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01-30-09 Agony Column Podcast News Report : A Conversation with Stephen Blackmer, Proprietor of Chanticleer Books, Sonoma California — Antiquarian Bookseller

Back around Thanksgiving, we went up to visit some friends in Sonoma, and took a spin around their lovely little downtown garden mall arrangement-sort-of-thing. Not surprisingly, I happened upon Chanticleer Books a wonderful little used bookstore where I as amazingly able to walk away not with a guilt-inducing load of books, but instead, a card.

I spoke with the proprietor,
Stephen Blackmer and got yet another perspective on the local-bookstore-versus-the-Internet foofaraw, and a fascinating glimpse at the world of antiquarian booksellers. It's easy to cast all this in black and white — as I did above, but there are a lot of subtleties to observe as well, and I think I can say with great confidence you're going to hear many of them aired in this interview. Blackmer has always run a used bookstore, but the nature of his mission, so to speak, was changed — for the better — by the Internet. Blackmer had lots of interesting things to say about the collector's market, and the existence of collectible books back in a time when, well — who knew? Blackmer did, and now you will as well.

I suggest readers, a) hide their credit cards, pay stubs, and/or bring the wife/husband to the computer, then b) check out the Chanticleer Website. You can see some of the books that Stephen is talking about, and so long as you are metaphorically lashed to the mast, you'll probably not spend a significant part of your child's inheritance on a book. But if you do, at least say I sent you! Here's a link to our conversation.

01-29-09 Agony Column Podcast News Report : Aimee Bender, Sean Stewart and Terry Bisson : SF in SF Panel Discussion, January 17, 2009

Today, we're podcasting the panel discussion for SF in SF on January 17, 2009. With Terry Bisson moderating Aimee Bender and Sean Stewart, you know you’re going to hear some fascinating discussion.

Just how fascinating this turned out to be was a surprise to everyone I think, including the participants. Stewart and Bender talked about building virtual worlds with words and with the entire infrastructure of the Internet at their disposal. You can download an hour with a fair amount of language you're not going to hear on NPR by going to this audio link.

Sean Stewart
01-28-09 Agony Column Podcast News Report : Sean Stewart Interviewed at SF in SF, January 17, 2009

SF in SF proves to be a hotbed of great writers and for this podcast, great interviewees. I've really enjoyed Sean Stewart's surreal writing, from his first book, 'Passion Play' to 'Resurrection Man' to 'Galveston.' For all that I knew his stuff, it didn't prepare me for his current gig as a "world creator" for the likes of Steven Spielberg and Trent Reznor.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to open up the latest Walter Jon Williams novel, 'This Is Not a Game' and see Sean's name mentioned in the back. But I wasn't really aware of the connection; that indeed Sean inhabited the real world in which Williams set his murder mystery. But when Sean mentioned that motto, "This is not a game," the whole chain fell into place. Should you need to have your perspective on video games altered, all you need to do is to listen to this linked MP3 audio interview.

01-27-09 Literary Pursuits in Hard Economic Times: A Round Table Discussion

Today's podcast is a recording of the live round-table discussion I had last week with Dana Werdmuller and Marcus Cato from Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Chris Watson, the book reviewer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, San Francisco publisher of Night Shade Books Jeremy Lassen, Elizabeth Martinez, the director of the Salinas Library and local author Laurie R. King. We talked about the fate of literary arts in perilous economic times.

The idea for this show first sprung from an email sent to me by NPR's Alan Cheuse, who alerted me to the fact that Chris Watson, a local book reviewer for well, longer than I've lived here, had finally been laid off by the local newspaper, The Santa Cruz Sentinel. This is the sort of nose-spiting-face action one can expect, alas. Of course, it's an absurd move. Think about it; wouldn't people who actually read a newspaper they could hold in their hands be much more likely to be interested in books? Of course they would! By removing coverage of books from their pages, today's newspapers are quite effectively cutting their own throats.

Hot on the heels of this story was another;
Shakespeare Santa Cruz fell victim to the economy when UC Santa Cruz sort of rolled back their line of credit. The upshot was a local literary and theater arts organization, nationally known, that suddenly needed $400,000 — yesterday. I knew I wanted to put something together and proceeded to trap myself into doing so. First, I invited Laurie R. King, because she's working the literary scene as an author. She's on the front line of the book-making process. Then, I contacted Jeremy Lassen, one of my regular guests who deserves every spare book-buying dollar you can muster for his work with Night Shade Books. With those two totally entertaining and intelligent guests on the hook, I let the rest unfold. I contacted Dana Werdmuller of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, who volunteered to bring Marcus Cato. Of course I brought in Chris Watson. Then I got an email from Jenn Ramage, one of my colleagues at KUSP, who sent me a link to an article from local NBC affiliate KSBW. This article talked about a new program being run by Elizabeth Martinez, the director of the Salinas Library. I contacted her and she was the last link in the chain. The result was an incredibly lively discussion, about the good, the bad and the inspiring. Each guest was superb, and the interaction was so lively that my task as moderator was simply wonderful. You can hear the resulting conversation via this link to the MP3 audio file. Listen and get inspired!

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