Nick Mamatas, 3000 MPH in Every Direction at Once (Library Empyreal, 2003)
I first "met" Nick Mamatas (pronounced Mah-muh-tass) at my online journal after I'd mentioned the release of We're a Happy Family, a Ramones tribute album featuring U2, Metallica, Rob Zombie, The Offspring and others. He piped up in the comments section of that entry, announcing that he had a story in that month's issue of men's magazine Razor (which is more in line with GQ or Esquire than with Maxim) called "Joey Ramone Saves the World." I'd heard of Nick's novella Northern Gothic (which was nominated for a Stoker Award), and he being a fellow Greek, I decided to pick up a copy of the mag. Plus, it had Salma Hayek on the cover. The story was bizarre and disjointed and in second-person point of view, but I enjoyed it. It was different.
Over the next few months, he would occasionally pop in on my journal, and I would do the same on his. There's a neat community of writers out there, joined by online journals and blogs. Every so often, Nick would make a comment in someone's journal that would inspire debate or even erupt into a flame war, and all I could really do at that point was sit back and watch. It was interesting seeing people attempting to argue with Nick, like tickling your opponent with a feather as he levels his automatic weapon at you. And though I didn't always share his views, I had to respect his intelligence, his command of the written word, and his brutal honesty; three things which make his writing unique and fresh.
Every year, the online fiction magazine Strange Horizons has a fund drive so that they can continue to pay their contributors professional rates, and keep up the costs of the magazine. I donated, and found out a few weeks afterward that my name had been drawn at random among the donators to win a prize from among a list. Nick's brand new collection 3000 MPH in Every Direction at Once was one of the prizes, and it was the one I chose. He e-mailed me and asked if there was any specific inscription I wanted, and I told him to surprise me. He did. I can't repeat what he wrote, but I will say he took up two whole pages with his, um, informative inscription.
He also wondered if I might review the book for GMR, and I told him I was actually taking a break from reviewing for a while, since I was starting graduate school and didn't have time to read books that weren't part of my curriculum. But I started reading the book two nights before classes started and couldn't put it down. It's a slim volume, only 143 pages, and it reads extremely fast. Alternating between short stories and essays, the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction begin to blur as you progress through the pages. Soon, you're not sure what's real and what was made up in Nick's head.
In "Your Life, Fifteen Minutes From Now," that old metaphor "fifteen minutes of fame" is literalized to its furthest extreme as the narrator finds himself the newest celebrity in a world obsessed with fame. "Time of Day" shows how a terminally plugged-in world can collapse with just the right amount of faith. It's a battle zone in "The Armory Show," where the concept of art has been amplified to decadent proportions, where human life has no value except as high-brow entertainment. "The Birth of Western Civilization" proposes an answer as to why the Greeks stopped believing in a polytheistic pantheon, namely the literal death of Zeus. After the Rapture, those left on Earth are forced to survive, one of their small pleasures being "Beer on Sunday." These are just some of the stories.
The nonfiction is just as interesting as Nick talks about the gentrification of Jersey City, being nominated for the Stoker Award, his life as a professional e-mail and message board flamer, and the way language is used in terms of "good" and "evil." He breaks the fiction/nonfiction alternation with the last piece, a satire of a beloved science fiction television show that had me laughing all the way to the end.
Nick's style is wickedly satirical, whether stating the facts or weaving a tale. His writing has bite, but it also has meaning. He's not talking just to hear himself talk. In conversing with him online, I realize I've never known someone quite so well read, so widely educated, in both conventional schooling and in life. His stories and essays provoke, enlighten, and infuriate, sometimes all at once. Nick Mamatas is one of the most original voices that this generation has ever seen, and although you may not agree with everything he has to say, you won't be able to dismiss him.
[Jason Erik Lundberg]
Find out more about Nick Mamatas at his Web site.