[scarabic] Tonight we are interviewing Edward Bryant. Ed began writing professionally in 1968 and pelted us with over a dozen books including Among the Dead (1973), Cinnabar (1976), Phoenix Without Ashes (with Harlan Ellison, 1975), Wyoming Sun (1980), Particle Theory (1981), Fetish (1991), and Flirting With Death (recently re- issued). Both his short stories and his commentary have been everywhere and he's also been a regular columnist for Locus, Cemetery Dance, etc. Plus, bless him, he's even suffered through needing to hold my hand and give me snot rags behind podiums in the past. ;)
(SNIP through entrance, South Park, and Trey Barker vs Trey Parker.)
[scarabic] You used to mainly write fiction, now you seem to mainly write non-fiction -- which is often commentary as or about fiction. I was wondering what the switch is like for you: with perspectives, with how it changes who you are in the writing world. Yadda yadda. What it effects and how.
[EdBryant] Okay, a formal answer. First, I haven't exactly given up writing fiction. This year I've gotten back to writing fiction with a vengeance -- but it'll take a while for it to see print. But what I also see is that when my nonfiction (as in, mainly, book reviews) sometimes appear in high profile, readers' memories are damned brief. Suddenly a buncha folks think I'm only a reviewer, or a critic as a primary role. Go figure. Then to confuse things a lot of my nonfiction is deliberately structured to resemble fiction, or at least story-telling. I like my reviews, for example, to be entertaining as well as informative. That also muddies the waters.
[scarabic] Does writing primarily non-fiction for too long get claustrophobic for you?
[EdBryant] For sure. I tend to bore easily. Writing too much of anything gets to me. That's probably why I've written so few novels. I guess part of why I love writing stories is because I have a lot quicker cycling through one set of characters and a world-view, and moving on to another. Which doesn't mean I won't write another novel. It'll happen. That attention span deficit I mention with some readers. It works for subject matter too, people who knew me for a dozen years as an SF writer abruptly figured I'd died or something when I started writing predominantly horror.
[scarabic] What do think are some of the predominant pitfalls in genre writing these days? (And reading, for that matter.)
[EdBryant] I think the big pitfall is losing sight of what your professional and personal goals really are. In genre, it's really easy to forget ambition and the old drive to write something highly energized and new, that'll push the frontiers back. So much easier to try to work with safe, predictable formula to give editors the pap so many feel is all the readers want to read. In this world, there's room for both. Popcorn and steak. Good 'n' Fruities and trout. Tofu and marshmallow sundaes. I think you're seeing the pattern. Or another way to put it, it's a hell of a lot easier to say the same thing over and over, instead of expanding your interests.
[scarabic] Do you think there's much of a chance that these patterns will change (significantly) any time soon?
[EdBryant] When I was in NYC a week ago, editors first talked about how they can usually forecast the earnings of any predictable new book; then they bitched and moaned about no one giving them any exciting, adventurous, ground-breaking new work. Rank hypocrisy. Will things change?
[scarabic] Not likely, but maybe there's a hope. Or at least a hope that diversity will gang up and force its way out there. =)
[EdBryant] Yep. For sure, specialty presses are helping with that. And slowly but surely, the Internet will aid as well. The Internet's first great use is to help publicize, distribute and sell new specialty press, narrow-cast work; second on-line publishing will finally take off. On the Internet, diversity is cheap. But you take your chances with quality and talent. Anyone can be a writer/publisher electronically.
[scarabic] And there's a little of everything, if you can find it. That's a problem, though. Same as needing to discover the mail-order world to get diverse press right now for the most part. You might not wind up surfing your way toward diversity on the net...
[EdBryant] Too many choices can sometimes paralyze. It'll be an acquired skill.
[MrFrosty] Ed, what drives you personally as a writer of genre fiction?
[EdBryant] Truth be told, genre or not genre, it doesn't matter. What drives me is that there are stories I want to tell, images I want to communicate, weirdness I feel compelled to plumb ultimately in public. Believe me, it ain't the money. Like a lot of other writers, I'm more introverted than anything else. Writing is my chance to be simultaneously coy and exhibitionistic. Ultimately I'm pretty close up to most of what I write. It varies from story to story, but every one borrows from me and everyone around me at one time or another. I could call it a twisted, sometimes distanced, sometimes distorted, extreme close up, long-term, autobiography.
[scarabic] How much do you find yourself reflecting in your fiction?
[EdBryant] Hmm. Reflecting or reflected? Or both?
[EdBryant] Most of my life I've divulged a lot more of myself in my fiction than in everyday conversation, even with good friends, or even in relationships. It's only been in the last 3 years or so that I've started revealing Real Stuff in Real Life to people around me. Perhaps paradoxically a lot of my newer stories have zeroed in on more close-to-the-bone issues. Maybe it's just my time of life. Maybe it's just a phrase. I don't know. But I hope I continue.
(SNIP through fears of sex and pain, and the rumoured wellbeing critter.)
[scarabic] What do you think would happen if your average con attendee were to wander into Death Equinox?
[EdBryant] Well... a fair amount of DE is not unlike other conventions. But then there are events of complete legend. For example, the con's leader being formally tortured while reading her story about the very nature of torture. There are conventions where most of us would love to see that happen to certain folks. DE had, shall we say, a more diverse program than most similar events connected with horror or SF. Closest thing to certain New York clubs many had experienced. All told the schedule was cool and diverse enough -- the next frontier is getting the appreciative audience in place. Spiders and whips. That is diversity.
[MrFrosty] And don't forget being baptised by John Shirley. :)
[EdBryant] Hey... getting doused by John was far, far, preferable to being drenched with spit at a Black Flag stage.
[scarabic] What events did you like most at the con, Ed? (It's the obligatory questions, for the DE series.)
[EdBryant] Well... for sheer spectacle, the previously mentioned reading. For spectacle of a different sort, the Brian Hodge/drum/sonic driver thing. And the music, John Shirley, Little Fyodor, etc., all that was good. And Gene's critter contribution. All that. I like multi-ring circuses. I liked the balance of writing with performance. Mostly I liked the tendency of DE's brand of weird not often getting stuffy. Kittens with whips can easily be just a stuffy as the worst university academics.
(SNIP though Tribal Rhythmic Entrainment, Jewish mythos writing, movies, and hopes for DE '98.)
[scarabic] What was the experience of co-writing with Harlan Ellison like? (So many stories and sights about him.)
[EdBryant] Well, to segue... Working with Harlan taught me a lot of Yiddishisms (I felt a little like I was living with Harry Golden) and taught me an appreciation for foods I might never otherwise have tried. Truth to tell is that working with Harlan was a really good experience. He told me from the beginning that he trusted my writing so when I used his 72-page teleplay of the pilot for The Starlost as my novel's backbone, I had freedom to expand with new characters and subplots. Tight schedules meant it was a quick book to write (2.5 weeks to write the first line, 2 weeks to write the rest of the novel, .5 week to edit). When it was done, Harlan asked me to change only one halfway major thing (not to allow the heroine to lose her virginity). The latter was so defloration could happen in volume 2; a book that, unfortunately for the heroine, was never written. Actually Harlan can be a tough person with whom to interact or work. He's strong, opinionated, and ego-driven. He's also smart, talented, and has more integrity than most of the rest of us could dream of. He tends to steam-roll over people who acquiesce. He respects those who give him an intelligent opposition.
(SNIP through extroverting and honesty.)
[MrFrosty] So Ed, do you have any last words for our audience?
[EdBryant] Well, gawrsh. Actually I guess the final serious thing I want to say is just to hope that the innate idealism which I see permeate the whole Death Equinox project never gets subverted. And that at the same time, we can all master the practical matters that will enable DE to be a commercial (at least break-even) success. Otherwise... Thanks to all for making this a cool, enjoyable, evening. I know a lot of different people in an equal light. You're among the best. So take that.
[scarabic] And this was a great interview, so quit saying you're boring! So there! ;)
[EdBryant] Okay, okay. I'll let others do that. It's always a psychologically preemptive measure. One-downmanship is a widespread talent in the arts.
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