I have a story, “The Zombies of Kilimanjaro”, in the upcoming anthology from Bizarro Press. I just did an interview with Etienne DeForest, whose most recent book was Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space, a choose-your-own-adventure book about a zombie outbreak.
The interview’s over on the front page of the Bizarro Press web site (http://www.nxebooks.com/) but I’ll archive it here, too. You should head over there though and check out their books. More news on the anthology when it happens – you will want to check this one out.
BP: Soooo, what are you wearing? (I never know how to start these things off right.)
JK: I work from home these days, so I’m almost always wearing the same exact thing: jeans and a t-shirt, tennis shoes. The shirt is one of those old-school Milwaukee Brewers shirts, the one with the logo that’s a glove with a ball in it. (Milwaukee’s not my favorite team; I just buy most of my clothes in airport gift shops, and I end up at Mitchell airport a lot.)
BP: Ya, but they’re named after beer…. Anyways, sounds like a tough commute. So what’s your “real” job?
JK: I work as a technical writer for a big software company that nobody’s heard of. I had a programming background in college, but hit the wall when it came to math. I started writing around then, and totally lucked into tech writing, right around the time the internet really exploded in the mid-90s.
There’s not too much crossover between my job and writing fiction. I think people expect me to eventually write some Office Space thing about corporate culture. Maybe some of my need to write absurdist fiction comes from that. And I guess I learned a lot about the tools I used to self-publish, page layout programs and distilling PDFs and that kind of junk.
BP: I could tell that you did some form of editing or writing when I read “The Zombies of Kilmanjaroo”. You didn’t make a lot of the mistakes most people do. So are you one of those formatting Nazi’s that gets all pissed off when you see a “;” or a “:” used incorrectly?
JK: Nah, I don’t get that pissed off about formatting, although it’s hard to avoid sometimes. Like I grew up in Indiana, and although there are plenty of people who can spell there, every time I go back, I see some incredibly illiterate hand-painted signs that make me want to stop the car, get out a can of spray-paint, and do some quick edits.
That said, I probably have tons of typos in my books that I’ve stared at so many times, I don’t notice them. I am thinking of doing what Cory Doctorow did, and asking everyone to email me their corrections, in exchange for a thank you footnote in a future version of the book.
BP: Whenever I picture Indiana in my head all I see is a bunch of white guys in short shorts playing basketball. Is that an accurate description?
JK: Well, there’s meth labs, too. I actually went to high school with NBA all-star Shawn Kemp, so between that, being a hundred miles down the road from the Bulls during the Michael Jordan era, and then going to college at Indiana University during the Bobby Knight era, there was a hell of a lot of basketball.
I wasn’t exactly a star athlete when I was a kid — spent most of my time obsessed with Star Wars and Commodore computers and Dungeons and Dragons. I guess all of that’s cool now, but back then, it was like wearing an Obama t-shirt to a Klan rally. So my time in Indiana was pretty depressing, and I spent every second of it trying to figure out how to get the hell out.
I wrote a lot about Indiana when I was still writing “straight” literary fiction, before really getting into the absurd stuff. My first book, Summer Rain, was about spending a summer at a college campus, trying to figure out what to do in life. I also wrote a lot of short stories about that era, but now that stuff bores me. Indiana still comes up a lot in my newer stuff, but mostly when I need a setting that verges on the post-apocalyptic, which is pretty much what the state looks like, now that all of the manufacturing jobs have vanished.
BP: Do you still get all boned-up when you see a 20 sided die?
JK: There’s still a certain nostalgia to it. Maybe every year or so, I’ll fall down this k-hole and start googling Gary Gygax, or looking for those old books on eBay. (I think I sold mine off for pennies on the dollar for beer money back in college.) But I haven’t seriously tried to get into playing again. I think part of it is when you’re a kid, it’s so easy to focus large amounts of time on stuff like that, and it would be easier for me to build a functioning helicopter than it would be to get four or five adults in a room for three hours straight every week. Like, I’ve got a nephew that’s 14, and is really into that game Minecraft. It looks awesome, so I installed it, thinking I’d build an aircraft carrier or a scale Astrodome or something, and about seven minutes later, I’m thinking, “I’ve got shit to do – there is no way in hell I can make 347 more mortgage payments and focus on this thing.”
I also wonder if D&D would lose its allure in the internet age. I think half of the fun for me was we could only get the books and figures at one store in our town, a Kay-Bee Toys, and they only had the most popular stuff, so we had to really search to find the rare stuff, like drive to Chicago or mail away for a xeroxed catalog to a PO box somewhere. So when I did run across a copy of some rare module at a garage sale, it was a huge win. Now, you could just google that shit, buy it from Amazon, or find it on eBay. It’s probably not as rewarding.
BP: I think your right man, I’m pretty sure all those kids play WOW now or something. It really is amazing how fast the internet changed everything.
You talk about a lot of hard drug use in The Earworm Inception. Soooo, do you like to party?
JK: I’m too old for that shit. I wake up every day feeling like it was new year’s the night before, even when I’m stone cold sober. I think my days of drinking a gallon of rum and puking in the middle of a high-end steakhouse are behind me.
I think most of the drug use in “The Earworm Inception” was self-medication, along the theme of how to make life complete or finding your place in the modern world. There’s this recurring character that’s introduced in “The Chapman Protocol Conundrum” that’s a prescription-happy shrink, and that’s something I constantly ponder, because I can’t go to a podiatrist for a hangnail without someone trying to write me a prescription for Lipitor. Between allergies and mood, I’m taking more pills per day than my grandparents were taking on their deathbed, but I also am fascinated by the idea that there could be medications that somehow unlock parts of your brain that would completely change your world.
BP: Who’s going to the World Series this year?
JK: I don’t know, because they changed the way the postseason works this year, and there will be two wildcard teams per league. I think they only did this to guarantee that the Yankees and Red Sox will always go to the postseason, because those TV executives have boat payments to make.
I think for the AL, it’s pretty much locked down to Rangers, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, in that order, with a chance of Tampa making the fifth spot if New York or Boston really screws something up. For the NL, it’s harder to predict, and there will be a close race in the NL West. I’m still a Rockies fan from when I lived in Denver, but they have to get past the Giants and D’Backs, which would take some kind of Buster Posey in 2011 broken leg injuries on those teams, plus a lot of luck with their pitching.
I’d ultimately like to see a couple of teams that don’t normally go to make it, like a Rays-Brewers matchup, but it will probably be something boring like a Phillies-Yankees matchup, which is like watching a demolition derby where everyone’s driving indestructible armored cars.
BP: It pisses me off that the Rangers magically got good. I used to be able to walk around in my Tigers shit and not get shit about it. Dallas fans are assholes.
Well, any closing thoughts?
JK: Thanks for the interview, and I’m looking forward to seeing the anthology get in the hands of the readers. Make sure to check me out over at my home on rumored.com, or on twitter over at @jkonrath. Also, that answer about how to make your own full-auto AK-47 from stuff you can get at Home Depot was just a joke, so make sure to cut that question out of the final interview. Thanks!