About the Book
A Hundred Thousand Worlds combines a delightfully geeky setting with an emotionally rich story, this literary-meets-genre pleasure will have you laughing, moved to tears and completely absorbed in now-mainstream comic book culture of the world of the cons.
For Valerie Torrey—an actress who left her hit sci-fi TV show and co-star husband six years earlier after tragedy struck—her appearances at the cons mark an uncomfortable return to the character and life she fled. For nine-year-old Alex, the conventions are a world where the fantastic brushes up against the real. Wandering aisles filled with superheroes, robots, time travelers and monsters, Alex and Val are drawn into the orbit of comic-con regulars from illustrators and writers to a group of spandex-clad cosplay women who offer a chorus of knowing commentary. Alex knows that he will be reunited with his estranged father in LA but as they draw closer to their destination, he realizes that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.
A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS is a book about fandom and creativity, but more importantly, it is about the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son, and how the stories we tell each other come to shape us, even as we shape them.
An Interview with the Author
Q: Your novel A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS follows several characters across the country attending a series of comic book conventions. When and why did you become a comic fan?
A: When Superman died. I was a big baseball card collector before that (which makes me sound a thousand years old), and there was all this hype about how much the issue where Supes died was going to be worth. But by the time I got my dad to take me to the comic book store, the first print was sold out and I was stuck with l think a fourth printing. Since it wasn’t worth anything, I figured I might as well read it. Not only did Supes die, but it set up a whole other story that would continue the next week.
It was the serial nature of it that pulled me in at first, and the epic scope. These huge stories that would go on and on, week after week. We lived in the suburbs, so I would either bike into Buffalo on the weekends, or give my dad a list on Wednesday to pick up on his way home from work. It was the ritual of it too. Growing up in the suburbs, you need ways to mark time. Wednesdays were new comics days. They still are.
Q: What inspired you to write about the relationship between a mother and son?
A: The setting for this book grew out of my own interests, but the story grew out of having a kid in my life. I was a new stepdad to a (then) eight year old when I sketched out the initial the idea for the book. At that time, the friendship between Brett and Alex was going to be more central and the relationship between Val and Alex was secondary and drew a lot on my wife and my stepson. But this book got put on the backburner for a while, and by the time I got down to writing it, my relationship with my stepson had changed pretty drastically. I was reckoning with what it meant to be a parent, and figuring out the kind of parent I wanted to be. So in addition to a sort of closely observed relationship, the dynamics between Val and Alex started to include my thoughts and anxieties about raising a kid. About how you function as an adult with drives and desires, and also as a parent, and the way those two things are constantly pulling at one another. Parent-child love is such a sanctified thing, it becomes tough to talk about in any complicated way, and I really wanted to explore all the currents that move back and forth within that bond, that trouble it and ultimately strengthen it.
Q: Superhero characters are a massive cultural commodity, are more people reading comics thanks to big box office releases? If no, is there anything cultural fans of these characters could benefit from by reading the comic books?
A: I don’t think there’s as much crossover as there could be from superheroes in the movies and on TV to reading comics. It can be daunting to get started on reading superhero comics, not to mention confusing. In comics, as I’m writing this, Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman, Superman can’t fly, Thor is a woman, and Supergirl doesn’t even have a monthly comic book. So in the rare instance someone might walk out of the movie theater and into their local comic book shop, you might not see anything that matches what you saw on screen. Not to mention the fact that comics have a visual and formal language all their own that can be somewhat opaque on a first reading.
But there are so many good places to start, whether it’s with superhero comics from the Big Two, or the amazing depth and breadth of creator-owned stuff that’s out there right now, or manga, which I don’t really know the first thing about but a lot of it looks super cool. And in a weird way, the fact that the economic stakes of comics are lower means that the creative stakes can be much higher. The sheer level of imagination in comic books is pretty staggering. Finding an “in”, or finding the right book for you, can be tough, but a good bookseller, or comic book store employee, or geeky friend, should be able to listen to what you’re interested in and point you towards something you’ll adore. Or, seriously, ask me. I have loads of opinions. Loads.
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