Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Trailer Parks and Superspies - An Interview with David Barbee

Today's guest is David Barbee, author of Carnageland, A Town Called Suckhole, and Thunderpussy.

How did you get involved in the Bizarro movement? 
I was self-publishing when the call came out for the first New Bizarro Author Series, a tryout for Eraserhead Press to find writers who wanted to specialize in bizarro. I already wanted to specialize in bizarro, and I wanted to work with Eraserhead just as badly. So I left my self-publishing endeavors behind to start fresh with them. My NBAS book, Carnageland, did pretty well and thus I was indoctrinated into the scene. The author world can be volatile and scary, but the bizarro crew is a really tight-knit family. They are friendly and ambitious in all the right ways.

What was the inspiration for A Town Called Suckhole? 
I've always loved cyberpunk, and I've wanted to write a sci-fi cop story like Blade Runner since I was a little kid. I had such a story in my head for years until I realized that the idea would be cooler and more unique with a big conceptual twist. So I started reworking the idea to be both a cyber-detective story while also twisting it into a Southern noir. Those two elements came together really well, and created a world that's extremely weird and deceptively simple. The title, A Town Called Suckhole, came to me while driving home from work one night. It was one of the easiest books for me to write, because the voices and references on display can usually be found right outside my front door.

Who is your favorite redneck comedian? 
Redd Foxx, who isn't a redneck at all. But he was way funnier than Jeff Foxworthy or any of his ilk could hope to be. The redneck comedy boom was strange. People who enjoy it are free to do so, that's fine. But since I grew up around this stuff, to me it always comes off as jingoistic. And not even in a subversive way. It's these millionaires cracking jokes to (mostly) ignorant rednecks about a lifestyle that, in the twenty-first century, is a total fucking sham. So yeah, Redd Foxx.

What is your favorite Southern dish and have you ever eaten road kill? 
I haven't had the pleasure of eating roadkill yet. I hear that possum is the worst tasting meat known to man, though. On southern cuisine I actually eat, I'll just say that the soul food my wife cooks is delicious as hell. She can make a country meal that tastes wonderful and isn't trying to actively murder you with cholesterol.

What was the inspiration for Thunderpussy? 
Absolutely none, which feels like I'm saying the book is uninspired (it isn't). I just mean that I had no plan to write a spy novel. I was pitching a ton of things to Carlton Mellick III, and one of them was called "Quantum Crashers of Thunderpussy." He didn't like the pitch, but said that Thunderpussy would make a good title for a bizarro spy book. I've found that that's how a lot of creative endeavors start. Someone says something as a joke, and then boom, it's real.

What is your favorite spy movie? 
I wrote Thunderpussy as one of those jet-setting action stories full of high stakes, but the spy movies I enjoy best are the more realistic ones, like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." I love nothing more than to watch a movie with a ton of British actors basically talking to one another the whole time.

Do A Town Called Suckhole and Thunderpussy occur at different points of the same timeline?
That's a damned good question. I'd say it's possible. Thunderpussy takes place in a strange future with settings all over the world. Suckhole is set much further along in time and in a singular place. The townsfolk of Suckhole have their own ideas of history, but those ideas are ill-informed and mostly wrong. Thunderpussy exists somewhere between that future apocalypse and the weird Civil War that Suckhole remembers. So it's possible, but just barely. If I think too hard on it, I'll probably become obsessed with all of my stories existing in the same shared world... which would drive me insane with the quickness.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer? 
Not really. When I was a boy, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then I realized that I wasn't as good at drawing as I thought, so then I wanted to be a comic book writer. That evolved into just being a writer of prose, which I could do on my own. It seems to be panning out okay. I've always wanted to be creative, but there wasn't just one thing that made it so.

Who would you say your influences are? 
A lot of things. My earliest influences were movies and comic books. I'm one of those 80's kids that grew up on Star Wars, Thundercats, and X-Men. Even video games influence me, at least the ones from back when I used to play. I make an effort to draw inspiration from as many things as possible, because that's what make the imagination fertile. I read as many other books as I can, too. That's the cornerstone for any author, and I believe you have to seek variety there as well. I read hardcore horror books, scifi/fantasy, bizarro, and try to sprinkle some true literary novels in there as well.

What's your favorite book? 
This answer would probably change depending on when you ask me, but for right now, I'll stick with "Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman. I got a copy of it at an old book sale last year and it was one of my absolute favorite stories as a child. Children's literature operates with a sense of simplicity while also talking about serious things, which is what I try to do with my own writing.

Who's your favorite author? 
Once again, there are a lot of right answers to this, but today I'll say Alan Moore. It doesn't matter what medium you're working in, you can make room for big ideas. Whether it's superheroes, horror, or even pornography, Alan Moore's stories always work for me because he's using big ideas to tell them, bigger ideas than anyone else would even dare to use.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months? 
I just finished "All Monster Action!" by Cody Goodfellow. It's a Grindhouse-like collection of stories leading up to a "feature attraction" novella, and it's just brilliant. Cody's a madman who takes already-insane concepts and pushes further than you or I would think to. And doing that, making it work seamlessly in a story or stories, takes a mixture of brains and balls that only he has. If anyone enjoys ridiculous sci-fi, high concept horror, or just big monsters smashing one another, then they should definitely read this book. It's a bizarro masterpiece.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers? --The author's life is that of a lone samurai dependent on his sword. Only your sword is a word processor, yet you still might get your head chopped off. Treat it as work. Hard yet honorable work. And don't expect fame, riches, or groupies belonging to your preferred gender. If you're meant to be a writer, then none of this will bother you.

What's next for David Barbee? 
I just turned in a novella for my entry into the Bizarro Starter Kit. I'm hoping that it will also be collected with two other novellas that I'm working on, and they can be released together sometime. I'm also working on a story called "Shotgun Sodapop" for the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, and I'm promoting the hell out of Thunderpussy. Whosoever is reading this interview, I implore you to buy my book. Reading is fundamental, but reading Thunderpussy is just plain fun.

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