Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sam Sykes Answers Questions Five

Sam Sykes is a young debut author who has hit the SFF scene hard – right in the balls (sorry to be crass, but this is a Sam Sykes interview and it’s not for the faint of heart – or someone overly sensitive to language). And to add a bit of trivial info to this introduction – Sykes is actually a pen name that Sam uses in part to distinguish himself from his mother, writer Diana Gabaldon. Sam’s debut novel is Tome of the Undergates, the first book in the Aeon’s Gate Trilogy (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review). Book 2, Black Halo (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) should hit the shelves in 2011. Sam’s distinctive public persona is a breath of foul air in the world of SFF (and I mean this in the best way possible).

Thanks again to Sam for submitting himself to Questions Five (and for producing arguably the most entertaining entry in this interview series)!

Joe Hill, a magical pug, a Mexican, Joe Arpaio, and Lou Anders go on adventure seeking the Tome of the Underpants. How do things go?

“Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god,” Joe whines. Tears are in his eyes, blood is on his hands. It’s getting hard to keep track of the fluids.

“Shut up, just shut the fuck up,” Lou says. He’s wanting to rub his head, wanting that brief clarity of mind that only comes from hand-to-head-sans-hair contact. But he can’t take his hands off the wheel, not until they reach Mexico, not with a dead body in the trunk.

“Jesus fuck, Lou,” Joe says, “I killed him. I killed that guy.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“The fuck it wasn’t my fault! I said I was just going to talk to him!”

“Look, man, it’s not like you did too bad. It’s Joe Arpaio. He provoked you. You…you know…you’re kind of blameless.”

“Then why the fuck are we going to Mexico, huh? Why the fuck is he in the trunk?”

“I don’t know, dumbshit! Why the fuck did you kill him for having the same first name?”

“You don’t know what it’s like, man! You’re not a Joe. You don’t. Fucking. Know.”

“Gentlemen, please,” a voice, deep and bass, speaks up from the backseat.

Neither of them look back. Neither of them want to see the pug in the tuxedo. Neither of them want to believe it can talk, just like neither of them want to believe that those pills they took at the gas station were anything more than aspirin. But they look into the rear view window and the pug is still there, still talking, and it’s getting harder to believe anything else.

“Do I look like a young lady?” the pug asks. “Do I have curly golden hair? Do I wear a pretty little dress and dream of vampires instead of wearing this fine Armani and long for a day when I can put you both far behind me?”

“I guess not,” Joe says.

“Man, don’t fucking talk to it,” Lou snaps.

“No,” the pug says. “Because I am not a fucking little girl. I’m fucking more man than either of you little pieces of shit, so when I say to do something, you fucking do it like a man told you to, comprende?”

“Fuck is…is he Mexican?”

“Well, what the fuck do we do, then?” Lou asks. “You’re a fucking talking dog, what the hell do we do?”

A pug can’t smile. This is fact. But as they look up into the rear view, neither of them wants to believe that they see a pair of canine lips curling up into a broad grin.

“Have either of you heard, by chance…of the Tome of the Underpants?”

If Tome of the Undergates were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

“Your god is deaf. Your heaven is a lie. Go to the water. Drink deeply. We will meet you there and we will all go to a world of endless blue and oblivion. Together.”

How would you interpret this fortune if it were your own?

Well, I guess I’d go drown myself. I mean, I’m not dumb. I’m not going to piss off a fortune cookie.

Please describe one reason Tome of the Undergates would inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the forest?

If that reader is a fantasy reader: they would do so because the sheer amount of imagination would cause them to realize that nothing in life could possibly be as cool as a dragonman fighting a ten-foot-tall emaciated demon and the only way to live life to the fullest would be to go to that world and, going by the Terminator principle, one needs to strip naked and run around and hope for the best.

If that reader is a romance reader: they would realize that Tome of the Undergates’ awkward, often violent romance between two people who love and hate each other at the same time is probably closer to reality than anything read in a book and, not wanting to live in such a world, would go in search of the nearest bear and hope for an end to the misery.

If that reader is a horror reader: they would be moved by the idea of horrific beasts that view mankind as a pitiful thing in need of release from an uncaring world and view drowning as the quickest way toward a caring deity and, out of gratitude, would strip naked and run through a forest directly to my house to thank me.

If that reader is a guy named Stephen: you fucking owe me twelve bucks, you shit. If I catch you naked, I’m going to be pissed.

Why should Tome of the Undergates be the next thing that everyone reads?

Because it’s a new way of thinking: hateful people bound together by self-loathing instead of heroism, hateful people learning to overcome that and be bound together by something more…but not heroism, villains who are possibly more kind and loving than anything else on earth, character development taken in a way that can be sometimes hard to digest, but ultimately rewarding and engrossing.

Also, crotch-stomping. Oh, lord, the crotch-stomping.

Bonus question for inclusion in The SFF Literary Pub Crawl:

Please recommend a favorite pub or similar establishment – it doesn’t have to be local to you, but that is encouraged and if you can’t limit to just one, recommend more, but try to keep it to 3 or less. And don’t forget to say why it’s so great.

I love The Wine Loft in downtown Flagstaff. My hearing isn’t so great and I’m a man who hates the sight of other people having fun, so a bar with good beer, good wine and an atmosphere that doesn’t involve a bunch of people dancing to loud music is one I enjoy.

Also, the owner seems to like my dogs, so he must be a good person.

[For what it’s worth, this is my favorite place for drinks in Flagstaff as well]


Sarah said...

This was fantastic. I don't think I expected much less than an interview full of humor and sarcasm from Sam based on his twitter stuff.

I have to say, maybe I'm just out of the loop but I had no idea Diana Gabaldon was his mother. I've never read her stuff but she's ALL over the shelves. That makes sense that he'd choose a pen name to set himself apart from that. It would be interesting to know (he's probably answered this elsewhere) how being in a "literary" family has influenced his writing.

Anyway, fantastic interview. Probably one of the most hilariously entertaining I've read in a long, LONG time.

Neth said...

I agree about this being a hilarious interview. Few Questions Five interviews have even come close.

Well, Sam was keeping it quite about his mother - he rightly didn't want to be scene as riding her coat tails. It was only at Comicon that secret came when his mother outed him on her blog (with his permission). I found out when I went to his book release party back in May - his mother was there. He did answer some questions about the influence of his family, but I don't recall the answers well enough to try and reproduce them. I'm pretty sure that his sister is a writer as well. Other than that, I don't think he's really answered those questions much since it was secret. Perhaps he'll stop by and let us know, maybe he'll do his own blog post, or just maybe you should interview him and ask ;)

Linda said...

That was a great interview, Ken. I laughed all the way through it.

The Evil Hat said...

Very funny interview, though I feel slightly uncomfortable now. Interesting news about Sykes's family, too.


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