Hey guys, I took a little break from doing my author interviews, but I’m back to try and wrap some up before SPFBO 7 Phase 1 ends — we’ll see how many I can get to.
Ryan is an amazing author and he was our runner up in this years contest, literally tying for first place, but SPFBO doesn’t allow for ties. His story, Red in Tooth and Claw is a raw, emotional, evocative, terrifying and stunning book that packs a punch in just 150 pages. It can be read in a sitting and it’s easy to do because I kept turning pages. A Neolithic fantasy has a lot unique experiences to offer and this book was so well done. I really hope anyone who thinks it may interest them picks it up and gives it a shot.
How did you hear about SPFBO and if you’ve read some entries from the last year or two, which have been your favorites?
I honestly don’t remember where I first heard of it anymore, but I participated in SPFBO 2, 5, 6, and now 7. Last year my absolute favorite was The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing by Raymond St. Elmo, which was a semi-finalist with The Critiquing Chemist, a fun metafictional love letter to books and authors, and the kind of book that makes you want to shake people by their collars and tell them books are friggin’ great. (As a legal note: I do not recommend this.)
J. Rushing’s Radio was also a lot of fun, an urban fantasy in 1928 Paris that just revelled in its setting. It follows a god, Marduk, who, in an attempt to escape gods on the other side of a civil war, leaps into the body of an opium-addicted jazz musician.
From this year, I’ve really enjoyed the justly-praised Legacy of the Brightwash and Gunmetal Gods.
What steered you in the direction of writing neolithic fantasy?
Good question, with a few answers. The first one: I really, really love wilderness survivalism in stories–The Edge, The Revenant, The Terror, things like that. The second: The Epic of Gilgamesh is my favorite ancient epic. The third: I like books that offer up new experiences, and I’ve never read a neolithic fantasy. The fourth is that it was a palate cleanser from my previous two books, The Steel Discord and The Alchemy Dirge, which took place in a more steampunk industrial revolution society.
The fifth is the longest answer. A lot of fantasy has very specific rules–rules of magic, rules of civilization, rules of how, say, different monsters work and their weaknesses. Making it so early in the timeline means that they’re operating without any of that systematic information. There are no books they can use for research, no scholars they can track down for the answers. They’re on their own.
To be clear, I love a lot of books that do have all of those things, but it would have not fit the mood and tone I was going for, the lack of knowledge and the ambiguity of viewpoints.
How is your experience going so far with SPSFC?
It’s interesting, the differences between this and the SPFBO. For those readers unaware, the SPSFC has all the judges in a group read the first 20% and decide if they’re going to keep reading. I believe the Fantasy Hive did something similar this year, but with the SPFBO it’s more up to the judges how they’d like to operate. This is probably better for readers even if it’s more work for judges and a bit more discouraging for authors.
I have definitely found some great books I wouldn’t have otherwise, in a few very different genres. I’ve got about ten books left.
What did you study at the University of Regina?
English Literature and Religious Studies. I feel very lucky, seeing other people complain about genre-hating professors, as we had one who specialized in science fiction and fantasy.
You like Haiku’s, please write one about your experience as an author.
Thought to hand to page
Rush of language imagined
From my mind to yours
You tweeted “If I were Holden Caulfield, instead of dealing with grief and alienation through declaring everyone else a phony I would simply perform a series of perfect kicks at the weresharks rising from the sea and save the day” — so what’s the context here?
People were complaining about The Catcher in The Rye and what a whiny, miserable character Caulfield is. Of course he’s a teenager whose beloved younger brother died, and his parents simply repress their own emotions, which makes him feel even more alienated.
But the best option would be to simply remake him into a cool, quipping action hero.
Do you have any pets?
Necronomicat (the black and white cat) and Cathulhu (the orange and white one.) Twin brothers we picked up when we lived overseas.
You live in Saskatchewan — that sounds pretty remote where there aren’t a ton of people. Have you always lived there? If not, how did you decide to settle down there?
I grew up here, yes! I did move away for several years and lived overseas in Seoul. I went from growing up in a town of 500 to living in a city of 17 million at the time. But my family is here and we came back after living overseas.
Where would you recommend people visit if they pass through your area?
Right now I’d say keep driving–us and our neighbours are the worst-hit by Covid in the country. But when that dies down, we have Scotty the T-Rex in our museum, we have some beautiful places for camping, we have tunnels that used to be used by Al Capone, we have some huge music festivals, and we’ve got some fantastic scenery.
I see you watch ST Deep Space Nine — which is worse morally: the Dominion, or Kai Winn?
Isn’t Louise Fletcher so great in that role? As frustrating as Kai Winn is, she didn’t inflict diseases on populations that opposed them, as we see the Dominion having done in The Quickening. She wanted power, and she wanted to be beloved, but she was nowhere near as awful as the Dominion.
In Rapture, Kai Winn reminds Kira that she, too, was tortured by the Cardassians. It’s important to realize that. She was a fully-faceted, multi-dimensional villain.
If you play video games which 3 have you sunk the most time into?
Yes, yes. As a kid I loved the old Squaresoft games–I replayed Final Fantasy I, FFIV, and VI and Chrono Trigger on loop with occasional detours into Secret of Mana or The Legend of Zelda. I fell away for a long while as I didn’t have a system until I returned from Seoul.
Since then my top three are likely Mass Effect, as I’ve replayed Legendary Edition recently, Horizon Zero Dawn which I played fully twice, and The Witcher 3.
Do you have kids? If so, what kind of stuff are they into?
They are the best kids. My son is really into dinosaurs, and that’s great because that’s a) extremely cool and b) something Saskatchewan has! My daughter is all about dancing and art.
Halloween! I went as the cheapest possible Beta Ray Bill imaginable. Alas, that picture blocks out the face of my lovely wife.
You’ve quoted Mitch Hedberg — what’s your favorite gag of his?
I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first, I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.
You’ve got Queen City Brass Band down as something you like/enjoy — I don’t see brass bands listed as many people’s preferred listening. Anything in particular that got you into that?
My teenage creative writing teacher, who I still keep in contact with, is part of it! My wife and I do enjoy some brass bands, and hired another one from our city–Pile of Bones Brass Band–to perform at our wedding. It was ridiculously fun.
Thanks so much for taking the time!!!