[Editor’s note: this is the first in a new, hopefully-many-more-where-this-came-from series in which authors and other creators “coming to town” for an event answer a few questions for the website. I hope you enjoy! -Sam]
By Richard Dansky:
Five books into his wildly popular and critically acclaimed Sandman Slim series, Richard Kadrey is a significant voice in urban fantasy. Coming to Flyleaf Books on Thursday August 29th in the wake of Kill City Blues, the fifth book in the Sandman Slim cycle, Kadrey also has an unrelated novel, Dead Set, coming out this fall. While this would be more than enough for most writers, Kadrey has an extensive track record as a cyberpunk author, futurist with publications in Wired and Discovery Online, comics scripter, and animation writer. And yes, he has also been turned into an action figure.
Ahead of his visit to the Triangle, Mr. Kadrey was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, his approach to book tours and, perhaps most importantly, how you kill an unkillable wizard with his name:
With Kill City Blues, the Sandman Slim series is now five books in. Can a new reader just jump right in and read it as a self-contained story, or do they really need to go back and pick it up from the beginning (which, to be fair, they ought to do anyway)?
I hope it can be read as a self-contained unit but honestly, I think it would be better to start with an earlier book. Jumping into any series five books in, you’ll miss a lot of the nuance in the story and relationships.
James Stark’s a two fisted kind of guy who ends up, among other things, running Hell. How do you keep balancing street level action with what are literally world-shattering stakes?
That combination was one the things that inspired the series. I wanted to do a story where someone who thought he could fix his life by punching things discovered that the universe was much larger and more complicated than he thought, and that not everything could be worked out with beat down. This goes for Stark’s relationship to people too. He originally rejected close relationships, but has found himself drawn into a few. Again, it’s all about the complexity of life versus the simplicity we’d all like.
You’ve moved stylistically from cyberpunk to urban fantasy. Is there common ground between the two subgenres that made the transition easier? Or was it a clean break?
The transition was easy. I simply didn’t like any of my SF ideas at the time I wrote my first fantasy, Butcher Bird. Sandman Slim grew from some of the ideas in that book. I haven’t rejected SF. I’d like to come back to it in the future, but I’m happy where I am right now.
Your next novel, Dead Set, comes out in October. What was the impetus for stepping away from Sandman Slim for a bit, and what sets the new book apart?
The Sandman Slim series is about a protagonist with a lot of power. I wanted to write something about a character with very little. Zoe, the protagonist in Dead Set, is a 16 year old girl whose father recently died. Since then, she and her mother have lost her childhood home, are about broke, and have moved into a shitty apartment in a city Zoe doesn’t know well. She has to go to a new school so basically, Zoe’s life sucks and none of it is in her control. When the supernatural elements of the story kick in, unlike Stark, I wanted her to be completely unfamiliar with that world and at its mercy. Dead Set is about a young person discovering her strengths and weaknesses in a fantastic situation.
At what point are you going to snap and go on a killing spree when another interviewer expresses surprise that you once wrote for The Smurfs?
I’m quite happy to have written for the Smurfs. It still amazes little kids when their parents tell them that I know the Smurfs personally. I’ve autographed a few Smurf books in my time.
How would one go about defeating Kadrey the Invincible Wizard, seeing as he’s invincible? Also, how does one become an Invincible Wizard?
Back when friends were writing Saturday morning cartoons we’d sometimes use each other’s names as characters. My name ended up on the show Blackstar and a year later when they started a toy line, I turned out to be one of the toys. I think you could defeat my invincible wizard with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. The purple plastic doesn’t look all that sturdy.
Is the Triangle going to be a regular stop for you on book tours, and if not, what can we do here to lure you back again?
It’s all up to my publisher. They point me to the horizon and I go. Honestly, while I’m tour I’m not always sure what city I’m in. I live by plane schedules and hotel check-in times.
Many thanks to Richard Kadrey for taking the time to answer these questions. You can find him online at http://www.richardkadrey.com/index.html, and see him in person Thursday August 29th at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill: https://www.facebook.com/events/510322059052192/
Durham author and videogame writer Richard Dansky is the Central Clancy Writer for Ubisoft/Red Storm, including work on the latest title Tom Clancy’s Spliter Cell: Blacklist just out from Ubisoft Toronto. He has two recent books, the novel Vaporware (out from JournalStone) and the collection Snowbird Gothic (out from Necon E-Books), both out this year. His story “Don’t Be Your Father”, included in the horror anthology Don’t Read This Book, was recently named to Ellen Datlow’s Long Honorable Mention List for her annual The Best Horror of the Year anthology.