As Martinus Publishing has some new contributing authors, I'll be conducting interviews to help promote their anthologies/works. Today, I'm interviewing James S. Dorr, an exceptional author who contributed the short story Avoid Seeing a Mouse to "Altered America." Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
JAMES S. DORR: I was born in Florida, grew up in New Jersey, went to school in Massachusetts, and currently live in Indiana, which pretty well covers the area east of the Mississippi. I am a short fiction writer and poet with nearly 400 credits both recognizable and obscure, from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Yellow Bat Review. I also have four collections published, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret from Dark Regions Press; the all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective) from Sam’s Dot/White Cat; and most recently The Tears of Isis from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, of which I may speak a bit more later. I’ve also had some training in art, worked on set design in theatre - these being back in college days - and currently play tenor recorder and lead a Renaissance music group.
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
JSD: I did quite a bit of writing for college publications, along with occasional illustrating and cartooning and, as a graduate, was editor at one point of a campus arts magazine. From there I went into technical writing/editing, but, losing that job during the Reagan Recession of the ‘80s, went into freelancing primarily real estate, consumer, and business topics. However I had been a science fiction fan and had also toyed with amateur fiction so, recession ended, I got a “regular” job and started to put my writing activity primarily into fiction and poetry. By that time I was also more hooked on darker approaches so, while I still do occasional sf (as well as mystery - and lots of crossing genres) most of my writing today falls into horror/dark fantasy
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
JSD: If only one, I would have to say Ray Bradbury who, harking to my answer just before, also bridged both science fiction and horror. But I would also add Edgar Allan Poe as an early influence and, expanding the range a bit, the poet Allen Ginsberg and German playwright Bertolt Brecht in terms of technique as well as subject.
MTI: Your story, Avoid Seeing a Mouse, appears in Altered America, an anthology of alternate histories. The fictional accounts in this collection let us imagine what it would be like if something had happened differently at different points in history. Tell us a little about how your story changes history.
JSD: At midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1999, the Egyptian gods return to Earth - or more specifically Memphis, Tennessee for starters - and not the nicest of their deities either. While we’d thought the worst thing that could happen would be our computers going haywire. Of course, though, it’s more complicated than that, bringing in a one-night-only wrestling exhibition in the Pyramid Arena, “Cat Country” at the Memphis Zoo, a solar eclipse, and a romantic breakup over a mouse that’s been spotted in the Pink Palace Museum.
MTI: If you could go back in time and try to change any one historical event (aside from killing Hitler/stopping WWII-almost everybody tries that), which would you choose?
JSD: I would try to have someone whisper in President Nixon’s ear not to end the Apollo moon landing program but, instead, to let NASA build on it. Perhaps by now we'd have people on Mars.
MTI: Indeed, the space program has not lived up to its potential. Conversely, name a historical event that you would never want to see changed/would go back in time to stop somebody from changing it.
JSD: The Buddha Gautama’s meditation beneath the bodhi tree. No, I’m not a Buddhist, and yes, things that happened hundreds of years before Christ are (to say the least) not well-documented, and individual events may be distorted by many retellings or even made up. But Siddhartha Gautama himself does appear to be historical and, in some way, presumably came up with what became the “Noble Truths” of Buddhism. These principles subsequently spread from the India-Nepal border to cover the world, at the least in proclaiming that there’s such a thing as moderation - and that moderation is okay. From this may come much of the teaching of Jesus (caravans constantly crossed through the Near East) and hence at least the more peaceful parts of Christianity. Also from this comes the possibility that people can compromise rather than fight, something we might do well to remember more often today.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
JSD: These are, indeed, exciting times! I mentioned before that we might come back to my new collection, The Tears of Isis. As it happens it is now an official 2014 Bram Stoker Award® nominee for superior achievement in a Fiction Collection, which even though the competition against it is fierce, could conceivably win. (Hey, moderation doesn’t mean we can’t still have contests - just that we try to be friendly about them!) So much of my time has been involved with the awards, reading other people’s work including in other categories, deciding which works I’ll vote on myself, and now as voting ends making plans to get to World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon where the winners will be announced. And with that, trying to keep a high profile for The Tears of Isis as well as keeping in touch with the publisher for any plans he might have for extra publicity.
MTI: Other than your story appearing in Altered America, do you have any other works being published in the near future?
JSD: And yet life goes on. The biggest news is I have a new story, inspired by a tour I took at last year’s World Horror Convention in New Orleans, speculating about a sort of local historical urban legend which has been accepted by Daily Science Fiction. The story itself is a short horror tale titled “Casket Girls” and, while I don’t have a publication date yet, readers can subscribe to DSF for free at http://dailysciencefiction.com (whereupon one can also search on my name in their archives for two more stories). Then, earlier this month, I’ve just had two zombie stories accepted as reprints by Big Pulp and The Pun Book of Horror, respectively, “Cold, Lifeless Fingers” and “Olé Bubba and the Forty Steves.”
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good television lately?
JSD: Oddly enough, with a season of new horror or horror-related TV shows, I haven’t really watched any of them. I tend more to watch news and documentaries, the latter partly for ideas, then kick back sometimes and watch DVDs later at night. (Two exceptions, though, I do make a point of watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on the Comedy Channel when I can - horror enough in their own ways sometimes.)
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy?
JSD: For listening, jazz (particularly traditional New Orleans style, as well as the “cool” jazz of the 1950s and after); for playing, Renaissance dance music.
MTI: What are three of your favorite movies?
JSD: First, Nosferatu, the original German expressionistic silent with Max Schreck and still the creepiest adaptation of Dracula made (one warning, though - some cheaper DVDs are truncated American versions with about a half hour cut out); second, La Horde, a French film about corrupt police officers having to join forces with gangsters they’d first come to kill when a zombie apocalypse breaks out in Paris, both scary and funny, ultra-violent, and, even though none of the characters are particularly likeable, strangely engaging; and third, Cabin in the Woods, a deconstruction of certain horror movie clichés revealing their mythical underpinnings and how what these hide can be far more frightening.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers? In conclusion, do you happen to have any words of wisdom to share with them?
JSD: Let this be a plug for Altered America too: If you enjoy an author who’s in an anthology, buy the book if you can. Assuming you also enjoy the concept, chances are you’ll like the other stories with it. If so, then tell your friends about it - and lending it to a friend is okay too, but ask them, if they like it, to tell their friends about it as well. Also, if you really enjoy a book, consider writing a review.
Then for readers who might want to know a bit more about me, I have a blog at http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com . All are welcome to stop by and explore around and, should the spirit move them, leave comments.
MTI: Excellent advice! Thank you for the excellent interview, Mr. Dorr. For those who want to check out his story and many other Alternate Histories, pick up a copy of Altered America.