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    Volume 5, Issue 4 November 30, 2010
    Message from the Editors
 Johnny and Babushka by RJ Astruc
 The New Arrival by Miranda Suri
 Kids by Grey Freeman
 Endless Summer by Jude-Marie Green
 Sandcastles by Josh Pearce
 Special Feature: Author Interview with Richard Kadrey
 Column: Spec Fic in Flix by Marty Mapes


Special Feature: Author Interview
with Richard Kadrey

By Betsy Dornbusch

Richard Kadrey is the author of several books, the most recent of which are the SANDMAN SLIM series. It's noir urban fantasy, heavy on the noir, with a violent nephilim as a protagonist. As for the rest, his bio says it better than I ever could:

Richard Kadrey is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He is the author of dozens of stories, plus five novels, including Sandman Slim (buy), Metrophage (buy) and Butcher Bird (buy/download). His Wired magazine cover story, Carbon Copy, was made into one of the worst movies of 2001. It starred Bridget Fonda. Sorry, Bridget.

He has been immortalized as an action figure.

Kadrey created and wrote the Vertigo comics mini-series ACCELERATE, which was illustrated by the Pander Brothers. He plans to do more comic work in the near future.

He has written and spoken about art, culture and technology for Wired, The San Francisco Chronicle, Discovery Online, The Site, SXSW and Wired For Sex on the G4 cable network.

He is also a fetish photographer and digital artist.

Richard has no qualifications for anything he does.

Thanks for talking with Electric Spec, Richard. For those who haven't read the SANDMAN SLIM books, give us the nickel tour on Stark and his world.

James Stark, a magician living in LA, is sent to hell by another magician looking for power. Stark spends the next 11 years in hell, the only living thing that's ever been down there. When his girlfriend, Alice, is murdered he breaks out looking for revenge on the people who killed her and sent him into the inferno.

What or who was the inspiration for Stark? Is he anything like you?

The whole Sandman Slim series was inspired by American crime fiction from the 40s through the 70s. I say crime fiction instead of mysteries because mysteries are generally about good guys, even reluctant good guys, trying to set the world right. Crime fiction is a look into another world as we watch criminals plan and execute their crimes and then deal with the consequences.

One of the primary influences on Sandman Slim were the Parker novels written by Richard Stark. I read them when I was about 18 and their simple language and brutal storytelling made me wonder if I could do anything similar in science fiction or fantasy. I wanted to acknowledge this inspiration, which is why I named my main character Stark.

The stories are set in a richly-described, seedy Los Angeles. Any significance to the setting and your depiction of it? I can think of a half-dozen symbolic implications, but we'd like to hear about it from the author...

LA is a great town to write about. It's dirty and venal and as unglamorous as you can get. It's a working town in exactly the same way that mining towns were back in the old West. The only difference is that the company business in LA is movies, TV and music. It's a tense place because people can sense the success, the wealth and the power that's all around them but that they will never get to experience or attain. It's a city full of the ambitious and the defeated. It's all Donald Trumps and ghosts.

Stark is a definite anti-hero, and yet I find him sliding a bit more to the "good" as his story progresses. Is Stark going to someday find a girl and settle down in a California suburb, or would he prefer to keep stealing cars and bashing monsters for the rest of his life?

Any series like this where there is essentially a monster at the center inevitably becomes about humanizing the monster. The question is always how domesticated will the monster become? Stark won't be going vegetarian or doing Pilates anytime soon.

In BUTCHER BIRD and the SANDMAN SLIM books, you employ the Christian mythos. Lucifer and Hell figures prominently in both story-lines, and Stark is Nephilim, half-angel/half-human. What interests you about the Christian mythos, especially its darker side?

I was raised in the Protestant church, but left it when I was a teenager. I got interested in Christianity and the history of the church again during George W. Bush's administration. I saw all these fundamentalists take over the country, but I didn't know who they were or what they believed. I decided to go back as early as I could into the history of Christianity to figure out where they came from. Of course, once you start reading about the church you run into all the contradictions, lies and the power plays that are involved in creating any worldwide movement.

There's a lot of magical and non-Christian religious material in the series, too. You can find various magic systems, bits of Gnosticism and the Kaballah and even some Buddhism. I didn't want to write completely about one religion's beliefs or myths. I wanted to work with the idea that all the religions had a piece of the puzzle, but none had all the answers. Of course, you don't need to know any of this to read books. Whatever little pet theories I have working in the background, the books are still primarily about people punching each other, stealing cars and doing inappropriate magic.

Your style seems spare on narrative, especially internal, relying more on razor sharp dialogue and whip-crack action to show character. One of the things I've noticed, even in your short fiction, is a distinct lack of tags. How do you structure your dialogue to show character and allow readers to keep who is speaking straight in our heads?

The more I write, the more I want to strip down my writing. I want as little between the page and the readers brains as possible. I try to write scenes in which the dialogue between any two characters is something that readers can parse without a lot of he said, she said and name dropping. Sometimes I go too far, I know. This is where having a good editor comes in. Diana Gill at Eos has helped me shape the books and my style.

You've written a lot of nonfiction, articles and books, and dozens of short stories, many of which are linked on your website. Are you still writing short fiction? Pretending we were in a world with no economic restraints, do you prefer to write novels or short stories and why?

I write short fiction when I can. I wrote a story for Ellen Datlow's urban noir anthology recently, but I was very late and the book was already closed by the time I got it to her. I ended up serializing the story on my blog. The title is Suspect Zero and you can still find it there.

You're a photographer as well. I find many of your images intriguing and slip-stream in flavor. How does this creative art form enhance your writing?

Pictures are the cure for words and words are the cure for pictures. When I finish a book my brain is so full of words that I need a break from texts. That's when I do a lot of photography. At a certain point my head will get too full of pictures and I'll want to go back to words. Photography and writing are a good combination for me. They balance each other nicely.

What are you working on lately, writing-wise? I'm working on rewrites of Sandman Slim three, Aloha From Hell. I'm also working on an original screenplay. There's some vague interest in LA, but everything in LA's vague and nothing is worth a damn until the check clears.

Thanks, Richard! You can find out more about Richard and his books at http://www.richardkadrey.com/.

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