Dennis Cozzalio isn't the only esteemed blogger to have been interviewed recently. I, too, sat down not long ago with a journalist to tell my story -- and it's about damn time, but never mind -- of maturity and art and creation and wisdom. I was more than happy to do this, but the interviewer doesn't have a website, or a magazine, or a newsletter, and said that he just wanted to do this for the "hell of it". I said, okay, then can I put the interview up on my blog? As it's been three months and I haven't heard back, I'm going to take that as a "yes". So enjoy!
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How did you get started writing? How did you begin?
How did I begin…what an interesting question. Well, I’ll tell you how I began: I picked up a pen. And I put that pen to paper.
Why not? [Laughs] No, I’m only joking. I did it because of a mixture of things. Anger. Anger at the world and its governments. Also love for people. And also because some dreams deserve to be shared, and I believed that I dreamed such dreams. For instance, my first short story was about a robot who learned how to cry. When that image came to me, of a big metal robot with lightbulb eyes, and a, like a grate for a mouth, and from one of those lightbulb eyes there fell a single tear…well, what could I do? Keep it to myself? That would have been a criminal act.
A crime against art?
No, a literal crime. This would have been a legal issue, I believe. There is a law in the books against withholding beauty from mankind. I think that’s in there somewhere, but I’ll admit I haven’t studied law in ages! [Laughs]
Still, who would know? How could you have been caught?
I would have turned myself in.
I see. So did you ever publish that story? I confess that I’m not familiar with it. What was it called, by the way?
It was called O, And Daylight Does Break on This Metal Man, which is a line from a poem I’d written just a few hours previously. No, I never did publish it, but not from a lack of trying. I sent it off to Ploughshares and The New Yorker, and I never heard a thing. Also, at the time, I was convinced there was a short fiction magazine called Dragynfyre, and I sent it off to them, as well, but it turns out they didn’t exist. Maybe that was a band. Was that a band?
I don’t know.
Well, anyway. So the story didn’t get published, but do you know what I did?
Moving on from your early years, I just wanted to ask you: over the past decade or so, your work has tackled a number of sensitive, topical issues, such as racism, modern imperialism, government misdeeds, war and poverty. Why do you stress the political in your work so strongly?
Because if not me, who? No one is talking about these issues. When I get on the internet every morning, do you know what sites I’m looking at? Youtube! Or celebrity gossip sites! Trash, in other words! Where’s the good, hard news, the investigative reporting? Where are the liberal bloggers trying to pull down the curtains to reveal that Oz is just another flying monkey? They simply don’t exist. So I had to step in, because as somebody once said, “Art is a cudgel.” And I am that cudgel.
You once said – not in an interview, but actually in a PS at the end of one of your stories – that your job as an artist is to ask questions. What did you mean by that?
Let me answer your question this way: as an artist, I wear many hats. I am a monologuist, and I am a horrorist, and, at my most political, I am an ambiguist. Because the important thing is not to answer questions, but to ask them. Especially if the question has never been asked before, which none of mine have been. Answering questions is easy, asking them is hard. Once a question is asked, you have something to answer. If the question has never been asked, what do you have? A black void of ignorance.
So if answering the questions is easy, do you have answers to the questions you’ve asked in your work?
What are you working on now?
Well, I have several more monologues in the works. One is about an old minority man who is upset about health care. It’s called Poor Man, Heal Thyself. Then I have a new horror novel that I’m putting the finishing touches on, and I think this one is going to be particularly interesting. Imagine, if you’re able, a town out in the Midwest somewhere, that is being overrun by old demons from the past, and the reason there are demons is because of something the town elders once did, some black secret which has since been covered up by all the adults over the years. And guess who alone has the power to defeat these demons? Go on, guess.
I don’t know.
How is it that children are powerful enough to defeat these demons?
Because of innocence.
I see. Does the novel have a title?
Yes, it’s going to be called The Deading.