|A Conversation With Rick Klaw|
|An interview with Jayme Lynn Blaschke|
| November 2003 |
You've just recently had your first piece of prose fiction published in Electric Velocipede. How did that feel after having published so much of other people's fiction?
John Klima, the editor of Electric Velocipede, is a fan of my column, "Geeks with Books." He wrote me a very nice letter when I did my first column, and ever since then we've exchanged emails. He asked me if I'd contribute to Electric Velocipede, and I know he thought I was going to send him some non-fiction. Because why would he think otherwise?
I had written this story several years ago. It's a good little story, but I could never find a home for it, because it's a short-short, like 8-900 words. So I sent it to him. Will it change my career? Probably not. But it was fun and it's a neat little magazine.
Interestingly enough, I have a weird little segue in comics from that. I did the letters page for Michael Moorcock's Multiverse. People would send letters in and I would answer them. If they didn't get enough letters or whatever -- it was my job to fill the space in. As a matter of fact, there are two essays in Geek Confidential -- one about Moorcock's music career and one about Moorcock's comics career -- that were written because of that.
I also did a lot of independent stuff, alternative comics, whatever you want to call it. My first published work was a book called Wings, that I did with a company called Mu which is out of business. It was about a boy with wings born in a small Texas town. I'm proud to say it was the worst-selling book they ever published. One issue came out of a projected four-issue mini-series, and it sold 700 copies. I am very proud of the writing. So I pick it up whenever I see one.
I did quite a bit of work for Jab, with the Adhesive Comics guys. I was in Jab 3, 5, and 7 I think. I adapted several of Joe Lansdale's stories. I had a story in Weird Business, and I also adapted several stories in Atomic Chili, which is a collection of Lansdale comic stuff, and I also have an original story in Weird Business. I've edited several graphic novels and several comic anthologies, and currently I'm writing adaptations for a new series of Joe Lansdale short stories for Avatar. As a matter of fact, I turned my first one in a week ago. And of course, there was a comic in my book, Bob the Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland, and I, also, talk about why you adapt comics.
It's probably just the form. It comes easily for me. Some people have a lot of trouble writing comics. They can't see how it works, they can't see the world, how you envision the page and stuff, and I can see it real easily. I shut my eyes, and there it is.
So many adults grow up and continue to believe that comics are for children. Publishers perpetuate that. In defense of publishers, though, every time they try to change that, it doesn't work -- with a few notable exceptions. And again, it's starting to change slightly, by the repackaging of themů making comics look like books. You say genre's dead, but it isn't. Literary comics are actually thriving in bookstores. I mean, what do you call something like Ghostworld? That's a literary comic. If it was a book, we'd put it in the literature section, wouldn't we? Mainstream fiction. Things like that are thriving in bookstores. They sell. And who's buying them? Kids ain't buying those.
The other thing is -- and I discovered this early, early on with my comic work and then with Mojo -- there's a real attitude with science fiction fans toward comic books. It's gotten better, but you will not believe how hard it is to get some of these people to read Watchmen! Watchmen is probably one of the greatest science fiction novels. It just happens to be a comic book. But it's certainly a great science fiction work.
When I went to my first literary convention, my first Armadillocon, I'd just edited the Modern Perversity book. I was on a panel with Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois and an editor that shall not be named, because I'm not that stupid. She was a powerful editor. It was a panel about editing, and I thought, "Gee, I don't think I belong here." But they put me on the panel nonetheless, and this unnamed editor from a major magazine would not let me answer any questions because when she found out I did comics, "Oh. You do comics." You could hear the bile in her voice.
God bless Ellen Datlow, because she jumped in and said, "What does Rick think about this?" Ellen would stop them, stop the question and wait for me to answer. I really appreciated that, of course. Right there, it showed me this belief that comics were a lesser art form. It's gotten better, but they're still thought of as "below." Who would read science fiction comics? Science fiction fans.
With western comics, the problem is that westerns are a dying genre. If you produce a western comic, you're not going to get western fans. Because there aren't many, really.
There have been a lot of successful crime and mystery comics. There's been a major resurgence in those in the last 10 years, you know with things like Sin City and Powers, there was Stray Bullets. Road to Perdition was made into a movie.
I can tell you from a bookseller's point of view things they can do. They need to make it much more accessible for booksellers to get graphic novels. While it has gotten better, it's still difficult to get some graphic novels. What I mean by that is they need to offer the same terms as book publishers offer. 45 percent off and returnable. Availability through distributors -- Diamond's not a distributor when you're a bookstore. I know they have bookstore distribution now, but it's not Ingram, where you have every bookstore in the country hooked up to Ingram.
Also, they miss opportunities. Like when the first X-Men movie came out, people would come into the store looking for the comics, and Marvel had the same crappy X-Men books they'd had for years. They didn't have any collections ready for the people. It was like the whole thing when Maus came out and won the Pulitzer prize. People go, "Oh, comics are great!" and then they go into comic shops and all they see are super-hero comics. They had no idea of what's going on. They don't have anything available for these people.
I think serialized comics is a bad idea. I really do. I believed it when I was at Mojo, and I believe it now. You can produce a series of works that are related, like, series science fiction of course. Certainly, you can do that. But every book has to be finite unto itself. A self-contained story. That's really where it hurts. That's why I don't buy individual comics anymore. I don't want to go out and spend $2.50 or $3 for an individual comic, especially now that almost everything is collected. I'd much rather have a collection that I can put in the bookcase. That's part of it.
Part of my ape fascination comes from my love of comics. Gorillas are a big part of comics history, and it all mixes in together. At this year's Armadillocon, I was on a panel on "Gorillas in science fiction." I don't think a serious word was uttered during the entire panel. We had a really good time. We talked about our favorite gorilla movies and gorilla stories and monkey stories -- when I'm saying gorillas, I'm meaning apes and chimpanzees -- I'll watch anything with a gorilla in it. I might not like it, but I'll sit and watch it at least once. And I did publish a story called "Gorilla Gunslinger" in Weird Business, about a gun-toting gorilla in the old west. One of my dream projects is to write Gorilla City comic book for DC.
The last proposal I did for DC, the editor gave me the characters to use. It wasn't the Gorilla City one. I did a proposal. She said, "This is pretty good, but you need to do a rewrite." We went through six rewrites in six months. Finally, she takes it to marketing to get the okay, and marketing tells her that me and Phil Hester are not big enough names to do the comic. At that moment, I was livid. "What the hell am I doing? Why didn't you tell me this to begin with? Why did you have me jump through all these hoops to do nothing?" It left a bad taste in my mouth, as you can imagine, and I decided then that I wasn't going to hoop jump anymore. I've got nothing against DC. There are things I'd love to do with DC. I like comics, as I've expressed many times here. I just won't jump through hoops.
At Armadillocon I met Jess Nevins, the guy who wrote The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, Heroes and Monsters. Jess and I hit it off -- I like Jess a lot. I feel like I'm really an intelligent, smart geek, but he out-geeks me. We're sitting there Sunday at the convention, and he's reading Geek Confidential. He comes over to me. "Rick, I'm reading your book. I'm really enjoying it. But I've found a mistake."
He's real serious, so I'm concerned. "What? What happened?" "Well, when you talk about Jack Cole and Plastic Man? I agree with you -- Jack Cole's a genius. Plastic Man is incredible. Very influential. But you say he's the first pliable super-hero. Technically, he's not. Two or three months before, the Thin Man appeared from Marvel, making him the first pliable super-hero."
I can't keep up with that! There's just nothing I can do! But it made me feel that maybe I wasn't quite as geeky -- but then I say things like "Monsieur Mallah is French" and knew you were talking about the Doom Patrol. [laughing] Of course, you asked.
I watch it with my nephew, Alex, of whom I speak a lot of in the book. He's seven. Alex and I are really close. Alex loves Godzilla, partly because I show him Godzilla. One time we're watching King Kong versus Godzilla, and my wife says, "This is like wrestling. It's really dumb. It's two guys in suits beating up on each other."
"Yeah! Isn't it great?"
So yeah, I know it's a crappy movie, but it holds a special place in my heart.
Mark Finn summed it up the best. When he saw it as a kid, he had to sit there and watch it again because he swore he must've fallen asleep during the dinosaur fight scenes. That says it all. Where the hell were the dinosaurs? How can you make a King Kong movie without dinosaurs?
I love Peter Jackson. I really do. He was the main reason I went to see The Fellowship of the Ring, because I can't stand the book. I loved his movies, and if anyone can do a good King Kong, I think he can do it. I've seen the script online, I've glanced at it, I've been taunted with it. I won't read it completely, but I did notice that it is set in period, it has bi-planes, and I think that's all good. He's promised a lot of dinosaur-Kong action. Again, good.
So, yeah, I think it's going to be good. He is a very smart director in that he uses CGI, but doesn't rely on CGI. I'd be a lot more nervous if somebody else was doing it. He's probably the only person that can do it right.
Jayme Lynn Blaschke graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in journalism. He writes science fiction and fantasy as well as related non-fiction, and serves as fiction editor for RevolutionSF.com. A collected volume of his speculative fiction interviews, Cosmosis, is due out from the University of Nebraska Press in 2004. His website can be found at http://www.exoticdeer.org/jayme.html
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