||This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (July 2009)|
April 20, 1950 |
Santa Monica, California
|Occupation||Novelist, essayist and critic|
|Genres||Avantpop, surrealism, magic realism|
Stephen Michael Erickson (born April 20, 1950), pen name Steve Erickson, is an American novelist, essayist and critic. He is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Award in Literature and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation., and is considered an important representative of the Avantpop movement.
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Steve Erickson was born and brought up as an only child in Los Angeles. For many years his mother, a former actress, ran a small theatre in L.A; his father (died in 1990) was a photographer. When he was a child he stuttered badly. Because of his stuttering some teachers believed that he could not read. This motif occasionally has recurred in his novels, such as Amnesiascope.
Erickson studied film at UCLA (BA, 1972), then journalism (M.A. 1973). For a few years he worked as a freelance writer for alternative weekly newspapers. His first novel, Days Between Stations, was published in 1985.
Since 1985 Erickson has published nine novels and two non-fiction books, Leap Year and American Nomad. Erickson himself appears briefly as a fictional character in Michael Ventura's 1996 novel, The Death of Frank Sinatra.
Erickson has written on a variety of topics in periodicals including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and Rolling Stone among others. Currently he is a teacher with the MFA Writing Program at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and is the editor of the national literary magazine Black Clock. He has written about film for Los Angeles magazine since 2001 and twice has been nominated for the National Magazine Award in criticism.
Erickson's work has been admired and cited by other authors including Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Richard Powers, Jonathan Lethem and Mark Z. Danielewski. In describing his influences, he states:
When I think of writers who have had an impact on me, I come up with people that never get named [by my reviewers]. Faulkner, Henry Miller, the Brontës, Stendahl, Paul Bowles, Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler. I would have to include in that group Márquez, who is one writer that has been cited, and you’ve probably got to include in that group Pynchon, simply because Pynchon is a little like Joyce. His influence is so pervasive these days that you can’t help but be influenced by him.
Erickson's novel Tours of the Black Clock appears on critic Larry McCaffery's list of the 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction; and in a winter 2008 poll by the National Book Critics Circle of 800 novelists and writers, Erickson's Zeroville was named one of the five favorite novels of the previous year. In March 2011, Variety announced that actor-director James Franco had acquired feature rights to Zeroville.
He lives with his family in Topanga Canyon, in Southern California.
Recurring motifs 
Erickson’s novels revolve around concepts that appear in many of his works. One of them is slavery, both actual and metaphorical. Arc d'X begins with the story of the love affair between Thomas Jefferson and a slave girl, Sally Hemings. In a number of Erickson’s novels the selling, buying, owning and disowning of women appears; as often, the men are the more profoundly trapped by what they seek or purport to possess. In virtually all of his novels, the female protagonist is the catalytic figure who sets events into motion, particularly in The Sea Came in at Midnight and Our Ecstatic Days where female characters are dominant. Another important theme in Erickson's novels, particularly in Our Ecstatic Days, is parenthood and the loss of a child. Our Ecstatic Days follows a mother's search for her missing son over the course of a quarter century. The Occupant from The Sea Came in at Midnight is left by his wife and child. In Days Between Stations Adolphe and Maurice Sarre are abandoned by their mother, and Lauren’s son Jules dies. The profound estrangement from his father of Zeroville's central character, Vikar, leads to his obsession with movies, and later he becomes a paternal figure to the teenage Zazi after her mother dies. In These Dreams of You, the adoptive parents of the four-year-old Ethiopian orphan Sheba set out to find the girl's birth mother.
Sometimes Erickson relies on autobiographical information filtered through an unconventional imagination. Erickson's narratives often take place in Los Angeles. Amnesiascope is almost a memoir in which actual people and events from Erickson’s life mix with his imagination. One recurring theme is filmmaking, presented from the perspective of a director (Days Between Stations), screenwriter (Rubicon Beach), critic (Amnesiascope) and film editor (Zeroville). Sometimes the films are transgressive, misunderstood and rejected by the audience.
Some of Erickson's novels can be described as apocalyptic. They present the slow obliteration of the world in which his characters live. Often nature turns against people (the long winter in Paris, sand storms in L.A. and the disappearance of water in Venice and the Mediterranean region in Days Between Stations; the earthquake in Amnesiascope; the lake that floods L.A. in both Rubicon Beach and Our Ecstatic Days). The characters of the novels usually live in metropoles: L.A., New York, Berlin, Paris or Tokyo, in which unexpected natural phenomena cause chaos and show how brittle civilization actually is. Erickson makes occasional use of somewhat supernatural elements such as bizarre artifacts (a bottle with human eyes from Days Between Stations) and the extraordinary gifts of some of his characters (Catherine from Rubicon Beach). The most powerful force of Erickson’s universe is love, often passionate, sensual, overpowering, unstoppable. Lovers hurt each other but at the same time cannot live without each other. When the love is lost, people become empty, bitter or full of hatred. The affection is almost like possession.
Erickson’s characters often appear in multiple books. Adolphe Sarre from Days Between Stations comes back in Amnesiascope and is alluded to in Zeroville. Lauren from Days Between Stations appears in Arc d'X. Carl appears in Days Between Stations, Tours of the Black Clock, Amnesiascope and The Sea Came in at Midnight. Lauren and Jeanine from Days Between Stations and Catherine and Leigh from Rubicon Beach are mentioned in Tours of the Black Clock as characters appearing in the mind of the latter book's protagonist. Wade and Mallory from Rubicon Beach emerge as major characters in Arc d’X. Viv from Amnesiascope returns years later as the adoptive mother in search of her daughter's past in These Dreams of You. Kristin features in both The Sea Came in at Midnight and Our Ecstatic Days. Jainlight from Tours of the Black Clock reappears, in an altered incarnation but with the same name, in Our Ecstatic Days.
- Days Between Stations (1985)
- Rubicon Beach (1986)
- Tours of the Black Clock (1989)
- Arc d'X (1993)
- Amnesiascope (1996)
- The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999)
- Our Ecstatic Days (2005)
- Zeroville (2007)
- These Dreams of You (2012)
- Leap Year (1989)
- American Nomad (1997)
- National Endowment for the Arts (1987);
- Notable Book of the Year, The New York Times Book Review (1987): Rubicon Beach;
- Notable Book of the Year, The New York Times Book Review (1989): Tours of the Black Clock;
- Best Books of the Year, The Village Voice (1989): Tours of the Black Clock;
- Notable Book of the Year, The New York Times Book Review (1993): Arc d'X;
- Best Fiction of the Year, Entertainment Weekly (1993): Arc d'X;
- Best Novel nominee, British Fantasy Society (1997): Amnesiascope;
- Notable Book of the Year, The New York Times Book Review (1999): The Sea Came in at Midnight;
- Best Books of the Year, Uncut (1999): The Sea Came in at Midnight;
- Best Novel nominee, British Fantasy Society (1999): The Sea Came in at Midnight;
- Best Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times Book Review (2005): Our Ecstatic Days;
- Best Books of the Year, Uncut (2005): Our Ecstatic Days;
- John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2007);
- Best Books of the Year, Newsweek (2007): Zeroville;
- Best Books of the Year, Washington Post BookWorld (2007): Zeroville;
- Best Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times Book Review (2007): Zeroville;
- American Academy of Arts and Letters, Award in Literature (2010);
- Best Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times (2012): These Dreams of You
- Official Site
- The Frequency of Liberation
- 1993 Radio interview
- Review of The Sea Came in At Midnight
- Review of Our Ecstatic Days
- Black Clock
- In-depth 1996 interview—scroll down and click on pdf file, "Steam Engine Time 2".
- mostlyfiction.com interview with Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville
- Review of Zeroville
- 2007 interview at chuckpalahniuk.net
- 2007 interview at OMNIVORACIOUS
- 2012 Interview at Litreactor.com
- Review of These Dreams of You
- BOMB Magazine interview with Steve Erickson by James Mx Lane (Summer 1987).