Tires screeching, the armoured truck thundered up the city street, ignoring traffic lights, barrelling around corners with just enough deceleration to keep from toppling over. Ray could hear the police sirens wailing outside. He couldn’t see the cars escorting him, though. Not through the windowless steel walls of his mobile prison. The bench he sat on was unforgiving and cold and the chain between his collar and the floor was too short. Every bump in the road rattled his spine and, if he didn’t hunch down to give the tether a little slack, painfully jerked his head forward. He’d asked his guards if the increased precautions were really necessary. They replied by attaching them with extra vigour. Despite moving on without him since his incarceration, it appeared the world was still plenty frightened of what he represented.
Writing is a notoriously solitary business. What keeps you at it? The fame that constantly eludes you? Getting a lie in mornings? The rubber?
I’ve worked as a teacher, for a non-profit, and as a lawyer. None of them worked out because I don’t deal well with hierarchical social structures. It’s best I work alone for everyones’ sake. Seriously though, I come from a tradition of storytelling. My grandfather used to tell stories that ranged from absolutely true to complete farce as a way of connecting with people. He was a big rig diesel mechanic who seemed to come truly alive when he was able to spin a tale for his friends and see their reactions. I guess I inherited his calling to entertain.
So often in hero narratives there are no real consequences for what happens in the story. The hero and villain clash, things get broken, people die, and then everything is right back the way it always was in the next episode or issue. The joke is, “no one stays dead in comics except Uncle Ben and the Waynes.” I wanted to write a superhero story with an end. Something where actions had consequences and the world wasn’t the same afterward.
There seems to have been a shift in appreciation of Pulp Fiction. There is the so called New Pulp, but did Old Pulp ever really go away?
I think it didn’t go away as much as it grew up. The old pulp stories had a sense of clear moral lines and innocence that I think have become increasingly harder to sell post-Vietnam, post-9/11, etc. We know that good doesn’t always triumph and that evil is worse than we ever imagined it. Who would have ever written a Shadow story where the villain intended to enact the killing fields of Cambodia or a Doc Savage tale set during the genocide in Rwanda? Laying the Big Bad out with an uppercut to the chin won’t stop movements or ideologies. It doesn’t stop the people in the streets with machetes. It’s a nice escape to think that you can defeat evil by stopping a single madman, but we know better. I think new pulp stories reflect a modern consciousness about the dangers we face in a changed world.
What sort of fiction do you prefer to read? Which are your favourite TV shows and movies?
I read dark literary, crime, and horror-thrillers mostly. Andrew Vachss, Cormac McCarthy, Jack Ketchum. I like things gritty and real. Even when I read SF and fantasy I need an element of grittiness at the core of it to keep my interest. My favourite things on television and in the movies are stories like True Detective and Blade Runner.
What can you tell us about future projects?
I’ve got a few short stories coming out, most notably in issue 9 of Shock Totem Magazine and in issue 6 of the DIY horror zine, Splatterpunk. I’m working on my next full-length novel, tentatively titled, Marked. It’s about tattooing and human trafficking.
Tell us something about yourself no one knows (don’t worry – no one will ever read this).
No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get into Doctor Who. It’s just never hit me in that spot it seems to nail in everyone else. I guess you can cut my story from the book now.