Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Author Speaks: Eric Mays on Naked Metamorphosis, Marley and Islamofascism

I'm proud to be a part of Eric Mays' The Authors Speak Series. This series has more big names in it than a phonebook for old people. Eric Mays has done a lot for Bizarro fiction and literacy at large and has made a bold contribution to the Bizarro canon with his book, Naked Metamorphosis. Naked Metamorphosis is an absurdist vision of Hamlet, one subverted and perverted by a foreign hand that does not belong to the Bard of Avon. A couple weeks ago, via Facebook chat, I interviewed Eric Mays so that people can see more of what he's all about.

Nice to have you here, Eric. Thanks for agreeing to this.

Thank you for taking the time. You've got bigger contracts than I. I'm flattered to be here.

Well, thanks. I'd like to take a minuite and talk to you a bit about Naked Metamorphosis. Well, more than a minute of course.


To those of who that don't know, Naked Metamorphosis is Eric's first book. It was released back in September from Eraserhead Press and it's kind of a Stoppardian and Kafkaesque riff on Hamlet.
The first question that comes to my mind is why Shakespeare?
Why not a more popular author like Bradley Sands or Josh Grogan?

Why not? First and foremost, Shakespeare is public domain so I don't have to worry about him showing up at the front door with a burrito to bludgeon me with (something I think Bradley Sands is known for).
But the stories the Bard wrote are some of the best literary molds out there - you deal with themes galore (I really do the think Shakes covered 'em all). It's the perfect thing to mold to your own will. He created a lot of storytelling lines and structure. I'm just coloring outside that.

Do you think the sparseness of Shakespeare, with its lack of stage directions and deepseated ambiguities lends itself to absurdism then?

I do. I'd like to think that Shakespeare was a wee bit absurdist (think of more of the fairies, and the witches, and there's always a bloody ghost). But, Shakespeare can be interpreted so many different ways - if you don't believe me, check out "Star Trek 6". I think I always knew Shakespeare was meant to be toyed with. The stories are, at the heart, fairly bland. It was when I heard Chris Plummer recite Shakespeare in Klingon that I knew, yeah...Shakes would have dug the hell out of this.

Also, look at Forbidden Planet.

Oooh, absolutely! I've consistently talked that one. Trouble is, Shakespearean scholars and "fans" hate reinterpretations. They hate thinking outside that box. I argued the Forbidden Planet with someone and got so infuriated at the unintelligence to see it that I nearly punched someone. It was a girl, though, and I don't hit girls.

That blows me away that that occurs so much because it's not like remaking a beloved 80s slasher flick. Shakespeare's work is over four hundred years old. It's elemental.
It's sort of one of the primal elements of today's literature.

Like I said, it's so mundane (in some respects) but establishes the foundations that people have employed for years. I really do think the Bard was leaving us a literary Etch-A-Sketch

He didn't even write stage directions for the most part.

Everything was open to interpretation.
I like to think he wanted us to cultivate our thoughts. Unfortunately in many circles, the opposite occurs.

With Shakespeare's own tendency to appropriate and reinterpret stories do you think he'd feel like a hypocrite to be the center of that kind of dogma?

I'd like to think the answer to that is "no", since it was not intentional. However, I'm sure the people arguing Shakespeare's work these days, don't have a clue. In my mind, Shakes just bitch slaps them and moves on.

Good answer. Instead of Hamlet, you've chosen Horatio as your central figure. Why Horatio?

Because Horatio was the most neutral. You've got the royals who are all drama queens, the actors who are drama queens (but for different reasons), the guards and palace officials who are all playing one side or the other, and nobody really right in the middle. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are almost there (after all Horatio, Hamlet and R&G were all buddies at school). But then they show their allegiances in the end.
Since the same thing happened in Norway (with Fortinbras doing the Hamlet routine), I'd like to think there's a Norwegian equivalent of Horatio.

Was it hard recreating Horatio as the hero of the story?

Not at all. I'm the hapless one trapped around everyone's crazy...which, by default becomes my crazy. I've always been relatively neutral in a chaotic world. I like to form my own opinion on things, which is why Horatio appeals to me. Shakespeare has one neutral voice in every work; it's fascinating. I understand it. Can you imagine what it would be like to hear Othello or Macbeth or Hamlet go on and on and on and on and on. I just subbed in that and went with it. The result was, by default, making Horatio a Shakepearean character (and a Kafka one too).

What would you say, beyond being a voice of reason, are the qualities an absurd hero should have?

Is the hero really the voice of reason? I mean, the sane one in a crazy world is the crazy, right? See, that's the beauty of it. Shakespeare's characters all rely on choice to influence the end. Kafka says you're damned fuck it. Anyone can be a "hero" in an absurdist world. Look at the people who still tout George W. as one.

So, this question is going to sound a bit crass, but here we go: why should somebody buy Naked Metamorphosis?

Most people shouldn't.
If you've got the ability to think and want your mind blown into the realm of possibility...then yeah, purchase that thing.
Otherwise steer clear.
We're all characters in someone else's world. I think people need a little warning (and I try to play that little scenario out).
Plus, I've got a few kids to feed. Lots of college debt (thanks, Uncle Sam), and would like to keep writing.
But ultimately, it's a damn good read.

I agree. I'd say if you've got a brain in your head and you like to laugh at anything smarter than Two and a Half Men, buy it.
What made you want to submit to the Eraserhead New Bizarro Author Series?

Why the fuck is that show the #1 comedy on tv?

I have no idea. I worry for everyone.

Actually, I submitted a query to EHP for something completely different. About three months later, I received an email from Rose O'Keefe asking me to pitch something to Kevin Donihe. At that point I wasn't uber-familiar with the "bizarro" movement. I knew Chris Genoa and knew of CM3's books, etc. But it was still a shot in the dark. I submitted an idea to Kevin (this one) and he was leery. He wasn't keen on it at all. Told me so, in fact. I submitted the novella in three weeks and the rest, as they say, is that.

How was it working with Kevin?

One of the best experiences of my life. He's an amazing editor, but has a good eye for talent and stories. Mine wasn't that bizarro and still, he saw something there. Plus his credo of "one mistake is too many", is pretty amazing in today's publishing world.

When I read Naked Metamorphosis, I was pretty surprised by his choice.
I thought it was a good direction to go in and an interesting but calculated risk.

Likewise. I tried to add more bizarro elements to the story, but just couldn't. I liked it the way it was. So, yeah, it was good. But, there is some pretty gonzo stuff cookin' there.

There really is.
Batman vs. Captain America. Who wins?

Ugh! Batman. Batman's a bit of an asshole, deep down. Plus, America's already been killed. So, Batman knows his weaknesses.
Also, in "IronMan2", Stark uses a Capt. America shield to hold up a laser. C'mon? You're going to give up your gadgetry that easy?

You don't see Superman scratching his balls with a batarang.

it's very true. Batman keeps it in check.

You recently made some comments about Marley and Me. Negative comments. Are you a doghating Islamofascist?

Um, no to the doghating. But, yes, to the Islamofascist. I just always wanted to end up on "The Watch List". Surely this'll do it.

You could just become a sex offender. That's a lot easier.

Actually, I do think it's a genre that needs to die, like Marley (oh, I'm sorry, I didn't say "Spoiler Alert").
It is easier to be a sex offender, but makes picnics awkward

This is not a spoiler free zone. Bruce Willis is dead in the Sixth Sense.
In the Happening, it's the trees.

I really should finish an M. Night Shymalan film

Yeah. Better you than him.

or not.

Though The Happening, which is the one everyone hates, isn't bad in spite of Marky Mark's presence.
One last question: you do an interview series called The Authors Speak. What's the most surprising thing you've ever heard from an author you've interviewed?

It's really not a bad film. I actually like the concept. Brian Keene toyed with it.
Wow. Well, I think it's been the Anne Rice thing, thus. She completely does not acknowledge the past vampire novels. At all. She's uber-Christian and knows that there's a lucrative pathway there.
Also, that Jordan Krall had visions of underwear. That David Barbee was capable of understanding Stephen Hawking. And, that Kevin Shamel wants Bob Goldwaite to narrate his documentary.

All incredibly surprising. But not as surprising as your hatred of Marley. Thank you, Eric Mays.

thank you! Sincerely!

For those of you that missed it, Naked Metamorphosis is available on Amazon HERE

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