No buts. Is this some kind of affirmative action female predator alien girl-power bs?
Why? Does that make you uncomfortable?
Are you kidding? It’s the stuff man-dreams are made of, right? Fembots and fifty foot women. An alien with a brazilian and a heart of gold. Is your space chick hot?
I thought I’d agreed to be interviewed, not insulted.
So explain yourself.
American Monster is the story of a giant evil star called Mommy. Mommy mourns the death of a beautiful winged being that shipwrecked on its surface, and to ward off its own destruction, sends an embodied piece of software down to earth to find this missing alien, supposedly its key to immortality. Two problems arise. One, Mommy confuses the alien horn with the human male member and two, the embodied software in the guise of a woman called Norma becomes infected with its own assumed humanity. A rift opens up between creator and created and at the same time Norma forges connections on earth that get to the real essence of what it is to be human, to love and to desire and to fear. To be lonely, and to battle disease and despair and to find hope in friendship and the kindness of strangers.
Is the embodied software hot?
Seriously? I deliberately tried to avoid the hot alien chick trope. In fact she’s kind of strange looking. The two sides of her face don’t match. One character describes her appearance as if Picasso and James Joyce had a lovechild. She has a lot of sex though—the nature of the mission demands it—so I suppose that’s kind of hot.
Like she has sex with a drag queen called Bunny who thinks he’s Wonder Woman.
Wonder Whoa-Man, actually. And with a bouncer called Jesus.
Who gives Mommy the brown-eye: ‘This winking eye of Jesus mooning Mommy through the rain.’ That was cool.
Thanks. Mommy doesn’t count on Norma falling in love though, or of anyone falling in love with her. But a big baggy guy called Gene does. He falls for her hard. Love as this irrational compulsion. And Norma also forges other relationships, one with a fourteen year old street kid called Raye—
Whose dad thinks he’s Michael Jackson. That’s wiggy.
—and with California itself. I’m from California and I don’t live there any more. So the novel which takes place in a dystopic SoCal is a kind love letter to home, and a kind of plea that it, and the entire nation, will not pass on but will survive this political and environmental moment and learn from its mistakes.
Is that what you mean by the Pass It On thing?
Kind of. That refrain that weaves through the novel is a play on the idea of death as passing on—to what? And what we pass on to future generations, or radically refuse. And the idea of passing as someone else. All that. But also language as contagion—to pass it on—and how meaning gets lost and found along the way. The Michael Jackson character plays this archaic game of Telephone, where you whisper something along a human chain that gets distorted and whatever. But this nostalgia for the past is caught up in a fictional urgent future that involves a conspiracy between Michael Jackson’s descendants—
—and a really weird demon guy called Guy.
Right, he’s the fall-out from this dangerous game, a kind of toxic, demonic forked-tongued daemon who exists only because of language and solely to corrupt it.
And he doesn’t have a dick. Or does he?
There’s lots of crazy dialogue. Except you don’t have quotation marks. And then there’s this animal thing.
Right. Animals are important in all my work. My stories and novels and my poems. They talk and they act and they evolve. They’re characters like everyone else. My first novel involved a friendship between a mute boy, a horny bull terrier and a dead DJ.
I’d like to see that published.
So would I! The novel I’m working on now features a Gila Monster called Vernon who discovers a fatal love for pizza. In American Monster, Gene’s relationship with his wolf-dog, Gloria, an ode to Patti Smith incidentally, is key to his character and hers.
What took you so long?
What took you so long to write a book?
You’re insulting me again. But I’ll try and be the better person. Like some parents and unlike others, I couldn’t figure out a way to meet the demands of both fiction and young parenthood simultaneously. But now, after that hiatus, much of what I was doing during those surprisingly complicated years has worked its way into my fiction. I just met a wonderful writer at AWP in Seattle who said to me over coffee, ‘So you were writing all along. You just didn’t know it.’ I could have reached across the table and hugged her right then and there, in spite of my hangover. Joyous and challenging as parenting is, one sometimes despairs as the years go by and the novels don’t get completed. But rest assured they will. You are writing all along. I was. I am.