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My Radical Sabbatical
What I did on my extended summer vacation.
I’m stoked to announce that next week I’ll be joining the teaching faculty in the School of Communication at the University of North Florida, thus ending three years of unemployment. I’ve been calling this my “Radical Sabbatical,” as I spent a lot of time on my BMX bike and my skateboard, but I also did a lot of writing. I really did a lot of writing.
I looked hard for a job when I left my last one in June 2020, but it being the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, I quickly found that no one was hiring. Fortunately I’d been able to save a lot of what I’d made at my previous position, so I decided to just try to earn it. My dad always says to make sure you accomplish something every day, so I applied a strong reading of that advice and got to work.
I already had a few book projects in various stages of the publishing process, but I dedicated my time to getting them all out there. I also made a new zine, designed some logos, appeared on a few podcasts, wrote some essays, and had my first solo art show, but finishing books was my main focus.
So, as I start a new phase, what follows is a brief roundup of the results of my Radical Sabbatical. Read on!
When the lockdown started, I found it difficult to focus on the larger projects. In the months before, I’d started writing silly little poems about odd memories I had, tiny stories that didn’t fit anywhere else. I went back to those when I couldn’t think any larger. I eventually moved on to short stories and finally back to book-length writing, but not before I amassed a small pile of poems.
Abandoned Accounts collects those silly memories I started writing down, including reflections of walks in the woods at my parents’ house in the hinterlands of southeast Alabama, encounters with favorite bands and somewhat famous people, tales of travel and intrigue, and a few stray poems from as far back as 1990. It was an unexpected project, and I’m really proud of the results.
Fender the Fall
Fender the Fall is a short story about Chris Bridges, a lovelorn physics graduate student who goes back in time to return the journal of his high-school crush in order to save her life and his marriage. As you might expect, the plan doesn’t go as planned.
Tagline: You don’t know what you’ve got until you get it back.
It was briefly available as a standalone novella from Alien Buddha Press. I was fortunate enough to get Matthew Revert to design the cover and Mike Corrao to do the typesetting. As a result, it was a sharp-looking little book.
Though the novella is no longer in print, it will be included in my forthcoming short story collection, Different Waves, Different Depths (see below).
My friends Patrick Barber, Craig Gates, and I put together the pilot issue of a new zine called discontents. The content covers the usual concerns: music, movies, books, and poetry. We reached out to all of our old zine-era friends, so it includes writing by Cynthia Connolly, Peter Relic, Andy Jenkins, Spike Jonze, Fatboi Sharif, Timothy Baker, and Greg Pratt, artwork by Zak Sally and Tae Won You, as well as work by Patrick, Craig, and myself. Subjects include Ceremony, Unwound, Hsi-Chang Lin a.k.a. Still, Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, Crestone director Marnie Elizabeth Hertzler, Coherence director James Ward Byrkit, and others.
We did this one as a proof of concept (high-end content, lo-fi production) and will be releasing a full debut issue in the near future.
Follow for Now, Vol. 2
My second interview anthology, Follow for Now, Vol. 2, picks up and pushes beyond the first volume with a more diverse set of interviewees and interviews. The intent of the first collection was to bring together voices from across disciplines, to cross-pollinate ideas. At the time, social media wasn’t crisscrossing all of the lines and categories held a bit more sway. Volume 2 aims not only to pick up where Follow for Now left off but also to tighten its approach with deeper subjects and more timely interviews. This one is a bit more focused and goes a bit deeper than the last. It includes several firsts, a few lasts, and is fully illustrated with portraits of every interviewee.
“Relentlessly stimulating and insight-packed, Follow for Now is the kind of book I’d like to see published every decade, and devoured every subsequent decade, from now until the end of humanity.” — Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
There’s an updated version of Follow for Now, Vol. 2 coming soon!
Human Recreational Services
My old friend Erik Ellington asked me to write some things for his luxury shoe brand, Human Recreational Services. The collection I worked on is called Midnight Diamond, and I have to include it here as it was one of my favorite opportunities from the last few years. Here’s one bit I wrote:
As if trapped in a photograph by Ed Ruscha hanging on the wall in a David Lynch film, a young couple find themselves stranded along the lost highway in the deep desert. At a gas station, they stumble upon a door that leads to unexpected delights, a sudden contrast to their desolation. Figures emerge from the scene promising not safety but salvation, their boots made of distressed leathers studded with jewels, their movements imbued with the gestures of ceremony. Shoes sparkling in the sand, secret messages from parties hidden in back-masked 1980s metal. The flickering signifiers of ritual, dirty glamour marked by the patina of time. Midnight Diamond blends surrealism and serendipity with mystery and metaphor. Mining diamonds in the desert rough, uncertain times demand the discovery of unseen strengths in unexpected places.
Using extreme examples from heavy metal music and science fiction and horror movies, Escape Philosophy: Journeys Beyond the Human Body is a survey of all the ways we try to shuck off the shackles of our physical forms.
“Too often philosophy gets bogged down in the tedious ‘working-through’ of contingency and finitude. Escape Philosophy takes a different approach, engaging with cultural forms of refusal, denial, and negation in all their glorious ambivalence.” — Eugene Thacker, author, In the Dust of This Planet
There’s a new edition of Escape Philosophy forthcoming. More on that soon!
Boogie Down Predictions
While I was writing my book Dead Precedents: How Hip-Hop Defines the Future (Repeater Books, 2019), I gathered up some friends, and we put together an edited collection as sort of a companion to Dead Precedents. Time was one of the aspects of both hip-hop and science fiction that I didn’t get to talk about much in that book, so I started asking around. I found many other writers, scholars, theorists, DJs, and emcees, as interested in the intersection of hip-hop and time as I was. As I continued contacting people and collecting essays, I got more and more excited about the book. Boogie Down Predictions: Hip-Hop, Time, and Afrofuturism is a quest to understand the connections between time, representation, and identity within hip-hop culture, as well as what that means for the culture at large.
“Roy Christopher’s dedication to the future is bracing. Boogie Down Predictions is a symphony of voices, beats, and bars messing with time, unsettling histories, opening portals.” — Jeff Chang, author, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
First Friday Art Crawl
I had a collection of illustrations and logo designs up at Reset Mercantile in Dothan, Alabama. The clip above was shot by Ryan Mills for Big as Life Media. If you’re interested, you can see a few pictures of the pieces on the wall or check out my illustration portfolio. Many thanks to Justin April for the opportunity.
Different Waves, Different Depths
My debut collection of short fiction, Different Waves, Different Depths, takes its name from a comment an old crush made once about her feelings for the author. It also describes these nine stories, varying in style from the literarily weird to the science fiction and in length from the flash to the novella. There’s even a pilot script in here.
“Working the borderlands between philosophy, sci-fi, and ultra-contemporary social critique, these stories illuminate our strange cusp moment in a deeply humanistic and bracing manner. A sharp, propulsive, and canny collection.” — David Leo Rice, author, Drifter
Dive in deep, ease in the shallows, or just let the tide lap at your toes. Different waves are waiting.
The Medium Picture
At long last I have finished my post-punk media theory book. Drawing from the disciplines of media ecology and media archaeology, as well as bringing fresh perspectives from music (e.g., Fugazi, Radiohead, Gang of Four, Run the Jewels, Christian Marclay, Laurie Anderson, et al.) and skateboarding, The Medium Picture illuminates aspects of technological mediation that have been overlooked along the way. With a Foreword by Andrew McLuhan, it shows how immersion in unmoored technologies of connectivity finds us in a world of pure media and redefines who we are, how we are, and what we will be.
“Very much looking forward to reading new Christopher, exactly the sort of contemporary cultural analysis to yield unnerving flashes of the future.” — William Gibson
The Medium Picture is forthcoming.
The Grand Allusion
I also signed on to write The Grand Allusion for Palgrave Macmillan as a part of their Pivot series. I’m only a few chapters into this one, but it’s shaping up nicely. My dissertation was on the use of allusions in rap lyrics, and I’ve since wanted to expand the analysis to pop cultural references in other media. Our media is so saturated with allusions to other media that we scarcely think about them. Their meaning relies in large part on the catching and interpreting of cultural allusions, on their audiences sharing the same mediated memories, the same mediated experiences.
The Grand Allusion explores these experiences, yielding a new understanding of our media, our culture, and ourselves.
Hope for Boats
Somewhere in there, I decided I wanted to try to write a novel. The seed situation was a funeral and a parade on the same day in a small town, and the story has grown from there. On October 11, 2022, I read the Prologue of “Hope for Boats” to the Rotary Club of Elba, Alabama, on which the fictional town in the story is loosely based. If you’re into it, you can read the excerpt along with me at Malarkey Books.
More on this one as it develops.
I don’t know if I quite earned three years “off,” but I definitely tried. With all of that said, I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom, corrupting young minds. My creative output might return to a somewhat normal pace though. You’ll be the first to know.
Many thanks to everyone who had anything to do with the above projects — writers, designers, editors, contributors, collaborators, even if you just read one of them — I appreciate it. Without you, all of this would just be scribbles in my notebook. Special thanks to my parents for tolerating me for the last year.
Thank you for your continued support,