‘Here is the Future You Requested’: The Fabulist at Lit Crawl ’21

October 24, 2021

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The Fabulist’s fifth annual Lit Crawl reading was hosted last night at the fabulous Adobe Bookstore on 24th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District.

It was a smash. Standing room only, as usual, though entry into the building followed common-sense pandemic rules — masking and proof of vaccination.

It was a stellar lineup: Bay Area arts organizer and activist Claire Light, the polymath editor/author Nick Mamatas, deep-dive science writer and fiction slinger Annalee Newitz, housing-rights activist and author of poetic post-apocalyptic prose Rona Fernandez, and the inspired poet and mentor Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga.

Also starring at the reading was our venue — Adobe Books (3130-24th St between Folsom and Shotwell in San Francisco’s Mission District) is pretty much the greatest browser’s bookstore of all time. It has its own storied history, and after surviving a dot-com fueled eviction was able to relocate and reincarnate as a co-op at its present address. Adobe is a warm and comfortable living room of a bookstore, with couches, sepia-toned interiors, and an incredibly eclectic array of reads. If you like genre and such, they have awesome racks of’70s and ’80s SF/F paperbacks, spin-racks of old comics (Mad and Cracked!), and shelves and shelves of tomes — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, erotica, art, history, and more, and more, and more. It’s a great place to go get lost in pages, and worth a visit if you are ever in San Francisco.

The readings themselves were as wide-ranging, thought-provoking and flavorful as the authors themselves.

Rona Fernandez read an excerpt from her novel-in-progress about a post-collapse San Francisco in 2051, following a group of beachcombers gleaning kelp from along Ocean Beach. It was a haunting reading, nuanced and painterly, full of environmental detail and subtle social observations, showing me places that were familiar in the light of a possible future that felt grounded and real. I ride my bike down to Ocean Beach several times a week, and up along the bluffs of Sutro Heights Park, so this was, as I said, haunting. The fog, the ocean, the early morning, the trees, and subtle differences … it all felt real, as did the characters establishing themselves in this setting

Claire Light read from her just-released book “Monkey Around” (Solaris), set at the height of the #Occupy movement in 2011. Writing as Jadie Jang, Claire takes us into an urban-fantasy San Francisco and Oakland populated by shapeshifting supernatural beings that live among us, and who struggle wth the same sorts of problems as ordinary humans, plus a big heap of magical issues. The Monkey King in this story is incarnated as Maya, a fiery and passionate young woman, and Claire’s animated reading brought the character to life in a scene depicting #Occupy protestors clashing with police in Oaklnd. The Monkey King is a trickster, and needless to say, antics ensue …

Nick Mamatas is as sharp and sparky as they come, and could easily have a second career in brainiac standup comedy. He only read one page of dialogue from his new book “The Planetbreaker’s Son” (PM Press) — but half the show were the quips and ad libs, all dropped in rapid succession, which I will not attempt to recreate here because there’s nothing less funny than an amateur trying to recreate a professional’s shtick. The excerpt from Planetbreaker is equally boggling. It describes a process of temporal reticulation in which the lead character’s 7- and 14-year-old selves are able to meet each other and have a conversation. Like Nick himself, it was prismatic and a bit dizzying … Mamatas takes the raw material of pulp lit and makes then into bristling little brain teasers that extend the possibilities of genre fiction.

Annalee Newitz dropped some science! Archaeology, specifically. Reading from their latest nonfiction book, “Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age,” she described the hackery and dubious process by which a small group of 20th-century explorers and excavators concocted a false narrative around the idea of pre-industrial matriarchy and goddess worship (I’m lookin’ at you, Venus of Willendorf). It was a lively excerpt from a book-length work of science reporting that I have been itching to check out for some time. Lost cities! What’s not to like?

Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga closed the evening, and broke our strictly alphabetical lineup by having to work late. He brought us all home with a bracing reading of his early-pandemic hay-na-ku poem “Grocery Store Lockdown,” featuring a guest appearance, speaking of tricksters, by none other than Coyote. This was followed by his bracing and elevating pantoum response to what I always experienced as the gloom and depression of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

We were also very happy to see a bunch of Fabulist pals: Jen Joseph, gifted editor and publisher of the essential Manic D Press (which had just staged its own epic Lit Crawl reading), and her partner Jon Longhi, late of Last Gasp Press, and a talented author of great, hilarious and weird yarns (including “The Man Who Broke Time,” which we recently ran here on our own pages).

Also making an appearance was Jenny Bitner, a wonderful writer whose new novel “Here Is A Game We Could Play” sold out its first run (two of the stories in that book were also published by The Fabulist). Jenny has also been an invaluable editorial advisor to our slush-reading process.

Thanks, finally, to Prashant, our Lit Crawl host, for making so much possible. Lit Crawl really is an amazing event series. We even got to meet some Fabulist superfans who, I was floored to discover, have been to every single Fabulist Magazine Lit Crawl reading ever … wow!

Hats off to Lit Crawl, Adobe Books, and all our participating writers for an energizing and inspiring evening. Looking forward to more … !

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