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Interview: Richard A. Lupoff on “12:02 P.M.”

- Tell us a bit about “12:02 P.M.”  What’s it about?
 
“12:02 PM” is a direct sequel to my 1973 story “12:01 PM.” The 1973 story concerns a somewhat beaten-down office worker named Myron Castleman who has got into such a rut that his life is a daily repetition. He keeps doing the same things over and over, getting nowhere, as all of his hopes and dreams slowly fade away. Pardon my use of a lit’ry term, but in fact this is a metaphor for the lives of too many people in the modern world. It was certainly my own life at one time.
 
“12:01 PM” ends on a note of despair. “12:02 PM” takes up directly where “12:01 PM” leaves off, and is, I believe, a far more positive and hopeful story. I don’t want to go into details here. I’d much rather have people read “12:02 PM.”
 
- What prompted you to write a follow-up story?
 
In 1989 writer-director Jonathan Heap made a brilliant 30-minute film of “12:01 PM.” The film starred Kurtwood Smith as Myron Castleman. It was an Academy Award finalist and still turns up on TV on occasion. As far as I know, the only purchasable version is on a compilation DVD released in the UK. BTW, this film is not to be confused with the feature-length version starring Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater, and Martin Landau. That’s quite a different story, although it’s based loosely on “12:01 PM.”
 
For the past twenty years I’ve remained in contact with Jonathan Heap and Kurtwood Smith, and one of them mentioned in a recent email that it might be interesting to try and figure out whatever happened to Myron after the first story ended. Did he just stay in his rut, repeating one hour over and over and over — endlessly? Or might there be an escape for him after all. I went to sleep with that question in my mind and woke up the next morning with the answer, ready to write “12:02 PM.”
 
- Did the writing of this story present you with any significant challenges?
 
From a creative viewpoint, I had to decide just when the new story would take place. After all, it had been 37 years since I wrote “12:01 PM.” I decided that “12:02 PM” should continue the narrative seamlessly. Once I sat down and turned on my computer — I was tempted to rev up the ancient IBM Selectric I wrote “12:01 PM” on but decided not to do that  — I was amazed that I was able to slip right back into the writing mode of the first story.
 
- What kind of research, if any, did you have to do for the story?
 
I’m an old New York hand, and even though I’ve lived in California for more than 40 years, I had no problem with getting my head back into the Manhattan of that era. I’m convinced that “You can take the New Yorker out of New York but you can’t take New York out of the New Yorker.” “12:02 PM” takes place on Vanderbilt Avenue, in the Public Library, in the Chrysler Building, and in Bryant Park. I had no problem revisiting all of these locales, “seeing” a copy of the old Daily Mirror, or “eating” in various midtown restaurants.
 
- What are you working on now?
 
My latest mixed-genre collection, Dreams, should be out from Mythos Books very shortly. And a police procedural novel, Rookie Blues, is in production at Dark Sun Press, a new publisher in Virginia. I’ve promised a Lovecraftian novel, Beneath the Karst, to Perilous Press. I hope to write that book later this year. And I’ve been
Editorial Director at Surinam Turtle Press, an imprint of Ramble House, for several years. I’ve been having a great time there. Always wanted to be a publisher, and finally made it. I do wish I had a bigger budget to work with — or any budget! — but I have marvelous support from my boss, Fender Tucker, and our chief designer and art director, Gavin O’Keefe.
 
- Anything else you’d like to add?
 
The first story I ever submitted to a professional magazine, I sent to F&SF in 1951. Anthony Boucher rejected it. He was right to do so, it was strictly amateur stuff. But Tony offered such encouragement that I kept on trying and finally got into this great magazine. I’m proud any time I appear in its pages, and hope to continue doing so for many years to come.

* “12:02 P.M.” appears in the Jan./Feb. 2011 issue of F&SF.

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