Steve Erickson

Steve Erickson

Infobox Writer
name = Steve Erickson

imagesize =
caption = Steve Erickson
pseudonym =
birthdate = Birth date and age|1950|04|20|mf=y
birthplace = Los Angeles, California
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist, essayist and critic
nationality = American
period = 1985-Present
genre = Surrealism, magic realism
subject =
movement =
influences = William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, Philip K. Dick, Emily Brontë and Bob Dylan
influenced =

website =

Stephen Michael Erickson (born April 20 1950) is an American novelist, essayist and critic.

His novels defy concise genre classification, but are usually placed on the borders of surrealism or magical realism.


Steve Erickson was born and brought up as an only child in Granada Hills, 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. This motif occasionally has recurred in his novels.

Erickson wrote his first story when he was seven, which he was accused of plagiarizing because the teachers didn't believe he could have written it. Because of his stuttering some teachers believed that he couldn’t read. When he was fifteen he was already sending his stories to publishers. He studied film at UCLA (BA, 1972), then journalism (M.A. 1973).

For a few years Erickson worked as a staff-writer for a Southern California regional magazine. At the same time he started freelancing for the alternative weekly newspapers. His first novel, "Days Between Stations," was published in 1985, when he reportedly destroyed all of his earlier work.

Since 1985 Erickson has published eight novels and two non-fiction books, "Leap Year" and "American Nomad", that are chronicles of his cross-country journeys during the presidential elections of 1988 and 1996 respectively. Featuring characters from his novels, they contain Erickson’s comments on politics, current events, music, film, literature and, most of all, contemporary America. 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. In 2007 he received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Among Erickson's influences are William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, Philip K. Dick, Emily Brontë and Bob Dylan. His work has been admired and cited by other novelists including Thomas Pynchon, Richard Powers, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Lethem, William Gibson, Rick Moody, Paul Auster, Craig Clevenger, Joseph McElroy, Tom Robbins, Brian Evenson and Kathy Acker.

He is married and has a son (born in 1997).

Recurring motifs

Erickson’s novels revolve around certain concepts that appear in almost all his works. One of them is slavery, both actual and metaphorical. His fourth novel "Arc d'X" starts with the story of the love affair between Thomas Jefferson and a slave girl, Sally Hemings. In a number of his 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 own. 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 the female characters are dominant. Another important theme in Erickson novels, most particularly "Our Ecstatic Days," is parenthood and the loss of a child. 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.

Sometimes Erickson relies on autobiographical information, though filtered through an unconventional imagination. Often Erickson's narratives 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"), a scriptwriter ("Rubicon Beach"), a critic ("Amnesiascope"), and a film editor ("Zeroville"). Often the films are transgressive, misunderstood and rejected by the audience. The motif of the underestimated artist striving for recognition comes back as well.

Most of Erickson's novels can be described as apocalyptic. They present the slow obliteration of the world in which his characters live. Often it is nature that turns against people (the long winter in Paris, disappearance of water in Venice and the Mediterranean region, and sand storms in L.A. 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 big metropolises like L.A., New York, Berlin, Paris or Tokyo in which the unexpected natural phenomena cause chaos and show how brittle civilization actually is. Erickson makes occasional use of somewhat supernatural elements, the extraordinary gifts of some of his characters (Catherine from "Rubicon Beach"), bizarre artifacts (a bottle with human eyes from "Days Between Stations"). 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 reappear in different books: Adolphe Sarre from "Days Between Stations" comes back in "Amnesiascope" and is alluded to in "Zeroville"; Wade and Mallory from "Rubicon Beach" emerge in "Arc d’X"; Kara from "Days Between Stations" is present in the third part of "Rubicon Beach"; Kristin features in both "The Sea Came in at Midnight" and "Our Ecstatic Days"; Jainlight in "Our Ecstatic Days" and "Tours of the Black Clock."



* "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)


* "Leap Year" (1989)
* "American Nomad" (1997)


* National Endowment of the Arts (1987);
* Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review (1987): "Rubicon Beach";
* Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review (1989): "Tours of the Black Clock";
* Best Books of the Year, Village Voice (1989): "Tours of the Black Clock";
* Notable Book of the Year, 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, 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 Book World (2007): "Zeroville";
* Best Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times Book Review (2007): "Zeroville"

External links

* [ 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".
* [ interview with Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville]
* [ 2007 interview at]
* [ 2007 interview at OMNIVORACIOUS]

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