Career and Themes
Mamatas is most known for his horror and dark fiction, but claims broad influences. Writer Laird Barron described the short fictions in You Might Sleep... as running "the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, metafiction, horror, generic lit, to the realms of the effectively unclassifiable."
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, reviewing You Might Sleep, contends that "J.D. Salinger an obvious but unacknowledged influence" and also compares the work of Mamatas to "Lewis Carroll with an ISP, Mishima hammering out his death poem on a Blackberry or Harlan Ellison hyped up on crystal meth..." while suggesting a certain immaturity to Mamatas's themes: "Despite his tremendous gifts, Mamatas dares little. One wonders how he would handle more profound materials, how his narrative sorcery might encompass (for example) bereavement, real tragedy or loss of self through enlightenment or love."
A thematic touchstone for Mamatas is H.P. Lovecraft. His novel Move Under Ground, which combines Lovecraftian and Beat themes, was declared one of the best Cthulhu Mythos stories not written by Lovecraft by Kenneth Hite in the book Cthulhu 101. Mark Halcomb of the Village Voice reviewed the book and its peculiar meshing of Lovecraft and Kerouac, writing, in part:
"In fact, Kerouac's "bebop prosody" and the Cthulhu mythos dovetail nicely, and what seems at first like literary stunt-casting actually gives Mamatas room to recast the Beats' fall from grace in fanciful terms unhindered by their tricky psychology, the strictures of reality and realism—or lingering platitudes."
Publishers Weekly reviewed Move Under Ground, discussing the novel's "credible pastiche" of Kerouac's voice and declared the book "sophisticated, progressive horror..."
A number of his short works, such as the novelette "Real People Slash" and the flash fiction "And Then And Then And Then", also explicitly combine Lovecraftian themes with the voices of non-fantastical literature. The short story "That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable", first published in the anthology Lovecraft Unbound is a pastiche of Lovecraft and several of the works of Raymond Carver. The Damned Highway combines a character based heavily on Hunter S. Thompson and Lovecraftian themes.
Satire is also a significant element of Mamatas's fiction. Ed Park, writing for his online The Los Angeles Times review column, described Mamatas's Under My Roof—a short novel about the formation of a microstate on Long Island—as an "accurate, fast-moving satire that transcends mere target shooting by virtue of its narrator, Daniel’s 12-year-old son Herbie." A starred review in Publishers Weekly for the same title also highlighted the satirical elements in the work, declaring: "A big-bang ending caps the fast-paced novel, and there's much fun to be had watching Mamatas...merrily skewer his targets."
Mamatas's nonfiction work includes essays on publishing, digital culture, and politics. A Village Voice piece on the Otherkin phenomenon is cited as one of the earliest national publications on the subculture. His essay about his settlement with the RIAA for file-sharing, has been cited in several law reviews, as it is a relatively rare first-person account of the process of settlement with the RIAA. Essays from The Smart Set, Village Voice, and The Writer and Tim Pratt's fanzine Flytrap were compiled, along with original material, into the writing handbook Starve Better in 2011, and published by Apex Publications His essay "The Term Paper Artist" originally from The Smart Set, about his experiences as an academic ghostwriter for pay, has been discussed on National Public Radio, and reprinted in a pair of textbooks, both published by Nelson Education.
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