Welcome to Chairman Besher’s Mausoleum (1951-):
Born in China of Russian parents as a stateless person, raised and educated in Japan, Alexander Besher is a San Francisco-based author, journalist (when journalism was still journalism), and novelist. He became a U.S. citizen on April Fool's Day in the Bicentennial Year of 1976 and was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.
He is the author of "The Pacific Rim Almanac"(HarperCollins, '91; 1000-plus pages), and the "Rim" trilogy of futuristic thrillers including the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated "Rim"(HarperCollins '94; HarperPrism, '95); "Mir," and "Chi"(Simon & Schuster, '98 and '99).
Early university days in Japan: Published “The Shinjuku Sutra,” Japan’s first underground newspaper that was banned by Japan’s Ministry of Education. The final issue was jointly published with John Wilcock, editor of the “Other Scenes” underground paper, a “Village Voice” columnist, and co-founder of “Interview” magazine with Andy Warhol (John is currently writing his memoirs, anyone?). Besher was recruited by the legendary publisher Meredith Weatherby of John Weatherhill Inc. to translate some Japanese poems to accompany Yoichi Midorikawa’s nature photos of the Inland Sea in his book “These Splendored Isles” (with a foreword by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas). He then film-optioned Donald Richie’s classic travelogue “The Inland Sea” for the price of a cup of coffee in Roppongi, Tokyo; and proofread all 17 volumes of Arthur Upham Pope’s “Survey of Persian Art” for editor Jay Gluck, a feat which led to a case of severe astigmatism.
While in Tokyo as a university student, before deciding to become a writer, he met a very magnetic English woman at a wood-block print shop who wanted the last copy of a Kuniyoshi print that he had just purchased. He let her have it, and thus developed a life-long friendship with the young feminist magical realism writer Angela Carter who was going through her Japanese Heathcliff phase before becoming known to the world. He visited her two decades later in London not long before she passed into S & M Nirvana and still misses her, her death being the cruelest blow that she dealt him.
Those were Besher's Lafcadio Hearn days when he squatted in abandoned Buddhist monasteries on Mt. Hiei outside Kyoto and hung out in jazz clubs in Shinjuku with his friends from the Aka-Karasu Buzoku ("Red Crow Tribe") that the American poet Gary Snyder helped organize throughout Japan.
Besher's first job was working at the University of Chicago Press writing jacket copy. He served as editor of the Chicago Review literary & arts quarterly at the University of Chicago, co-founded the Chicago Review Press (discovering and publishing two lost manuscripts, “The Violet Apple” and “The Witch," by the legendary Scottish fantasy writer David (“A Voyage to Arcturus”) Lindsay, with the literary forensic assistance of author Colin Wilson and J.B. Pick. During that period, he launched” The Floating World Modern Poets" series of modern Japanese poets in translation (translated by Hiroaki Sato, with introductions by the classic Japanese and Chinese scholar and translator Burton Watson and forewords by Gary Snyder). He then published the Japanese children’s classic "The Silver Spoon" ("Gin no Saji" by Naka Kansuke, 1913) which was adopted by UNESCO in its Representative Literature Series. He also discovered and published a manuscript that was smuggled out of an Illinois prison, “The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar” by Frank Hohimer, which Besher sold to the then “Starsky & Hutch” television scriptwriter Michael Mann who produced it as his first motion picture “Thief,” a precursor to Mann’s television series "Miami Vice."
Besher was co-publisher of Oneiric Press with his Paris-based brother Misha who co-founded Shambhala Publications with Sam Bercholz and Michael Fagan. (Misha now teaches “sitcomology” at one of the satellite campuses of the Sorbonne.) He first published the Japanese mystery novels by Akimitsu Takagi (Japan’s “Simenon”), now reprinted by SOHO Press. He was contributing editor to InfoWorld magazine under Stewart Alsop II, worked on some controversial editorials for “PC World” and “Macworld” magazines with editor and publisher David Bunnell, and wrote “Pacific Rim" (Chronicle Features), the first internationally syndicated weekly column to cover business, technology and social trends in the Asia-Pacific region.
Besher’s forthcoming epic novel "The Manga Man" is the first title in his new "Dance of Darkness" trilogy of alternative fantasy noirs novels featuring a Japanese "Butoh" dancer-assassin super-hero who is half-digital and half-human; this title is to be followed by “The Black Tao,” a tale that takes place after the entire human race has migrated to online worlds. His novels have been translated into over a dozen languages and film-optioned (once by Robin Williams who beat out Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoeterope in the bidding).
Recently, Besher has been writing screenplays, television scripts, and is working on a graphic novel adaptation of “The Manga Man” with the Italian artist Daniele Serra (see sample pages in the “Coming Soon" section of his website). You can also listen to a great audio reading of an excerpt by Carmen Leilani De Jesus.
His scripts include “Dibbuk,” a Kaballah noir tale that was a finalist in the Scriptapalooza and Writer’s Building script competitions, beaten out by a script entitled “Whale Farts.” The horror film scholar and author John McCarty hailed “Dibbuk” as "The Exorcist" meets "Night of the Generals" via "Wolfen." Six years in the research phase, there are two versions of “Dibbuk”: the writer’s cut which has a Nazi German back-story, a buddy movie featuring the unlikely collaboration between a German homicide detective and an Eastern European “wonder rebbe” to solve a string of supernatural serial killings of top Nazi officials, culminating with the exorcism of a “Jew Catcher” living under a secret identity in the Jewish Home for the Elderly in contemporary San Francisco. The low- budget version is strictly the Jewish exorcist in San Francisco and fueled by demonic lox and bagels. Other scripts: “Kimono,” an adaptation of the acclaimed 1920s novel by British diplomat and novelist John Paris (“The Talented Mr. Ripley” meets “Memoirs of a Geisha”), “The Craigslist Code” (a slapstick existential farce about the fundamentalism of modern love), “Once Upon a Time in Baghdad” (Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” meets “The Arabian Nights”), “The Rupture” (“Wag the Dog” meets “Dr. Strangelove,” or what happens when The Rapture gets reverse-engineered and Bush gets cloned-again), “The Vicious Circle” (a television pilot based on an oral history of the Chicago Mob in the sixties by Besher and the ex-Mafia cat burglar Frank Hohimer); and most recently, “Rim,” a four-part television miniseries based on an updated version of Besher’s PK Dick Award nominated novel “Rim,” written in the spirit of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Besher was commissioned by HBO to write a treatment based on an unpublished short story by Arthur C. Clarke (sorry, Arthur), and was instrumental in the reenvisioning of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha” from its initial focus on the life of the historical Buddha to the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama as a little American boy. Unfortunately, that landed Bertolucci in a London court for intellectual property infringement by the original producer who hired the maestro, although Bertolucci’s Tibetan lama barristers engineered an out-of-court settlement.
Current project: A collaboration with Berlin-based sci-fi writer and energy futurist Achmed Khammas, “Flowers Under the Sand: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabic and Muslim Science Fiction and Fantasy,” the first such anthology of its kind with an accompanying DVD of interviews with authors and a historical overview of that Arabic literary tradition.
Along with their pioneering contributions to astronomy and mathematics, the Arabs invented the sci-fi and fantasy genre, with the first “travel to the moon” novel written in 125 A.E. by a Syrian Greek; the first Utopian treatise by the philosopher al-Farabi in the 10th century, which predated Thomas More’s “Utopia” by 500 years; and let’s not forget the medieval compilation of “The Arabian Nights” tales attributed, naturally, to “Anonymous,” since time froze for Islamic writers in the 7th century with the advent of fundamentalism. This is still a problem today although there is currently a renaissance of writers in the field, some of them facing imprisonment or exile for daring to “envision” the future or to create new worlds which, as all good Wahabis know, is strictly the prerogative of Allah.
Future-future projects: A historical novel set in 13th century Japan, and a five-year plan to render the entire “1,001Arabian Nights” as a graphic novel.
Besher’s DNA origins: Still waiting for the saliva sample to be deciphered. On the maternal side, descended from a line of Huguenots who fled France in the 16th century and were recruited by Peter the Great of Russia to serve as technocrats specializing in alchemy and dubious medicine, which they practiced for generations until the death of Besher’s grandfather in Harbin, China. His last patient was a Chinese warlord. Fifty-year old Gramps married his 18-year old nurse (Besher’s grandmother) who came from a Cossack tribe in Siberia. On his paternal side, it’s almost better not to mention it: Teutonic knights, bloodthirsty Lithuanian mercenaries, and Russian boyars. That Gramps was an engineer who helped build the connection between the Trans-Siberian railway with the Trans-Manchurian railway.
Besher’s alter ego Alex de Talkville has pioneered an entirely new form of column with his 'Op-Ed Strip' entitled “AMERICA THE UNAMERICAN.” An editorial cartoon in words, it’s a fusion of actual newspaper headlines with Besher’s invective against the Green Zoning of America. Comments about AdT: "I love it."--MAUREEN DOWD, New York Times columnist . . . "Love your stuff."--WES BOYD, Co-founder, MoveOn.Org . . ."Blog the bastards down!"--TOM ROBBINS, novelist. . . . "Mighty good."--CRAIG NEWMARK, Founder, Craigslist.org. Check it out at your own peril.
Alexander Besher is currently single and lives 24/7 with his mini-dachshund named Almond in the Mission district of San Francisco, half a block east from Central America and half a block west from trendy wi-fi cafes and alternative galleries. Almond channels Nietzsche, Bela Lugosi, and Viennese pastries in the middle of the night.
Regrettably, Besher no longer trusts the BBC after Blair’s Hutton Inquiry neutered it in the manner of the American corporate media castrati.
Too numerous to mention.
The Manga Man (see "Coming Soon")
What agent? Everything he’s done, he’s done on his own. The agents always come in afterwards to negotiate the deal, isn't that how it works?
Doubleday, Pocket Books, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Little Brown Orbit UK/Time Warner AOL Orbit UK/Time Warner Orbit UK, Hachette Orbit UK (that's the problem, isn't it?). Besher's books have been translated into a dozen languages, some of them extinct.
Médecins Sans Frontières; anything to do with children and animals; The World Court in the Hague. (One can still dream in this fascistocracy, can't they...
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