Saturday, March 12, 2016

We Were Heroes Interview: Gary Budgen

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" is now available, and to help promote that  release we're running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Gary Budgen, who contributed "Exile." Thank you for being here.

Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

GARY BUDGEN:  I grew up and live in London, UK, where I have spent most of my life except for a couple of stints away at universities in Norwich and Staffordshire. I live with my partner and daughter in north-east London but originally come from the other side of the river in south-east London; that has no significance to anyone except people who live in London. The best expression of this is on the first page of Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children. I’ve been writing fiction for years and have a fair amount of short fiction published. I like writing science-fiction, slipstream, horror and fantasy. A few years ago I took a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Middlesex University.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

GB:  I remember being under five and going to school. On the first day I wrote a story about a robot. I asked if I could write another story, it didn’t seem like work to me. It never has. At primary school I wrote stories, plays, comics; people seemed to like them so I realized it was something I could do. As life has gone on I’ve realized that it is something I couldn’t NOT do. I need to do it to make sense of the world. My favorite type of story to write is one where as I’m writing it I begin to get a feeling that it means something much more than when I started, that perhaps, in there, there was something I’ve been trying to say for a while. The story itself could be in any genre but I do have a love of slipstream or at least genre fiction which is in some way aware of its own devices. Good fantastic fiction to me is always, in some sense, also about the nature of the fantastic.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

GB:  Well, without doubt, Allen Ashley, prolific short story writer and editor. His ‘Once and Future Cities’ is an exemplar of a certain type of slipstream fiction that I love. I’ve got to know Allen over the last few years in Clockhouse London Writers and he has been very supportive of my work. However it feels slightly dodgy picking someone I know, so I hope you don’t mind if I cheat and mention another writer: Barrington J. Bayley whose short story collections ‘The Knights of the Limits’ and ‘The Seed of Evil’ were something that made me reconsider what science-fiction could be about.

MTI:  Your story, The Exile appears in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contribution to this collection.

GB:  First of all it’s a great theme for an anthology. I love the idea of what happens to superheroes after the adventures have ended, or they think they are. The places in the story are real. The Isle of Sheppey is an hour’s drive from London, but is a world in itself. I spent a lot of time there as a kid on holiday. The Church of St Thomas is so isolated it could be at the end of the world so I’ve always found it magical. The other side of the island is where the holidaymakers go. It was thriving up until the ‘80s but has declined as people have gone on cheap holidays to Spain, Greece etc. It is fairly run down now although I still like visiting. Somewhere in my head I always feared I might end up retiring there to some shack, a lonely old man who spent his days writing and evenings in the pub. I put that situation at the heart of the story. But this old man is someone who was once extraordinary. And there will always be one last adventure.

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

GB:  That’s hard to narrow down. Does Man-Thing count? I love Steve Gerber’s stuff from the seventies. And I love superheroes. I was an avid collector of American comic-books when I was a kid and lots of the characters have a real place in my heart.  

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

GB:  To be able to breathe underwater, then set off to explore the oceans.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

GB:  I’ve been trying to work on a novel while at the same time keeping up writing short fiction.

MTI:  Other than Exile appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

GB:  There are a fair few stories coming out in various anthologies. I list them on my website: What I’m most excited about is that Horrified Press are bringing out a collection of stories of mine. Hopefully this will be published in early 2016.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

GB:  I’ve watched a lot of Doctor Who with my daughter lately. Enjoyed the first series of True Detective. Utopia was great too. River, a UK detective series, was also very good.

MTI:  How about music?

GB:  Music has always been important to me. Ska, reggae, soul-music, jazz, garage-rock.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

GB:  Melody (1971), Quintet (1979), Dark City (1998)

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?  (If you'd like to share a few paragraphs or a page of writing, this could be a good place for it.)

GB:  This is from the opening story of my forthcoming collection. The story was originally published in M-Brane Science Fiction.

Salt Cellar
Because you love me you are going to have to kill me and eat me. You mustn’t be sorry. I would not have you being sorry. I would not have it any other way. 
            This morning I watched Neptune rising, blue, flecked with ice geysers, like the pupil in the eye of a god with a stigma. It had seemed magnificent once. I waited before I turned, knowing that once I did, once I saw you, the glory before me would shrink to insignificance. I had come to Triton for the awe of the outer planets, and found instead the intimacy of your embrace.
            So I turn and look. You are atop the hillside that I think of as our place. The great dome of your carapace fills the short horizon. Your shell is the blackest void, sucking in light, pulling the stars to it. Then you touch me with your mind as you have done every day since we found each other. Sometimes you have granted me visions of your home world, light years away, the liquid metal oceans and cities that rise up in crystalline knots. But today it will be past lovers. It will be a lesson.
            Your courtship is majestic, a work of art. When the final moment comes your mates give up their psyche to you and you both rise through the ice beauties of n-dimensional mathematics. There is a moment of communion. Their philosophies, theories, memories and pleasures will be passed onto your children. And when you are seeded you feel the urge don’t you? If you were to deny it you would die. It’s all right. I understand. It is an itch that can only be scratched in one way because however godlike you are your children need physical as well as spiritual nourishment. So in ecstatic misery you consume the bodies of your lovers.
And I am sitting in a café in the East End of London near my studio and Stephen is telling me that he is leaving.
            “Your work,” he says.
            His eyes are puffy where he has been crying or drinking too much or both. He tells me he can’t compete, that he always feels second best. Even as I try to reassure him that it isn’t so, part of my mind is focused on the oddly shaped salt-cellar that when he has left I will steal and use of part of my sculpture.
            You love this about me don’t you? It is something you could never get from one of your own. The little details of a human life are seasoning on the vaster dish that is your higher understanding. When I remember Earth, my old life, it fills you with pleasure. A rush of psychic feedback floods back into me. I run up our hill, towards you and you hold me in the great girders of your mandibles. I look into your jaws and the infinite depths beyond.  Will it be now? I want it to be now.

MTI:  A tantalizing sample!  Those who'd like to check out Gary's latest short story release can pick up a copy of We Were Heroes!

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