Elliott Serrano, for Redeye
9:42 PM CDT, August 23, 2012
Best-selling author Micah Nathan likes pushing the boundaries of storytelling. Recipient of the Saul Bellow Prize in Fiction in 2011, he's also been a finalist for the Tobias Wolff Award and the Innovative Fiction Award for his short stories.
With his newest book "Jack the Bastard and Other Stories", Nathan keeps pushing, this time teaming up with some top-tier names in comics - Phil Noto, Tradd Moore, Russ Nicholson and Mike Allred. Together they create a new anthology of short stories that dances across different genres and "culminates in the epic 'Kill Bill-esque' (short story) Jack the Bastard."
In addition to the all-star cast of artists, the book is accompanied by a special "soundtrack" CD. Released by Fat Possum Records - label to The Black Keys - the CD contains a number of tracks that readers can use to enhance their experience.
And to top it all off, there is even a limited-edition "Jack the Bastard" soda flavor that you can enjoy!
In trying to wrap my brain around how one brings so many elements together for a anthology, I asked Micah Nathan about the challenges he faced writing "Jack the Bastard and Other Stories"; who inspires him as a writer; and how to best enjoy the book, CD and soda:
Geek To Me: Jack the Bastard appears to cover a lot of territory - from sci-fi to satire - where did the ideas for each of the stories come from?
Micah Nathan: Sci-fi? "Simulacrum" might be the closest to science fiction, but I'd consider it more of a doppelganger tale. Of course, it's up to the reader. Authors insist on one genre, and the reader may decide otherwise.
Anyhow. I can't tell you where my ideas come from because I don't know. I'm not being flippant--ideas come from everywhere and nowhere. They might be sparked by a song, a movie, a book, a conversation with a friend. I've learned to trust my curiosity.
Geek To Me: Who are some of your influences as a writer, either in prose or graphic novels?
Nathan: My four titans: Hemingway, Nabokov, Twain, and Borges. Slightly below that pantheon I'd add Cheever (his short stories) and Capote (especially the flawless "Breakfast at Tiffany's"). I'm working my way through Bellow and early Roth--a masculine duo, best absorbed slowly--and whenever I want to spend time with someone far more sensitive and intelligent than I, I pick up Wallace's essays. I used to think Emerson was the torch-bearer for Montaigne's work; I now realize it was Wallace.
A few others: Melville, some Dumas, and Faulkner. The latter is a special case, because I've only finished "Sanctuary." For all of Faulkner's transcendent prose, I have difficulty penetrating his narratives. I'm a simple reader, in that regard. I like to know where I'm going, and I like when the author helps me get there.
As for graphic novels, I love most anything by Mignola. "Hellboy" was one of those rare series that exceeded the hype - though B.P.R.D. has been better than Hellboy for some time. (David) Mazzucchelli's "Asterios Polyp" floored me. It should be required reading for anyone skeptical of a comic book's ability to tell a novelistic story.
Geek To Me: Anthology stories can also be tricky, because there are so many different styles involved - especially when it comes to the artwork. Were there any particular challenges putting this one together?
Nathan: The biggest challenge was writing the damn stories. Working with the artists was easy. They were a joy.
Geek To Me: Were any of the stories affected at all by the artists you worked with? Any elements changed?
Nathan: I concentrated on the prose and left the interpretation to the artists. I didn't want to influence them in any way apart from the stories themselves.
Geek To Me: I understand that the book has an accompanying soundtrack. What's the best way for a reader to enjoy the two together?
Nathan: It's entirely up to the reader. Many people like reading in silence; if so, I recommend listening to the songs first. Or after. Or even during, with the volume turned low. Our original plan was to make an enhanced e-book, with the songs popping up during specific parts of JTB. But that felt intrusive--I certainly wouldn't want songs blaring while reading--so we opted for an old-fashioned CD.
Geek To Me: How much of the "Jack the Bastard" experience am I missing if I DON'T have the soda to drink along with reading? Is there a secret ingredient you're not telling us about?
Nathan: Ah, the soda tie-in. I stole that idea from Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" licensing deal with Skeleteens. I thought an official soda would be cool. I even wrote a brand into JTB--Fizzer Cola--with the intention of seeing it realized.
Geek To Me: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to seeing what comes next.
READ MORE ABOUT MICAH NATHAN ON HIS WEBSITE
WIN A COPY OF "JACK THE BASTARD AND OTHER STORIES" ALONG WITH A SOUNDTRACK CD! To enter, comment below and tell me what you would name your own personal flavor of soda drink. Everyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of "Jack the Bastard and Other Stories" along with the soundtrack CD.
You can also enter by sharing this article on Twitter with the hashtag #JacktheBastard
Contest runs until Friday, September 7th, 2012. Drawing to be held at or around 12 NOON CST. Winner to be notified via Facebook messaging or Twitter DM.
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