2017 in Books (1/x?)

The Haven didn’t do jack shit this year as a societally helpful literary entity, but I’m pretty sure everyone read a lot of books. At least I did! Not counting ones I worked on for Six Gallery Press or Low Ghost Press or read drafts of, & counting graphic novels/novellas, here they are:

Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov

Atta by Jarett Kobek

Atonement by Ian McEwan

A Song of Stone by Iain Banks

The Stonemason by Cormac McCarthy

The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia McKillip

Black River by Josh Simmons

Wizzywig by Ed Piskor

Cosplayers by Dash Shaw

All You Need Is Kill by Nick Mamatas & Lee Ferguson, based on the novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka, tr. Mari Morimoto

Super Extra Grande by Yoss, tr. David Frye

The Doorposts of Your House and On Your Gates by Jacob Bacharach

Carpenter’s Gothic by William Gaddis

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz, tr. Stanley Bill

The Teeth of the Comb by Osama Alomar, tr. C. J. Collins

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, tr. Esther Allen

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds

Entanglements by Crispin Sartwell

Entanglements by Rae Armantrout

Muskrat Friday Dinner by Scott Silsbe

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (reread)

Doctors by Dash Shaw

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Instead of Work by Bob Black

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, tr. Ken Liu

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

The Literary Conference by Cesar Aira, tr. Katherine Silver

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The Abbess of Castro by Stendhal, tr. C. K. Scott Moncrieff

Quarantine by Greg Egan

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Arkansas Ghoulash by Scotty Lewis

Also read some Grixly & Dan McCloskey comics & the Free Comic Book Day: World’s Greatest Cartoonists 2017 anthology (h/t Bill Boichel & Copacetic Comics), along w/ a bunch of short stories & articles & whatnot on the cyber. Thanks to everyone who rec’d, loaned, gave, sold, &/or wrote any of the books on this list (you know who you are); & for another great year of reading, which is not nothing.


August short story workshop: 8/10-9/7

We’re leading a short story workshop next month and we’re super stoked about it! The details:

What it is: A generative workshop. The goal is to complete a piece of short fiction in five weeks. We’ll start with writing prompts and reading to get some ideas flowing and end with group workshops of the stories in progress.

This workshop is open to writers of all ages and all levels—whether you have an MFA or are just starting in fiction, starting a story and seeing it through to the end takes more than just writing talent. It takes commitment and dedication—and having other people around to help out can oftentimes keep you on track. The goal of this workshop is to get everybody to the finish line on a new piece.

When it is: Wednesday nights from 7-9pm (August 10, 17, 24, 31, and September 7).

Where it is: East End Book Exchange (4754 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield)

How to sign up: E-mail Jess Simms (jrsimms29@gmail.com).

What it costs: We’re asking for a $20 donation. There’s two reasons for this:
1) Something that costs money is easier to stay committed to than something that’s free (sad but true, psychologically)
2) It will help the Haven keep doing readings and workshops and other cool literary events in the city

…having said that, we in no way want the cost to be prohibitive. If you want to join the workshop but don’t have an extra $20, just e-mail Jess (jrsimms29@gmail.com) and we’ll work out an alternative (like bringing food to the reading, or something similarly awesome).

What you get: Aside from writing a story, you’ll get a collection of short stories to read, study, and keep. You’ll also get a chance to read part of your story to an audience at the final reading (date and time TBD).

Who’s in charge: Three members of the Rahnd Table will be moderating this workshop: Liz Abeling, Nate Kukulski, and Jess Simms (and we’ll be writing stories, too, because we practice what we preach, yo).

…we’re really excited to start this workshop and we hope you’ll be equally stoked to take this journey with us. Let’s make some words happen, Pittsburgh!

AWP Bookfair Roundup


So I uploaded some pictures to our Facebook page depicting our road trip across the country (courtesy of Dan McCloskey and his magical van), and I’ve started to process the influx of knowledge and experience dropped on us at the AWP conference. I think I can safely speak for everyone in saying the trip and conference both exceeded expectations. I’m already excited to start planning for AWP17 in Washington DC next year.

Our Twitter machine’s been active through the trip talking about panels, readings, and all the fun whatnot. Unpacking (finally) unearthed a plethora of tiny pieces of paper picked up at tables in the bookfair, and as I’m going through them I realized we didn’t say much about the cool presses and people we met both wandering and table-sitting. I’m sure I’ll forget somebody, but some highlights:

  • Poetry for Trash, a project that combines poetry with litter pick-up in its home state of Virginia.
  • Both University of Hell Press and Punk Hostage Press, who put on a fantastic shared off-site reading. Both do mostly poetry, though University of Hell just put out their first fiction book (Swarm Theory, a novel in stories by Christine Rice).
  • Spork Press (based out of Tucson, AZ) handmakes books and records cassette tapes. The designs are unique and beautiful and worth checking out.
  • HOOT review is a postcard journal of mini poetry and prose. They also run online and pen pal workshops.
  • Found out there is a literary journal dedicated to sports writing (Sport Literate). They don’t take fiction but are open to both essays and poetry.
  • Obviously there are a ton of journals and presses open to submissions and running contests. Blue Skirt Productions was a new one for me and caught my eye because they’re both a press and journal, interested in fiction from 100 words to novella-length. Sarabande Books is running contents in both poetry and short fiction manuscripts (both open until April 30). Barrelhouse (hosts of the Conversations and Connections conference) is also open for submissions.

…I could keep listing cool stuff all day, but I think that’s a good smattering of the new things I got hip to at the bookfair. Might edit and add to this as I unearth more tiny pieces of paper from my luggage.

The Rahnd Table Anthology


The first volume of the Rahnd Table anthology is assembled and ready for the world, and will be making its debut at the AWP conference in LA! Rahnd Table members Elizabeth Abeling, Nathan Kukulski, Daniel Parme, Jess Simms, and Brendan Sullivan have their work featured within. It’s a fantastic collection and we’re stoked to release it to the world.

Yinz going to AWP?

We are and we’re stoked about it! We’re sharing a table with local presses Six Gallery and Low Ghost, and authors Daniel McCloskey, Elwin Cotman, and Robert Isenberg. (558, in the back corner with the cool kids.) We’ll also be debuting the first Rahnd Table Anthology at the conference, because it’s about damn time we made a book happen.

This isn’t my first time going to AWP but it’ll be my first time with a table of my own to sit at, and the extra level of preparation that takes is a new adventure. I spent some time table-sitting for the Fourth River (Chatham’s literary journal) during my grad school days and it’s a completely different perspective on the bookfair. I’m excited to get to spend more time doing it this time around.

I’ve done AWP before, so I’ve got some idea of what to expect. This year, I’m hoping to smooth out some of the mistakes I’ve made in previous years by doing some advanced preparation. Aside from the details like travel plans and getting the final polish on the Rahnd Table anthology, there are three things I’m going to do before leaving for the conference that (I think) will help me get the most out of my time there.

1: Check out the panels and pick the ones I really want to attend, because I always say I’m going to do this and I always end up huddled over my program at lunch on Thursday with a highlighter, overwhelmed and not sure what I’m doing next. Having at least an outline of each day’s schedule in mind will hopefully keep me from running around like a crazy person trying to see it all, like I was my first AWP. I think I went to a panel during every time slot the first day that year, and by halfway through Friday my head felt like mush and I hadn’t spent a single minute in the bookfair—arguably the coolest thing about the conference. My plan this year: Pick out 3-5 panels that are “definites,” 3-5 “maybes,” and make a point of saving energy to go to the off-site readings after hours.

2: Practice my elevator pitch, because that’s something else I’m notoriously bad at: selling myself to potential publishers or agents. In past years I’ve been too intimidated by the idea to even approach the people who might open up new opportunities for my writing. I also don’t want to be that person who spends the whole conference talking about myself—not only are those people annoying, but you don’t learn as much when you’re talking as when you’re listening—and I might never be in a situation during the conference where I need to give my elevator pitch. But on the off chance somebody asks me that dreaded question (“So what do you write?”) whilst mingling, having a concise answer ready could be the difference between them being interested and not.

3: Know who’s going to be there. Putting in an hour or two of quality time with Google search can help me map out which tables at the bookfair I really need to swing by, which readings will be the most up my alley, and which panelists might have things to say that most directly relate to my own writing style and career. Not that a poet has nothing to teach a fiction writer, but with so many people in one place it’s impossible to meet even a small fraction of them. Knowing who at least a few of the agents, publishers, and fellow writers are before I go will (hopefully) help me pick the right small fraction.

Granted, I don’t claim to be an expert at the AWP experience. If you guys have some pre-planning tips I’d love to hear them! Either way, I hope to see you at our table in L.A.

3/12: Marshall James Kavanaugh and Stephanie B at Cyberpunk Apocalypse


We’ll be back at Cyberpunk Apocalypse in the North Side on March 12 for a pair of touring PA poets making a stop in Pittsburgh. Marshall James Kavanaugh is touring his poetry collection Travel by Haiku and Stephanie B. is touring her essay collection Letters to Aunt Lucy. You can check out more details of their tour on their Facebook page.

The Cyberpunk Apocalypse library is also going to be open for your perusal and purchase. There’s loads of good stuff on those shelves, from vintage young adult to how-to woodcrafting guides. (There’s a couple pictures of the library in the Cyberpunk update from last year, though they don’t really demonstrate the collection’s full majesty).

Book sale at 7, reading at 8.

BYOB, free and open to the public!

3-12 reading flyer

2015 in Books

‘Tis the season for pointless year-end lists, so here’s another one – books read & mostly delighted in by one Haven member, w/ statistics & commentary.
Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
The Search by Geoff Dyer
Why We Don’t Talk About Sugar by Aubrey Hirsch (h/t Jess)
Apartment Building by Joseph Musso Jr. (draft, 2015)
Echopraxia by Peter Watts
All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak
The Cost of Lunch, Etc. by Marge Piercy
Bark by Lorrie Moore
Mastodonia by Clifford D. Simak
Tenth of December by George Saunders
A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick (h/t Wentworth)
Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer
Project Pope by Clifford D. Simak
The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel
Not Less Than Gods by Kage Baker (h/t Robert)
Eherengard by Isak Dinesen
Emma by Jane Austen
The Doorposts of Your House and On Your Gates by Jacob Bacharach (draft)
Spurious by Lars Iyer (h/t Hank)
Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Gloom Hearts & Opioids by John Thomas Menesini (draft)
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (h/t Bacharach)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, tr. Ken Liu
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (h/t Rachel S.)
Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (h/t Alex)
Please Don’t Shoot Anyone Tonight by Dave Newman
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Valparaiso, Round the Horn by Madeline ffitch
Queens of the Emerald Palace by Elwin Cotman (draft)
The First Bad Man by Miranda July (2015)
Permutation City by Greg Egan (h/t Alex)
Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World  by David Abram
Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov
Waiting for the Boat: On Television by Dennis Potter
Patternmaster by Octavia Butler
The Science of Herself Plus… by Karen Joy Fowler
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
Magenta’s Adventures Underground by Carol Lewis
A Hall of Mirrors by Robert Stone
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Between Time and Timbuktu/Prometheus-5 teleplay by David Odell, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. (h/t Silsbe)
Of Tire & Anonymity by Che Elias (2015)
The Business by Iain Banks
Three Early Stories by J.D. Salinger (h/t Che)
The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
How to Be an American by Ally Malinenko (draft, 2015)
Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont
The Prisoner by Thomas Disch
The Innocent by Ian McEwan (h/t Alex)
Love Songs from Flood City by Adam Matcho (draft, 2015)
Six Names of Beauty by Crispin Sartwell
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
24/7 by Jonathan Crary
White Light by Rudy Rucker
Glass City by John Grochalski
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge (h/t Nick & Kyle)
Gene Mapper by Taiyo Fujii, tr. Jim Hubbert (English tr. 2015)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (2015)
I Am Barbarella by Beth Gilstrap (2015)
The Mysterious Tongue of Doctor Vermilion by Robert Isenberg (draft, 2015)
Four Past Midnight by Stephen King (h/t Jess)
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (h/t Bender)
Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg (2015)
Poems for Jerry: A Tribute to Gerald Stern edited by John Schulman (draft, 2015)
Hot Head by Simon Ings
Two Gentlemen of Lebowski by Adam Bertocci
The Transposed Heads by Thomas Mann
The Spectral Link by Thomas Ligotti
City of the Iron Fish by Simon Ings
The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, tr. Joel Martinsen (English tr. 2015)
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
Wolves by Simon Ings
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Vathek by William Beckford (h/t Scott)
Under the Skin by Michel Faber (h/t Jess)
Case and the Dreamer by Theodore Sturgeon (h/t Kyle)
Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
Rain on the River by Jim Dodge (h/t Damien)
The Unknown Masterpiece w/ Gambara by Honore de Balzac, tr. Richard Howard
Confluence by Dan Parme (draft)
Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny (h/t Disco Ken)
Manchild by Alan Olifson (draft)
DMT & the Soul of Prophecy by Rick Strassman
Where by Kit Reed (2015)
Cloud, Castle, Lake by Vladimir Nabokov (Pocket Penguin, 3/5 reread)
Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer (h/t Alex)
Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham
The Green Season by Robert Isenberg (2015)
Hard Words by Ursula K. Le Guin
Vanishing Point by David Markson (h/t Hank)
A Brief History of Portable Literature by Enrique Vila-Matas, tr. Anne McLean & Thomas Bunstead (English tr. 2015, h/t Hank)

I also tried to read Existence by David Brin & gave up after 4 chapters of it getting on my nerves for some reason.


Out of 93 books (read, by & large, as I wilted)…
72 were by doods, 21 by womyn.
86 were by whitey, 7 by POC.
All authors were/are cis, far as I know; & I don’t know which way(s) most of them swing or swung sexually, but presume het for the majority. Anyway, I own that’s no good inclusivitywise & resolve to do better next year.
33 were science fiction. My coolest new discoveries there were Jennifer Marie Brissett, Cixin Liu, Simon Ings, & Michel Faber.
7 were nonfiction. Stand-outs here were The Spell of the Sensuous, Six Names of Beauty, & 24/7, all unreservedly recommended.
7 were poetry (or primarily poetry in the case of the Dodge) collections, 5 of which I helped manifest in some capacity, 2 of which (the Dodge & Le Guin) I didn’t, all of which I enjoyed. Yeesh, I will read more poetry collections in 2016 too.
13 were story collections. Exceptional among these, Madeline ffitch’s debut collection Valparaiso, Round the Horn, Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, & Cloud, Castle, Lake, which was a reread except for 2 stories.
3 were plays or teleplays – the Vonnegut mashup & Potter collection were solid, but Two Gentlemen of Lebowski had me rolling, so it wins this category.
16 were published, or published for the first time in English, in 2015. Of these, the most impressive (that I was uninvolved w/ the production of) were The First Bad Man, The Dark Forest, & A Brief History of Portable Literature. Of the ones I worked on in whatever sense, & read (& reread) as drafts, Apartment Building, How to Be an American, Love Songs from Flood City, Glass City (along w/ the other Low Ghost 2nd editions), The Mysterious Tongue of Dr. Vermilion, Poems for Jerry, & The Green Season are currently available from Amazon & less ethically dubious retailers (least ethically dubious of which, the authors themselves). Obviously I think they’re all fine, upstanding books, but I say that of all my children & am fain to praise them all to the heavens equally. Do check them out though!
42 were by authors I hadn’t read books by before (although in 8 of those cases I was already a fan of their blogs, plays, films, etc) vs. 51 in my area of comfort, i.e. authors whose other books I’ve read & enjoyed. Finally getting around to Austen, Faulkner, Mann, & Balzac was great, & I plan to read more books by each of them next year.
Thanks to everyone who rec’d or pushed books on me: Don, Robert, Jake, Rachel, Alex, Che, Scott, Nick, Kyle, Bender, Damien, Ken, Jess, & anyone I forgot. Stand-outs among those recommendations were The Secret Agent, Permutation City, The Innocent, A Fire Upon the Deep, Vathek, Under the Skin, Rain on the River, & Doorways in the Sand. & special distinction goes to Haven irregular Hank Morris (& Kris Collins at Desolation Row/Caliban Books) for turning me on to Lars Iyer, David Markson, & Enrique Vila-Matas.
Most-read authors: Simon Ings (3), Clifford D. Simak (3), Geoff Dyer (2), Robert Isenberg (2), Cixin Liu (2), Vladimir Nabokov (2), Roger Zelazny (2).
Thanks to Desolation Row/Caliban, East End Book Exchange, Big Idea, Carnegie Library, the Frisbee Birdhouse, & everyone who gave or loaned me books.

ALSO, here are far from complete lists of short stories & comics I enjoyed this year, w/ links.

The Slave’s Hour by Elwin Cotman (Xmas card)
The Honking Tunnel by Liz Abeling (draft)
The Petals Abide by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
a bunch of other Ethan Robinson recs
a bunch of stories on Strange Horizons
McBurglar and the Man o’ War by Jess Simms (draft)
Bad Day at Black Bloc by Nick Mamatas
a bunch of drafts by Christine Stoddard
One Story‘s monthly stories (h/t Jess)
Love is the Plan the Plan is Death by James Tiptree, Jr. (reread)
Triggered by Elwin Cotman (draft)
Stick a Pin in Me by Vajra Chandrasekera
The Glad Hosts by Rebecca Campbell
The Red Tower by Thomas Ligotti
If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky
Mangled Up in Tangled Up Knots by Jess Simms (draft)
Retrotopia serial 1-12 by John Michael Greer
Lars Breaxface: Werewolf in Space serial 1-17 by Brandon Getz
Genius Loci by Clark Ashton Smith
all the stuff in the Summer/Fall 2015 The New Yinzer
Daughter of the Deep by Robert Isenberg (draft)
Don’t Count on It by Jess Simms (draft)
Anima by Taylor Grieshober
Aye, and Gomorrah by Samuel R. Delaney (reread)
Rust Belt Heroin Chic by Ben Gwin
Unicorn Tears & Outside Wheeling by Brandon Getz

other drafts of stories by Haven members & pals

all the cool stuff I heard performed at readings

Top of the Line by Daniel McCloskey
Free Money 1-3 by Daniel McCloskey (drafts)
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli
The Claws Come Out by Pat Lewis
Sinfest (webcomic, 2015 strips) by Tatsuya Ishida
You Can Did It 1-2 by Nils Balls & Mike Carretta

That’s it. Happy reading in 2016!

November 27: Gratitude reading

As promised, the Gratitude reading is coming up next week! This is our first Friday reading, because what better day to read about gratitude than Black Friday (the ironically least grateful day of the year)?

This is also our first reading at Artisan (5001 Penn Ave), which is a super-cool gallery/tattoo shop/cafe that all yinz should be hip to!

Doors at 7:30, reading starts at 8 (like we do). The flier below contains pretty much the same deets, but I’m amused by turkey clip art, so I’m posting it anyway.

gratitude flyer

The future n’at

So the Haven’s coming up on its first anniversary as a public entity. We’ve been floored over the last year by the outpouring of support, and all the fantastic readers we’ve been able to bring together. The plan for the Haven is to be a community, a place to gather and work and share words with each other. The Haven Presents reading series was a fantastic start, but over the past couple months we’ve been gearing up to take the Haven to the next level.

Not that we’re abandoning our reading series! We’ve had so much fun with these events and we’ll be hosting two in the 2015-2016 season: A Gratitude-themed reading in late November, and one we’re really excited about in the spring tentatively entitled “Cluster Fuck: When Your Life’s a Mess.” More details on those will be coming at you soon. But we’ve decided to cut back on the reading series so we have more time and energy to put into the new events we’ll be introducing to the calendar in spring of 2016: A series of workshops, and an open-to-the-public retreat.

We’ve been doing retreats as the Rahnd Table writing group pretty much since our inception. These retreats have been so remarkably helpful in letting us take time to produce words or even just clear our heads to let words start to form. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s in a budget motel in Crafton or a gorgeous cabin in the Allegheny Forest–it’s the gathering of writers, the new place, the relative lack of distraction that has been so invaluable to all of us, and that’s what we want to share with the rest of you. Our first retreat will happen in the summer of 2016, so if you’re interested in that keep your eyes open here for updates.

As far as workshops, we have (tentatively) three courses planned: A world-building workshop, a short story workshop, and an exploration of the history of science fiction. These workshops will happen in the spring of 2016 and will be led by various members of the Haven who are experts in these particular topics.

So while there’s not much actual information going on here in terms of when you can sign up and what exactly we’ll be doing at any of these new events, we just wanted to stop by and let you know they will be happening! If the turnout at our readings has been any indication, the Burgh’s ready for as much word fun as we can throw at it.