You may wonder—or perhaps you may not—why this blog displays no ads. Nothing encouraging you to go to other sites, nothing in this margins, nothing at the bottom of the page. You will not be nudged toward fantasy sports, discount shopping, weight loss remedies, or ways to make extra money by working at home. I do not have an “Around the Web” section. The only pop-up is something encouraging you to subscribe to my email list.
I’ve received a number of questions about The Moonborn: or, Moby-Dick on the Moon, my novel that came out on Monday, November 14th. While I love getting questions about it, I decided to put together this list for people who might have questions and would like an easy answer.
Note that there are no spoilers, other than in a very general sense.
Is it really about Moby-Dick on the Moon?
Yes. With robots instead of whales. However, you may find that it’s slightly more metafictional than your standard dark and gritty reboot. Or you may not.
Do I need to read Moby-Dick first?
In my opinion, no. The narrator of The Moonborn hasn’t even read Moby-Dick. But I would like to think that you’ll find yourself wanting to read Moby-Dick after The Moonborn.
How do you think Herman Melville would feel about all this?
Not the whale, but the book. 165 years ago today, Herman Melville’s epic novel was published in America for the first time. (A different version of it had come out in England one month earlier, but today is accepted as the anniversary of the version the world knows).
In honor of this anniversary, I think it’s worth taking a moment to look at the books, movies, music, and more that we have as a result of Moby-Dick‘s legacy.
Leviathan ’99 by Ray Bradbury
“The doomed crew of a starship follows their blind, mad captain on a quest into deepest space to joust with destiny, eternity, and God Himself . . .”
Sound familiar? This novella—collected alongside “Somewhere a Band is Playing” in Bradbury’s Now and Forever—is an unapologetic retelling of Moby-Dick. It’s also sci-fi, set in space, like one or two other works on this list.
There has never been a better time to start reading Kurt Vonnegut. To begin with, today is his 94th birthday. Second, we appear to be living inside one of his novels, with an egocentric billionaire slouching toward the White House, the National Anthem at the center of controversy, and our entire existence increasingly descending into a parody of itself (for more on all of this, see my article What Would Kurt Vonnegut Say About the 2016 Election?)
But where to begin? The first Vonnegut novel was published over six decades ago. In the next fifty years of his life, he wrote another thirteen novels, hundreds of short stories and essays, one play, and created a series of paintings and drawings.
I’m here to tell you where to start, and how. You should read Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, if you haven’t already. Should you read all of them? That depends. But you should at least read one of them. (Note: this blog post originally began as something I wrote for the /r/truebooks subreddit, for people looking to read more Vonnegut and not sure where to start.)
In order to give you some guidance in determining a reading order for his lists, I’ve divided his novels into three tiers:
Tier One: The novels to start with. His masterpieces. Or, if you’re only going to read one or two of his novels, choose one from this list.
Tier Two: The ones to read after you’ve burned through the first tier. Not that these are worse, but they are perhaps less accessible, or won’t make as much sense unless you’ve read the others first.
Tier Three: The novels that are either very bizarre, very meta-fictional, less novels than thought experiments, or the ones that expect you to have a greater understanding of who Vonnegut is before tackling.
Make sense? Let’s begin:
Which Vonnegut Novel to Read First?
So you want to read a Vonnegut novel, but not sure which one? I recommend beginning with one of these four:
Or, When Did We Start Living in a Fictional Satire?
I’ve compared recent events—and, in particular, this presidential election—to many things: Armageddon, Alien, every Batman story, and almost every ’90s action movie.
But there is one painful metaphor that I have not explored: the 2016 election appears to have been written by writer and satirist Kurt Vonnegut.
I first started pondering the question of did Vonnegut write our current political climate this spring, when my aunt (a librarian) pointed out to me how much Donald Trump resembles a Vonnegut character.
I soon googled trump vonnegut and was surprised not to see more about it. I found a handful of articles, but none that fully explored the extent to which the candidate Donald Trump seems to have sprung straight from a Vonnegut novel. Nor did anyone mention the extent to which this entire election resembles a Vonnegut-penned narrative and universe.
You may have noticed this blog’s recent lowered activity. Nothing new since early August, with only a handful of new posts since the beginning of summer. What is the deal, you may ask.
Where is your latest needless fan theory? Where is my latest exhaustive Batman dissection? How have you still not reacted to the most recent Bond film? Have you finally tired of comparing the 2016 election to your favorite action movies?
The answer to these questions is simple: I have been busy with other projects. One project, in particular: The Moonborn, an e-novel I will be self-publishing this November.
I have also been busy with another project: Wildcat, a short story I wrote years ago that I finally decided to dust off and self-publish. Here is its cover, created by artist Dusty Conley:
I wrote this story as a student at Denison University, and I think it’s the first thing I ever wrote that I still take pride in today.
In a previous blog post, I investigated the possibility that George R.R. Martin took inspiration for Arya Stark’s storyline from the song “Dire Wolf,” by the Grateful Dead. I’m far from the first person to make connections between Martin’s words and the Dead’s lyrics, as this has been a topic of speculation and deduction for years.
But there is one song that I have never seen discussed, despite it having some very Westerosi imagery: “Uncle John’s Band,” the first track on the 1970 album Workingman’s Dead.
Those of you who have read this blog with any regularity will recall my True Detective review in which I offered a fan theory about the fate of Ross Geller’s son, Ben. It was a strange blog post, in that it ended up being a theory about a show I haven’t watched in years. The other strange thing about that blog post is that it got a lot of attention, showing up referenced or summarized on Entertainment Weekly, Hello Giggles, Cosmo, Redbook, Refinery29, and a series of other websites.
“Make it new,” Ezra Pound famously said, a mantra which can be applied to any example of what is called found poetry. Examples of making it new can be found throughout history, both ancient and recent. Shakespeare lifted most of his narratives from existing stories; Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in an art museum; Ezra Pound himself created many examples of what could be considered found poetry; writer Hart Seely rephrased Donald Rumsfeld’s speeches into poems; and, most recently, Google Poetics surfaced across the internet. There is even the Found Poetry Review, founded in 2011 by a poet who was tired of having her found poems rejected.
Recently, while researching the search queries that lead people to this site, it occurred to me that oftentimes these search terms are poetic, especially when one views many search terms at once, in a list.
And so, I put together a number of found poems, using only the search queries provided to me by Google Search Console, only the search terms that lead people to this blog (according to Google) in the last 90 days. Enjoy:
Haiku about the meaning of the song “Renegades”
spielbergs and kubricks
renegades lyrics meaning
spielberg’s and kubrick’s