Attending the Jeffrey Ford reading at University Book Store

In Seattle, there’s one book store that gets speculative fiction, the University Book Store. Duane manages the science fiction section and is an out and out fan. Best S.F. selection in town. He also consistently brings in more science fiction authors for readings than any other local book store.

Most months, Northwest Media Arts in conjunction with U.B.S. sponsors a reading and a writing workshop with a highly regarded science fiction author. I can’t speak to the quality of the writing workshops because I am not a writer and have not attended one. The readings are great because these authors generally come not as part of a promotional book tour. Attendees get to hear not yet published stories, pieces of works in progress, and other pieces that have a less-rehearsed feel.

Almost three years ago, Jeffrey Ford (author of the Well-Built City series) told me to shoot myself. I had commented on one of S.F. Signal’s Mind Meld posts that having 11 men and 1 woman on a panel might be biased. Between them, the group mentioned 27 male authors and 4 female authors but I had lazily and inadvertently missed a female author mentioned by Mr. Ford in my first count. He took exception to my miscount and castigated me for failing to read the post (somewhat true), having my own male-oriented bias based on the recommended reading at Rat’s Reading (mostly true), and ended his comment with OK, now shoot yourself.

On Friday, Northwest Media Arts sponsored a reading by Jeffrey Ford. A chance to see this man in person? I had to go.

Mind you, I’m not going to avoid reading Jeffrey Ford works because he was a dick to me on the Internet. I won’t argue with a person while they are being assholish, but I generally appreciate when people speak passionately. It’s much better than bland me-too-ism. But I’m not chasing down Mr. Ford’s books for another reason. I’ve read four Jeffrey Ford stories that I can determine, all in anthologies. One I liked, and three were best characterized as meh.

The story Mr. Ford read was The Double of My Double Is Not My Double which will appear soon in the Jonathan Strahan edited Eclipse 4. Mr. Ford speaks with somewhat of a Jersey accent, with a projecting voice. He speaks just a little too fast, but is clear and understandable.

I thought the story itself was decent. It’s based on the idea of a guy meeting his doppelgänger instead of seeing him from afar or in his peripheral vision. The doppelgänger has his own double, and enlists the original to help him deal with it. A little convoluted and a little creepy.

I had wanted to attend the reading with some modifications. I asked a theatre makeup friend of mine to make me look like I had shot myself after all! I would then sit in the audience and grin throughout. My friend was booked and couldn’t do the make-up, so I went looking like a normal human. I doubt an author would even remember an incident from three years ago. But you never know, particularly with authors who have Google Alerts on their names.

Anyway, the reading didn’t change my opinion of his writing. It’s still nothing I’ll go out of my way to pick up or avoid. Other people love his work though, so try it for yourself.

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