told that it would be easy to overlook how finely crafted it is. And he manages to pull off that essential feat: he makes us care—deeply—for ordinary people trapped in a very extraordinary world." —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan

"A thrilling, deeply intelligent portrait of catastrophe brought on by mass insomnia, by the wreckage that occurs when we lose our ability to close our eyes and escape into dreams. The dystopian landscape is absorbing, the prose electric, but the burning core of this novel is the heartrending and unforgettable story of a man’s quest to save the woman he loves." —Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
 
 "Calhoun’s epidemic, this new and improved insomnia, sinks us into a world where ‘sleepers’ are the target of violent rage. Here we see the erosion of the everyday ruses that allow us to soldier on, the ugly truths we run from gaining ground. Black Moon is a powerful, beautiful debut." —John Brandon, author of Citrus County and A Million Heavens
 

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-05
A novel about insomnia and dreams, and thus, almost by definition, it's surreal. Calhoun's premise is brilliant, and he follows it to its logical (and psychological) conclusion. What if, gradually, everyone lost the ability to sleep? What would the world look like? How would contemporary culture shift on its axis? In this narrative, we follow a series of characters drastically affected by this shift, most of them pathological insomniacs, though a few retain their ability to sleep and thus become pariahs to the multitudes of the sleepless. At the center of the novel are Biggs (a "sleeper") and his wife, Carolyn, who's given over to the telltale signs of insomnia, including physical symptoms like red-rimmed eyes and psychological symptoms resembling dementia. Over time, Biggs has watched her gradual deterioration, and part of the novel involves Biggs' quest to find her after she goes missing and to share with her an elaborate dream he's had, one Carolyn eventually tries to re-create and film. Another symptom of cultural and personal breakdown can be seen in college students Chase and Jordan. Since prescription sleep aids become extraordinarily valuable in a world populated by insomniacs, Chase and Jordan develop a scheme to rip off the pharmaceutical industry by stealing pills from the containers in which sleep medicines are kept. Chase's ex-girlfriend Felicia works as a lab assistant at a Sleep Research Center, where doctors are desperately trying to find a cure—and where their research sometimes has lethal consequences. Another narrative thread involves high school student Lila, who, like Biggs, has retained her ability to sleep, but she finds she must leave her parents, whose insomnia is leading them toward madness. Calhoun writes beautifully, though the novel is occasionally slow-moving—and thus, ironically, becomes a cure for insomnia.
From the Publisher
“Haunting. . . . Many authors have tackled the mystique of sleeplessness — but few have done so with the grotesque grace and poetic insight of Black Moon. . . . Its totemic power builds into something heart-wrenchingly resonant. . . . [Calhoun’s] prose-rich passages of hallucinogenic abandon aren’t psychedelic—they’re razor-sharp.” —NPR.org
 
“Intriguing…Startling and evocative…Compelling, with an undercurrent of the surreal as science grapples with matters of the subconscious.”—Jeff Vandermeer, Los Angeles Times
 
"A dazzlying distopia...Its chillingness lies not only in its accurate portrayal of the insomniac brain but in the plausibility."—The Times (UK)

“Morbid, hallucinatory, darkly funny, and symbolically striking. . . . [Calhoun] carves out new space in the post-sleep apocalypse.” —The AV Club

“Gripping. . . . The characters are all completely relatable. I found myself rooting for their survival from page one.” Real Simple
 
“Uniquely haunting. . . . Terrifying and poetically beautiful at the same time. . . . [Calhoun] pushes the weirdness as far as he can, in a way that feels horribly plausible.” —io9
 
“Engaging. . . . speculative fiction at its best: suspenseful, intelligent, moving, and sure to keep you awake.” —PopMatters
 
“Calhoun’s depiction of the collapse of language, reason, and love in a world without sleep is unflinching, and—scariest of all—it feels brilliantly contemporary.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Calhoun’s literary dystopia, which features beautiful writing, arresting imagery, and powerful metaphors, will appeal to fans of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles. . . . A deeply lyrical exploration of humanity at the extremes.” Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Surprising and unpredictable. . . . In his first novel, Calhoun paints an all-too-believable landscape. . . . His dark tale is allegorical and relevant in today’s zombie-infatuated zeitgeist. This clever twist on the dystopian formula is a standout.” —Booklist
 
“Surreal. . . . Calhoun’s premise is brilliant.”—Kirkus
 
Black Moon is the kind of book I envy as a writer, and seek out as a reader—a novel of ideas wrapped in a gripping, expertly constructed story, full of feeling and intelligence.” —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Black Moon is tremendous: smart, beautifully written, and artfully plotted. Kenneth Calhoun’s story is so engagingly told that it would be easy to overlook how finely crafted it is. And he manages to pull off that essential feat: he makes us care—deeply—for ordinary people trapped in a very extraordinary world.” —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan

“A thrilling, deeply intelligent portrait of catastrophe brought on by mass insomnia, by the wreckage that occurs when we lose our ability to close our eyes and escape into dreams. The dystopian landscape is absorbing, the prose electric, but the burning core of this novel is the heartrending and unforgettable story of a man’s quest to save the woman he loves.” —Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
 
 “Calhoun’s epidemic, this new and improved insomnia, sinks us into a world where ‘sleepers’ are the target of violent rage. Here we see the erosion of the everyday ruses that allow us to soldier on, the ugly truths we run from gaining ground. Black Moon is a powerful, beautiful debut.” —John Brandon, author of Citrus County and A Million Heavens

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
In the midst of an epidemic of terminal insomnia of unknown origin, sufferers become confused and incoherent, turning on the few remaining noninsomniacs with murderous blind fury, even when catching their own loved ones in the act of sleeping. Debut novelist Calhoun, whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Tin House, and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011, follows several characters through multiple story threads as they try to survive in this brave new world. Biggs is on a quest to find his wide-awake wife, who disappeared from their apartment, and in the process of seeking out her childhood home discovers uncomfortable truths about their relationship. Felicia is barricaded inside the sleep lab where she works as alert scientists rush to find a cure before they lose their wits; meanwhile, her besotted ex-boyfriend Chase falls in with an old friend who has been stealing and stockpiling sleeping pills from a local pharmacy since before the widespread disease took hold. VERDICT Calhoun's literary dystopia, which features beautiful writing, arresting imagery, and powerful metaphors, will appeal to fans of Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. It is not sf as much as a deeply lyrical exploration of humanity at the extremes. [See Prepub Alert, 9/23/13.]—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
The Barnes & Noble Review

The science of sleep is such a relatively new and evolving field that, so far as I can determine, it has as yet no unique name. Geology, physics, chemistry, and ... "somnography"? "Somnomics"? A nonsense word. Hypnology is sometimes offered but is more likely to be applied to the study of hypnotism. According to Wikipedia, sleep medicine is "a medical specialty or subspecialty devoted to the diagnosis and therapy of sleep disturbances and disorders," a remit that avoids any focus on non-pathological sleep. Oneirology is a lovely and poetic label, but it refers to the scientific study of dreams, omitting all the other myriad functions of sleep. No, even a recent, wide-ranging book like David Randall's Dreamland can offer nothing more precise as its subtitle than "Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep."

Untroubled by imprecision or lack of nomenclature, fantasy literature has long utilized the realm of Morpheus as a fertile playground. Alice's adventures in Wonderland seemed to take place while she dozed. Little Nemo found a coherent landscape and population in Slumberland, as did H.  P. Lovecraft's hero Randolph Carter, in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. But to be true to its modus operandi, science fiction needs more guidance and structure, and can follow only where science leads — or at least points. So it's not surprising that SF has consequently offered up very few speculations regarding a discipline so nascent.

One of the first forays into speculating on the mysteries of sleep occurred in the early work of J. G. Ballard — not so astonishing, given his interest in surrealism and "inner space." His story from 1957, "Manhole 69," remains a potent and disturbing piece to this day. A study intended to see if humans can do entirely without sleep results in a psychosis that seems to bleed over into consensus reality. The findings of the investigators? "Continual consciousness is more than the brain can stand."

In that same year came Philip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky, which finds its several protagonists, if not exactly asleep, knocked unconscious and thrust into the alternating "subjective realities" hosted by their actively dreaming brains.

Nineteen sixty-five brought us R. A. Lafferty's startlingly prescient and hearteningly absurd "Slow Tuesday Night," a spot-on prefiguration of a sleepless world that remains active 24/7. In the next year came Roger Zelazny's The Dream Master, which had machine- mediated psychiatrists plunging into the mindscapes of their unconscious patients. (A template the film Inception was to shamelessly borrow four decades later.) Dick continued to offer dreamlike alternate realities throughout his prime during this decade, culminating in 1969's creepy and masterful Ubik. Two years later, Ursula K. Le Guin would contribute an explicit homage to PKD with her novel The Lathe of Heaven, whose protagonist has the power to change reality in his sleep.

Perhaps played out or unfueled by any new scientific discoveries, the theme seems to have estivated within SF for the next couple of decades. But certainly the topic of sleep and its uses stands ready for fresh treatments. Intrigued by a spate of news articles on the use and abuse of eugeroic drugs such as Modafinil, I wrote a short story in 2006 titled "Shuteye for the Timebroker," about a future where drug-induced sleeplessness was the rule. That year also saw Michel Gondry's film on dream life interpenetrating reality, The Science of Sleep. And bordering on this theme is the perennial riff involving the chilly dreams of corpsicles, most recently seen in Will McIntosh's Love Minus Eighty.

And now comes Kenneth Calhoun's striking and accomplished debut novel, Black Moon, which investigates a plague of insomnia (an idea also explored by Karen Russell's Sleep Donation. Reminding one in tone and effect of Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet — where language was the stolen and corrupted human essential, taken for granted before it was lost — Calhoun's book also cleverly evokes the current spate of zombie fiction, as well as a few frissons from those classic "cozy catastrophes" that began with The Day of the Triffids.

Calhoun opens briskly and shockingly with the plague already rampant and civilization well-nigh gone, all due "merely" to a week or so of global sleeplessness. Our first viewpoint character is one Matt Biggs, a youngish writer married to a video artist named Carolyn. We find Biggs scrounging in a shambolic urban hellscape for any placebo to offer his wife. Biggs is one of the very few who can still sleep and function normally, while Carolyn is one of the myriad sleepless. He returns home, and we get a deft portrait of the typical sufferer, driven mad by sleep deprivation and physically traumatized as well.

Two manifestations of the hallucinatory state are a disconnect with sensory impressions and also a derangement of language. Carolyn hails her husband with "Where did you what? You don't go for so long all around and around if you're who you said you are." But even more dangerous and disturbing is the instinctive and unreasoning rage that the insomniacs feel when they encounter anyone sleeping. With insane jealousy and revulsion they attack to kill the lucky ones. Here we have a vibrant echo of Jack Finney's classic The Body Snatchers, where sleep also rendered the innocent vulnerable to the new predators.

Leaving Biggs and Carolyn with Chapter 2, we drop back in time a short interval and focus on Chase and Jordan, two buddies not long out of high school. Having left college and broken up with his girlfriend, Felicia, Chase is drifting aimlessly. Jordan, however, is focused on the yet-to-crest plague he intuits from news reports. He has a plan to stock up on sleeping pills — the new currency, in his estimation — and then to hunker down in some safe rural refuge. Half disbelieving in the seriousness of it all, Chase nonetheless signs on.

Chapter 3 introduces us to the Ferrells, a family where daughter Lila remains unafflicted while her parents degenerate. Retaining some small semblance of rationality, the parents arrange for Lila to be sent away to a hypothetical refuge. But en route her transportation goes awry, and she is cast into a survivalist odyssey among the zombie-like afflicted.

In regular alternation, Calhoun advances the fates of his three or four main figures (and a few ancillary ones) with much suspense and many unpredictable twists. Despite a pervasive and entirely realistic sense of fatalism and doom, Calhoun conveys a certain optimism as well, with a few rays of hope and light amid the carnage.

Calhoun's approach is resolutely and rigorously science- fictional. Although he never pinpoints the cause of the plague — he offers a metaphorical litany of possible causes, from the plausible to the metaphysical — Black Moon follows developments from the mysterious origin onward with a grim and implacable logic. As with all cozy catastrophes, where a basically intact infrastructure serves as a great playset, vivid scenes of rummaging in the ruins fulfill the reader's secret dreams of being king of a depopulated planet, however miserable. Resonances with another classic of the subgenre, M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud, whose lone survivor embarked on an orgy of nihilistic destruction, also come into play.

As the narrative unfolds, we also realize that besides limning a gruesome global apocalypse, Calhoun is also narrating several love stories. Foremost is the tortured relationship between Biggs and Carolyn, centering around the ache of their childlessness. Then comes the more superficial college romance between Chase and Felicia, which actually reveals unforeseen depths as Felicia seeks out Chase amid the carnage. Finally, there's the parental love of the Ferrells for Lila, as Calhoun shows the limits of what any parent can do for their child, and the sad fate of the orphan.

All of this is conducted in a prose that is emotionally hotter than the surgical and clinical language Ballard perfected, but which nevertheless hews to that same merciless spotlight radiance. At times — such as when one of the sleepless zombies is attacking the cage-like refuge where Biggs has been resting — Calhoun opts for a Stephen King–like melodrama. But then he returns to the can't-look-must-look flat descriptiveness that was so effective in Ballard's disaster novels.

If there is any rigid subtext to Black Moon, I'd suspect it has to do with Alzheimer's disease, and the way certain forecasts have made it out to be an inevitable widespread plague in our future. Consider whether Lila's pitiless teenager's description of the behavior of the sleepless does not resemble that of the typical Alzheimer's sufferer.

Sleepless people get lost and they just walk into any house thinking it's their house. Then they start looking for stuff they remember having and they end up tearing the whole house up, looking for it, throwing all the things they don't recognize out the windows and doors. Then they look through that stuff again when they come outside and it gets even more messed up. They're so clueless it's unbelievable.
Ultimately, as Biggs finds a life-affirming role for himself among the few artificially stabilized survivors, providing verbally the sanity-preserving natural dreams they can no longer manufacture for themselves, Calhoun's parable about humanity distanced from the psychic sources of its own daily regeneration acquires another level of meaning. Civilization cannot exist without its dreamers. Luckily for us, we continue to have ones like Kenneth Calhoun doing the job so ably.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804137140
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 296,573
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

KENNETH CALHOUN has had stories published in The Paris Review, Tin House, and the 2011 Pen/O. Henry Prize Collection, among others. He lives in Boston, where he is a graphic design professor at Lasell College.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Kenneth Calhoun, Author of Black Moon

Black Moon describes a not-too-distant future in which the world is gripped by an insomnia epidemic. Only a handful of people retain the ability to sleep. Their friends and family, decimated by exhaustion and increasingly maddened, become their greatest threat. Why insomnia, and what inspired you to build this world around it?

Insomnia is everywhere. Do a little anecdotal survey of the people around you and you'll find that a surprisingly large percentage is lying awake at night. The numbers seem to be increasing and one has to wonder where this is headed. While I have never had sleep challenges (except maybe sleeping too much), a person who is very dear to me has battled insomnia for years. I witnessed her struggles with it and, also, noted her annoyance—however vague and restrained—at my ability to drop off at a moment's notice. This set in motion an extrapolation: What if everyone stopped sleeping except for a handful people? And what if that subtle resentment towards sleepers was amplified into a violent rage; what if the sleepless attacked those caught in the act? With those combustible notions fueling the story engine, I wrote a short piece called "Placebo." It is essentially the first chapter of Black Moon, though it went through a number of changes during the writing process. Other characters, and their predicaments, soon followed.

In Black Moon, dreams become a valuable commodity. Have your dreams ever inspired your writing? What's the strangest dream you've ever had?

I've had several dreams that were so striking and odd that I wrote them down upon waking and attempted to use them in stories. A few were successful transpositions, but most of my dreams fail as stories. Like Biggs in Black Moon, I also have trouble relating the dreams in their pure state when writing them down. I tend to bully them into plots and force causal relationships. This undermines the dreaminess of dreams—the wavering strangeness, the native logic they impose. One of the oddest dreams I recall having was one in which I found myself commanding a group of contemporary American civilian soldiers in an assault on a Roman garrison. The Romans, wielding flat swords and round shields, had invaded and were threatening to lay claim on the local mall. The resulting story, "An Account of the Advance on Northgate," was published in Fence magazine. What does it all mean? It probably means I shouldn't eat fish tacos in bed.

At the heart of Black Moon is the haunting love story between Biggs, one of the remaining sleepers, and his wife, Carolyn, who goes missing early in the book. What made their relationship real for you? Who are your favorite literary couples?

What makes Biggs and Carolyn real for me is the complexity of their relationship. When the epidemic finds them, they aren't necessarily in the strongest place as a couple. They've been together long enough to have accrued certain disappointments—some as grand as failing to produce a child, others as subtle as conflicting sleep schedules. The differences in their wiring has proven, over time, to be significant. This is amplified by Biggs's ongoing ability to sleep, while Carolyn—who always struggled with sleep—quickly succumbs to sleeplessness when the epidemic hits. As the chaos mounts and reality takes on the consistency of dreams and hallucinations, Biggs realizes his connection to Carolyn is the only real thing—the only locked-down, solid thing—he knows in the weirdly shifting landscape.

One of my favorite literary couples is Paul and Elaine Weiss in A. M. Homes's novel Music for Torching (and the short story "Adults Alone"). Theirs is a totally messed up and wholly dysfunctional marriage, so my appreciation for them might seem a bit unsound. But I really like the elasticity of their bond, and there's something darkly sweet about how they enable each other's demise. At least it's personal.

The sleep epidemic tests loyalties between the closest of friends, husband and wives, parents and children. In what way is devotion a theme in this novel?

Devotion in this case is more like clinging to the things that will keep you afloat during a raging flood. What do we grab onto when we are caught in the lashing current? Some might observe that there is very little mention of faith or religious sentiment in this book. I was surprised by this myself, but that's how things developed. In this country, during catastrophe or when winning entertainment awards, people are very vocal about their devotion to God. However, in Black Moon, the characters are devoted to other people—to finding them, to saving them. It seems to me that, in a world-ending crisis, the many things we are devoted to would get quickly whittled down to all that really matters: preventing loved ones from suffering. Some might enlist their god in this effort, but not these particular characters.

Biggs works in advertising—an industry where you've spent some time. How much of yourself do you see in Biggs and your other characters?

Yes, that aspect of Biggs's past overlaps with mine, as do other details: being in a long-term relationship with a visual artist, living in a loft, sleeping whenever and wherever I want like a kung-fu master of the slumbering dragon style. Of course, I see some aspects of myself in all the characters I write about. I think this is true for every writer. Sometimes, though, it's useful to model a character after someone else you know, though they might never speak to you again. You have to know—or imaginatively own—that person dimensionally, so you can portray their responses to a variety of situations, like an artist must know the human figure so she can render it in any position without a model. I must say, however, that I will not hesitate to bend, warp, exaggerate, extrapolate, distort, and outright lie, completely abandoning the true nature, inclinations or features of my models, for the sake of serving the story. The truth will only get you so far.

The Paris Review was an early supporter of yours. Did your background in short fiction influence Black Moon?

I love the short story. Learning how to write a good one has been a lifelong mission. Turns out, it's really hard to do. Sometimes it works out and I think I've mastered it, but then I learn that I haven't the next time I try. It's a confining workspace, and there isn't a lot of room for wild swings. This is what I both love and hate about it. In some ways, a novel offers relief. The expanse allows you a longer runway for launching ideas or achieving certain effects that take time on the page to arrive as earned events. One thing I love about short stories is that you have more permission for ambiguity. Not everything has to be fully explained or resolved. The reader can take what you've given them and run with it. I wanted to keep a certain degree of ambiguity in Black Moon. I hope it's in there in such a way that the reader is compelled to do some filling in of the blanks. It depends on the reader. Some embrace the unanswered question. Some try to wring the answers out of you at seemingly friendly book club gatherings that you agreed to attend because they promised snacks.

What's next for you? We've heard talk of a TV series.

There is some TV interest. There are apparently many obstacles between having a book optioned and seeing some version of it up on the screen, so I'm being cautiously optimistic. The people involved are extremely talented professionals, and I believe that they will use their formidable dream machine to cook up a powerful adaption for the small screen, which is so much more compelling these days than the big screen, right?

Meanwhile, my attention has turned to my next novel and some story projects that have been on hold for a while. The novel is set in the Inland Empire (southern California) of the 1980s, when the region underwent a dramatic transformation from windblown vineyards and citrus groves to an endless sprawl of tract homes and strip malls. It features a culture-jamming punk band, coyotes, a Marxist trucker/philosopher, and a lost Spanish treasure. I'm having fun writing it.

Who have you discovered lately?

There are a few new writers on my proverbial nightstand these days. One is Peter Heller, whose apocalyptic masterpiece The Dog Stars was recommended to me by about twenty people. Turns out their gushing endorsements were true. I also recently enjoyed Laura van den Berg's finely crafted Isle of Youth while flying to China and back. It's one of those books that deserves the heaps of praise it has garnered.

A couple months ago, I was contacted by the writer Lysley Tenorio, who sent me a kind note about one of my stories. I immediately sought out his collection Monstress, and it's all kinds of great—funny, but also sad and somewhat twisted, stories about Filipino characters getting their hearts broken in whimsical ways. [Monstress was a Spring 2012 Discover pick. -Ed].

Finally, I somehow stumbled upon a novel by Keenan Norris called Brother and the Dancer. It offers insights into the African American experience in the San Bernardino Valley of Southern California, which is where I'm from. The writing is lyrical, at times fevered, and profoundly knowing. I can't recall how I learned about it, but I'm glad I did. Those accidental discoveries are often the best.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    This books was a page turner! I read it all at once on a long fl

    This books was a page turner! I read it all at once on a long flight home and it kept me awake the whole flight (9hours). The premise is hauntingly realistic, a sleepless world. What is sleep anyway? And why do we need it? What really goes on when we're sleeping? The landscapes are beautifully described and made exceptionally vivid by the author's artful prose. The book is written in a way that makes you feel like you are experiencing the epidemic as well, slowly succumbing to a sleepless existence (I always feel like a bit of a zombie on long flights so that certainly added something to my experience of the story). The characters seemed very real to me, strangely familiar in many ways. I wanted to hear more of the main character's dreams, those were some of my favorite parts. The books is a dark trip for sure, but a beautifully crafted one, and certainly one worth taking. You have to experience the dark to appreciate the light, right?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    This book has so much potential, but the writing style is incons

    This book has so much potential, but the writing style is inconsistent and goes through different levels of skill. Major plot points and character developments are left without explanation, and thus there is no worthy resolution. Looking forward to seeing how this author will develop, but this book was very difficult to get through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book has a great premise. Insomnia, which we have all suffe

    This book has a great premise. Insomnia, which we have all suffered from at one point or another. Imagine not being able to sleep forever. This is what is plaguing most of the world in this novel. It starts out with just one husband trying to find the cure for his insomniac wife. It has a great premise,and is a good read, and doesn't fail to surprise us in many ways. I would recommend this to my friends that like this genre. I was given this book in return for an honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    I will finish the book

    The great idea for a story lured me in but the inspiration has been almost wasted with lengthy dream and fantasy sequences. I am going to finish the book but I won't remember it for a week ... unless I have insomnia.








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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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