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Interview: David Gerrold on “The Thing on the Shelf”

Tell us a bit about “The Thing on the Shelf.”

“The Thing on the Shelf” is part of a series I call “The Further Adventures of David Gerrold.” These are first person narratives, all starting off from something that actually happened in my life, so the first part of the story is usually true, with occasional embellishments, until the moment it all goes wonky, and then the narrative just stumbles off wherever it wants to go. (Previous examples include “Night Train to Paris,” “The Thing in the Back Yard,” and “Entanglements.”)

The Stoker Award itself is a beautifully designed trophy, it’s a little haunted house. You can sit there marveling at the details for a long time, and pretty soon, your imagination starts fizzing. In my case, I kept wondering what would happen if I could really open the front door and peek inside. Who would live inside this mansion? I still don’t know, they moved out when I got too nosy.

 

Early on in the story you write, “Writing is arrogant.  Writing comes from the assumption you have something to say and it’s worth saying – and worth other people’s attention.  Not just their attention, their time and their money too.”  And at a later point in the story, you (or this fictional you) bemoan your lack of a unique voice or style, unless you have become the “self-deprecating Marcel Proust of Fantasy & Science Fiction.”  Given that “The Thing on the Shelf” appears at least semi-autobiographical, would you say that this story serves as a primer for your thoughts on writing, the science fiction field, and your own writing in particular?  And if not, could you give your opinions on all those?

I think the paragraphs in the story pretty much sum it up.

Writing might be arrogant, but I think it’s a mistake for writers to be arrogant. We’re begging people for their time and their money. The readers aren’t just the audience, they’re our partners in creation. That’s the heart and soul of fandom — partnership. Fans can be an incredible resource for searching out information, ideas, and possibilities of all kinds. Even the most casual remark can unleash a tsunami of wonderful speculation. That’s where some of the best stories come from.

 

How does your general experience of attending genre conventions match up with the World Horror Convention as described in “The Thing on the Shelf”?

It’s hard to compare. Every convention has its own flavor. I like the conventions that are organized and run by fans — not for profit but for the love of the genre. Everyone is there to have fun and the enthusiasm just bubbles over. The Worldcon is the same thing on a grander scale, because it encompasses so many different subgenres. But the Horror Writers’ convention, Stokercon, assumes a narrower focus, so it feels like an elegant gathering at the Addams Family mansion.

 

What are you working on now?  In particular, how is work going on “A Method for Madness,” the 5th book in your Chtorran cycle?

The book is essentially finished — almost. There are two or three chapters I still want to write — then I have to edit it all down to a less manageable mess. It’s the heart and soul of the entire saga, not just because we find out who and what is at the heart of this ecological invasion, but also because we finally get to the heart and soul of Jim McCarthy. I might be biased, but I think it’s some of my best writing yet. It’s also very very different than everything that came before.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s fun to take a break from the longer work. I’ve discovered a new passion for short stories. The exploration of a single self-contained incident can be as powerful as a novel. In the past few years, the short story form seems to have exploded, going so many new places that it’s dazzling.

I open a new issue of the magazine, and I read with my jaw hanging open. I’m left with admiration for what so many other writers are attempting and achieving — and I admit to no small amount of jealousy. It’s like being poked with a pitchfork from behind. “Work harder if you want to keep up.” I think we’re in a new Golden Age of fantasy and science fiction and I’m enjoying it enormously.

 

“The Thing on the Shelf” appears in the July/August 2016 issue of F&SF.

You can purchase a copy of the July/August 2016 issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1607.htm

You can subscribe to F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

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One Response to “Interview: David Gerrold on “The Thing on the Shelf””

  1. REVIEW: JULY/AUGUST MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION (F&SF) - Amazing Stories on August 22nd, 2016

    […] this one, set in “The Further Adventures of David Gerrold”-land, according to the author in this interview. You see, that particular award, designed by Harlan Ellison and artist Steven Kirk, looks like a […]

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