I coined the term “Afrofuturism.” I popularized “culture jamming.” I’ve written four books: Escape Velocity, a critique of the “libertarian bro” ideology that dominated the Digital Revolution of the ’90s and still shapes the politics of Silicon Valley kingpins; two studies of American mythologies (and pathologies), The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and the essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts; and, most recently, a biography, Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey.
In addition to writing books and essays, I run an editorial consultancy. Working with writers in every nonfiction genre–literary journalism, narrative nonfiction, memoir, biography, the personal essay, opinion writing–and at every stage in their careers, I help them take their work to the next level.
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Genius and Mysterious Life of Edward Gorey
The writer and illustrator Edward Gorey, who died in 2000 at 75, was the unequaled master of gothic whimsy, camp-macabre melodrama, and morbid nonsense. His obsessively crosshatched, amusingly lugubrious little worlds, conjured up with pen, ink, and Victorian-Surrealist verse, have influenced the novels of Lemony Snicket and Ransom Riggs, the movies of Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro, the fashion of Anna Sui, and the graphic novels of Alison Bechdel, among others. Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with members of his inner circle, Born to Be Posthumous draws back the curtain on the eccentric genius and mysterious life of Edward Gorey.
England My England: Anglophilia Explained
A 29-page essay, published as a Kindle single by Thought Catalog, on the American obsession with Britishness and what it means.
Downton Abbey brought out the Anglophile in American fans of the hit TV series. But Anglophilia has a long history on our shores. Why are some native-born residents of our Shining City Upon a Hill, where All Men Are Created Equal, seduced by the fluting tones of manor-born privilege? Anglophilia explained at last–in American, thank you.
I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams
A drive-by critique of an America gone mad, and a world where chaos and catastrophe are the new normal, by the cultural critic Wired called “provocative and cuttingly humorous.”
The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium
Terrorists, tabloid media, escalating culture wars that have brought us to the brink of civil war: To many, America is an infernal carnival, equal parts funhouse and madhouse – a “pyrotechnic insanitarium,” to borrow a turn-of-the-century nickname for Coney Island. In 1999, on the eve of the millennium, Mark Dery foresaw our Age of Unreason – and excavated the root causes of America’s descent into permanent social chaos.
“Escape Velocity is without doubt the best guide I have read to the new computer culture that will soon dominate our lives. Mark Dery is witty and provocative but always sane and thoughtful.” — J.G. Ballard
Wannabe cyborgs, machine-sex junkies, punk roboticists. Poised between Tomorrowland and Blade Runner, the digital fringe poses the fundamental question of our time: Will technology be used as an engine of repression or a tool of empowerment in the coming millennium?
Afrofuturism! Technopagans! Brain-jackers! Amok robots! An African-American cleaning woman reincarnated as an all-powerful cyborg! BeforeÂ Wired, before the Web, there wasÂ Flame Wars, the mind-ripping anthology of essays on digital culture that launched Afrofuturism, cyberfeminism, and cybersex studies.
Popularized by Mark Dery through his groundbreaking 1990 feature in The New York Times and contributions to Adbusters (which introduced editor Kalle Lasn to the term), â€œculture jammingâ€ is media hacking, guerrilla semiotics, sociopolitical satire, and a neo-Situationist insurgency, all in one. Media hoaxers, billboard bandits, pirate broadcasters, hit-and-run “subvertisers,” Left/progressive meme warriors, and other media wrenchers who intrude on the intruders, hijacking ads, newscasts, Hollywood movies, and other mechanisms of social control and repurposing them to politically subversive or perversely personal ends, are all culture jammers. Published in 1993 as part of the Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, this little manifesto was an Anarchist’s Cookbook for anti-consumerists and anti-capitalists itching to strike back at the Society of the Spectacle.
‘[Born to be Posthumous] is an absolutely riveting book about an utterly sui generis subject.’
‘A witty and brilliant tour guide on an intellectual journey through our darkest desires and strangest inclinations.’
‘[I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts is] an absolute treasure trove of the disturbing and enlightening.’
‘[The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium] whiplashes from dissections of infomercials and daytime talk shows to meticulous examinations of our fear of clowns and freaks, excrement and corpses to tirades against the International Monetary Fund.’
From the Blog
Prose That Swings
The Typewriter for Orchestra (1950) by Leroy Anderson, performed at “Voces para la Paz,” Músicos Solidarios, Auditorio Nacional de Música de Madrid, June 12, 2011. The soloist is Alfredo Anaya. Euphony — the music good prose makes — matters. It may be the product of rhyme; of rhythm; of consonance (“The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, […]
How Not to Respond to Hatchet Jobs
As an author who’s seen the fruit of seven years’ labor reduced to a smoking hole by a drone strike in The New York Times Book Review, I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more revenge killings by aggrieved authors. Come to think of it, I can’t recall any, which, given the nursed grudges and preening […]
Death Sentences: How to Write Your Own Eulogy
When Peter Schjeldahl’s doctor handed him a diagnosis, in 2019, of Stage 4 lung cancer, the New Yorker art critic did what writers do: turned life into art, writing a discursive yet seamlessly joined essay, 9,000-plus words long, tracing the arc of his life (he was 77 at the time) and confronting a mortality just […]
In Search of Lost Time: J.G. Ballard’s Magical Objects
Live, now, at Thought Catalog: “Memory Palace: Fay Ballardâ€™s ‘House Clearance,” a review-cum-essay-cum-interview inspired by J.G. Ballard’s daughter’s exhibition of drawings.
The Rat King
Live, now, at Boing Boing, “The Rat King: On the Fascinations (and Repulsions) of Rattus.” Click here to read. Teaser: In what he calls “an Experiment in Controlled Digression,” Mark Dery touches on xenogastronomy, ortolan, Edible Dormouse, Victor Hugo’s fondness for rat pÃ¢té, rat-baiting as a betting sport in Victorian times, the rat as New […]