Five For Writing – Jesse Scoble

Jesse Scoble has the singular misfortune of being a good friend of mine. A Chief Narrative Designer at TenCent, he’s done stints at Ubisoft (HyperScape, Assassins’ Creed: Odyssey, Far Cry 5 and others) Wizard101, Webkinz and more. He has contributed to Beyond the Wall; The Bones; co-edited two short-story anthologies in the  Silver Age Sentinels TTRPG setting; and co-edited James Hsu’s Humans of MagicA resident of Montreal, he wants you all to know he makes a mean mojito.

And so without any further delay, I give you the multitalented Jesse Scoble:

1-What’s it like putting together a narrative for a game like HyperScape that is by definition non-linear?

I see you want to start with a softball question. So. Coming to HyperScape (Ubisoft’s near-future, dystopian battle royale), we believed what would differentiate us from an already crowded field would be to have a strong story. Some games have virtually no story, or maybe they have a framing story (say a modern warzone) but have no real sense of character, while some have incredibly rich characters (Apex Legends, Overwatch) but relatively thin plot. We wanted to have all of that.

We needed to create a new world – and elected to set it about 30 years in the future, in 2054, which wasn’t necessarily realistic in terms of the virtual world – the eponymous HyperScape – and then come up with an overarching storyline that would drive the world forward. Much of that centered on the company that created the HyperScape, a global megacorporation called Primsa Dimensions, and the creators of the company, genius inventor Mathieu Eiffel and his savvy business partner, Dr. Ivy Tan. The machinations of Prisma Dimensions would be the engine that drove the story.

In terms of the “framing story” – and what I mean by that is essentially a narrative explanation for the battle royale concept – we chose to embrace the battle royale game concept directly, and define it as an extreme sport in the virtual world of the HyperScape. In the dystopia of 2054, it was the most popular way to gain fame and fortune. The characters would fight and kill to try to get ahead, but as it was just a virtual game, then there was no problem seeing someone “die” or for various characters to fight each other even though they were friends or on the same side outside the game.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – we wanted the characters to have depth and flavor, and to have strong ties to the world of 2054. We wanted to have a large and ever-expanding roster that would let us create characters from all sorts of different backgrounds and walks-of-life, and we’d show how these characters evolved from season-to-season as the plot of the story moved forward.

Another core challenge was that, unlike a AAA console action/adventure game (say Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry or Spider-Man or Witcher or whatever), players would only get tiny snippets of the story. There wouldn’t be traditional quests and we’d have very few cinematics. We had to be smart in figuring out how to relay the story in a way that would be comprehensible to those who only lightly skimmed the surface but would have strong connections for those who wanted to dig deeper into the lore.

Our team also had a robust transmedia approach (can I still say “transmedia” in 2021? Whatever.): we had a deal with Dark Horse to create a HyperScape digital comic; we also worked with a great 3rd party company to create a couple of short animations, our “HyperScape Stories” that spotlighted characters like Ace and Basilisk; and of course we had our internal team building season trailers, in-game cinematics (such as the End of Season 1 event), and so forth. 

Finally, the narrative and art team worked closely to create a dozen collectible “memory shards” that would be revealed over the course of the season. Each one had a piece of micro-fiction and an awesome piece of custom art, like a comic splash page or wallpaper screen. These really told the crux of the season’s story, allowing us to get into characters’ heads, feel the flavor of the world, and also conveyed the big moving pieces of the plot.

This meant a LOT of planning: how much info could we write into a character’s bio in the store? What would be consistent and change between different skins? What bio info would change from season-to-season? When was a character/skin going to be released DURING a season? What order would the memory shards be released? Could we do environmental storytelling on the game map that would link to the fiction? Where would the trailers or short movies come out? How do we tell an engaging story in the comic that links to everything else, but also feels self-contained? 

And – as you well know – in video games everything is always at a risk of moving. Things get delayed. A feature won’t work. Marketing throws you a curveball. 

In the end, we made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. But we also succeeded to hit many of our goals, and learned a tremendous amount in the doing.

2-You have an extensive track record in tabletop RPGs. Ever thought about going back and doing more TTRPG work?

Yes, but no. It was extensive at one time, but I’ve been playing in the video game playground for three-quarters of my career now, so it feels like I haven’t done much in that space for ages. Hell, I worked on the first Game of Thrones RPG that was so long ago it was BEFORE season 1 of the HBO show.

TTRPGs are fun, but a helluva lot of work, in terms of research and organization and presentation. It’s hard enough putting together a halfway decent game for my local group, let alone something that’s publishable quality.

I’ve gone back to the well a few times in the past semi-recent years. I was a consultant on the short-lived Marvel Heroic RPG (from Margaret Weis Productions), with some luminaries in the industry, and that was a treat. I was invited to contribute to two different projects – one was a setting for Robin Laws’ DramaSystem called Narcocorrido; and then I revisited some of that material “through a neon lens” for Mark Richardson’s neocyberpunk RPG, Headspace (Carteles Unidos, in the Dystopian Dreams supplement), both of which were obviously inspired by my time living in Austin, TX. I’ve also contributed a few essays here and there, and co-edited a series of interviews with top-tier Magic players for a good friend.

These days, due to limited time and focus, I need to be really intrigued by a project to carve out the time for it. It either has to be a project where I have a lot of creative freedom and some degree of ownership, or something that is just so cool I can’t say no. That said, I have yet to actually do anything official for Dungeons & Dragons or Warhammer 40K, two IPs that I’d happily make the time to delve into (just throwing that out there in case the universe is listening).

Oh, and I have a brilliant idea for how to make an RPG out of HADES, the superb rogue-like from Supergiant games, in case anyone knows anyone over there.

3-What’s the most challenging aspect of game writing for you?

All of it? I realize that’s a useless answer. 

I think it’s trying to impart the “perfect picture” in my head to paper, and then have the rest of the team understand it. It’s so elegant and clear in my mind’s eye (well, hardly ever that, but it’s certainly better than whatever I end up scrawling on the page), and there’s so much of a gap that is created between the act of putting pen to paper, and then again between the person reading it and implementing the ideas. And this gap widens when dealing with challenges of language and distance.

At their worst, when gameplay and art and recording limitations are all dragging you down it can feel like the death of a thousand cuts. But the corollary is that when it all somehow hangs together – when the gameplay supports the narrative (and vice versa) and the art is glorious and the voice acting adds that je ne sais quoi nuance, it can create a magical experience for the player. And I live for that.

4-What’s your favorite part of the job when it comes to game writing?

Seeing these fifty(thousand) different moving parts that like-as-not won’t fit properly together or work well together or might not even work at all somehow come together miraculously and gel. It’s seeing those scribbles on the screen become real and extant, in a way that makes people engage and act. It’s creating both the big moments and the small moments, and when it works it makes people feel something. That’s the heart of it.

In particular, hearing/watching actors take the words on paper and breathe life into them is a kind of magic.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s getting to work with some incredibly smart, bright, funny, kind, talented and clever people.

5-You’re working on your first novel. How has that experience been different from game writing?

What do they say? “Writing is the easiest thing… you just stare at the blank page until your forehead bleeds.”

It’s… hard. I look back at random Facebook memories and realize how bloody long I’ve been on this road, and there’s no real end in sight (I keep thinking I see light ahead, but I’m pretty sure it’s just an oncoming train.)

First, because I can’t do anything simply, I decided for my first real attempt at a novel to co-write it with a close friend. And that’s been great. Also hard as sin. But having two heads to process ideas, encourage and cajole when the other side just doesn’t want to pick up a pen, bringing far more ideas and experiences than a single person – it’s like working with a teensy-tiny team. (Well, not “like.”) 

(And we have a third friend who has been the alpha reader for all of our ideas throughout this long and twisty process. Having a ‘built-in’ story-editor, of sorts, has been a godsend.)

But it’s hard. It was a big idea (for me, at least), and structurally complicated, and cutting edge – several and more years ago when we first thought about it. And the future doesn’t hold back. The realities of online culture, and such like, keep moving and evolving in ways I wouldn’t have considered. It’s not dated – yet – but if I don’t hurry up and finish it, it soon will be. 

It’s also very lonely, despite having two friends involved so closely. And it’s hard to know what the right paths are for the characters, at times, to get to where I want to get. 

It’s taught me a lot about organizing my work and ideas, outlining and structuring a story, and developing character voices. Not all of which I’ve mastered yet, despite professionally writing for too many years now. And, as mentioned, a whole lot of time has passed since we first conceived of this story. I like the characters too much to want to abandon them, but it’s hard to say how and when I’ll finish this story satisfactorily, even if just for a limited audience.

A huge thank you to Jesse for his thoughtful and engaging answers. Tune in next week when I’ll have another writer in the hot seat!

Happy New Year and Thank Yous

Wishing everyone out there a very happy new year! I’d like to take this moment to say thank you to some folks who have been instrumental in my writing this past year. So big thanks to:

  • Robin Laws, who green lit the first Reb Palache story many years ago for The New Hero
  • Josh Schlossberg, for publishing “On Seas of Blood and Salt” in The Jewish Book of Horror
  • Alex Hofelich and the rest of the wonderful folks at PseudoPod for publishing me – I am honored to be among their roster of authors
  • David Niall Wilson and the fine folks at Crossroad Press, for picking up Ghost of a Marriage and getting set to bring it to the world in February. (Hint – now would be a great time to pre-order!)
  • Jeff Strand, Mikko Rautalahti, Jesse Scoble, Rachel Zane and Laura Hickman for reading the manuscript and providing invaluable help on it, some of which I was smart enough to take.
  • Bridgett Nelson for reading and editing some of my short fiction and still speaking to me afterwards
  • John McIlveen, for reasons that will have to remain mysterious for now
  • James A. Moore, Mur Lafferty, Maurice Broaddus, Rhianna Pratchett, Anna Megill, Annie Reid and so many more for being shining examples of the craft
  • Toiya K. Finley, Richard Rouse III and Alexander Bevier for collaborating in putting on an online gathering of game writers that was good for the soul
  • Susan O’Connor and Tom Abernathy, my co-conspirators in curating the Game Narrative Summit at GDC
  • Walter Rotenberry and company at East Coast Game Conference for allowing me to once again curate their narrative content
  • Pauline Martyn, James Charles Leary, Tom Knights, and Justin Achilli for secret things
  • All the writers who agreed to let me interrogate them in Five For Writing
  • And all of you for reading this

So a giant thank you to everyone for all that you did in 2021. Here’s to 2022 and happier days!

Five For Writing – Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa novels are some of the finest modern fantasy out there. If you haven’t read them, they’re a treat and you owe it to yourself to pick them up. He also was part of the collective that wrote for Transgressive Horror: Reflections on Scare Films that Broke the Rules, which is where our paths crossed. He was kind enough to sit down for five questions about the Tufa novels, vampires in Memphis, and why all horror movies are transgressive. Without further ado, I give you Five For Writing with Alex Bledsoe.


1-What’s the appeal of transgressive horror films for you?

All good horror films should be transgressive in some sense; it’s in their nature. The point of horror is to expose the viewer to images and ideas they would never encounter elsewhere, and to show the embodiment of those images and ideas as realistically as possible. The German cinemagoers lucky enough to see Nosferatu on its first release would have considered the vampire as a transgressive figure, a visual representation of something that broke so many social rules. 

Really, a non-transgressive horror film can’t be very horrifying, like the endless PG-13 teen “horror” films released since the turn of the century. I’ve always thought all horror films should be rated R, because even if it’s *not* overtly violent, that threat should hang over everything. A PG-13 rating is a comfort blanket, and even if some of them can be quite good, they’re never truly horrifying.

2-What impact does your home base in the Smokies have on your writing?

Technically I’m from the other end of the state, close to Memphis, but my dad’s family is from the Smokies, and I’ve visited there many times. I’ve used the South as the setting for both of my past horror novels, as well as my upcoming one; although I’ve lived other places (I’ve been in Wisconsin for the past 18 years), the south is the one I most deeply understand. I think that’s why I keep returning to it as a setting; I don’t feel qualified to write about anywhere else, unless it’s a total fantasy setting.

3-You’ve got a series of vampire novels set in Memphis. What inspired you to turn vampires loose there?

It’s a city I know, or rather used to know, pretty well; my novels are set in the mid-70s. Plus it’s not over-used in horror fiction like, say, New Orleans. Memphis has a unique history, and since the novels deal with racism as well as vampires, it seemed like an ideal place to set it. I chose the year 1975 because it was before the publication of Interview with the Vampire, and thus was still the era when vampires were scary.  

4-Your Eddie LaCrosse series is fantasy noir. Why mix those two genres?

I wanted a way into a fantasy story that allowed a greater identification with the characters than I was seeing in the fantasy I read: too many unpronounceable names, too much emphasis on world building, not enough emphasis on character. I thought that the works of writers like Chandler, Parker, and Vachss did a great job of also taking you into worlds (a.k.a., crime) you might never visit, but they did it with an immediacy I wanted to claim. Plus that tone made it more fun to write. 

5-The Tufa novels feel deeply personal. Where did they come from, and will we see more of them?

They grew out of stories I heard from my dad, about a strange group of people who lived in the Appalachian Mountains. The part that intrigued me was the idea that these people were already here when the first European settlers arrived. That was the starting point, but of course I made up my own group so I could give them a magical backstory.

I felt six books was enough to say what I wanted, and anything past that I’d be restating things. But who knows? If I get a new idea, and there’s a publisher interested in it, it could happen.

Many thanks to Alex for his time and for gently correcting my mistake about his home base – that’s what I get for reading an author bio too quickly. You can find him online at his website, and on Twitter.
Next week I ring in the new year with an interview with game writer Jesse Scoble! Until then, have a happy New Year!

Good News, Everybody!

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful winter holiday, and here’s wishing all of you a glorious new year filled with good news and happiness.

I do have some glad tidings of my own to share. It gives me great pleasure to say my story “Swing Batter Batter” has been accepted by the wonderful folks at PseudoPod and will be running some time next year. Yes, it’s a baseball-themed horror story, so let that fuel your wild speculation while we wait for it to come out.


Five For Writing – Maurice Broaddus

If you don’t know who Maurice Broaddus is, you haven’t been paying attention. An award-winning writer and Afrofuturist, he is as prolific as he is acclaimed. Equally adept at horror, fantasy and science fiction, he is the author of the upcoming Sweep of Stars. And now, it is my pleasure to give you Five For Writing with Maurice Broaddus:

1-How exactly does one pimp an airship?

I got one word for you: spinners.

It’s all about massive spinners.

2-What role do you see yourself playing in the Afrofuturism movement going forward?

I’m just happy to be a part of the conversation. Right now, I’m all about the intersection of the art being the vision casting and the community putting those visions into practice. And then that practice creating new art and vision.

3-You started in horror as “The Sinister Minister” and have gradually transitioned to science fiction. What led to the change, and are you ever going back to horror?


I realized that I was using horror to process my anger. Anger at all the evil in the world, the history of brutality against my people, all of the oppressive systems. Science fiction became me giving myself permission and room to dream about possibilities. So I was writing from a different mental and spiritual place (future hope).

That said, I have two horror stories coming out this soon, one in Weird Tales Magazine and the other in Classic Monsters Unleashed. Turns out, there’s still room for me to be angry about stuff.

4-Religion is a strong theme in your life. How do you see it affecting your fiction?

Basically, I believe we’re in a Story, written by an Author, who is wooing us to connect with Him.  It’s a tale of people, who were created (in God’s image), meant for great things (to join in with that Author in a mission to redeem the world), who sometimes encounter things which interfere with their journey:  sometimes themselves, sometimes others, and sometimes An Other.

Faith is never easy and I tend to have more questions than answers.  I think that’s the most critical part of anyone’s spiritual journey, walking that line of tension between holding on during times of doubt and questioning.  I think one of the best ways to explore that tension is in story. (The Bible does it too:  the Book of Job was probably the first book written and it’s all about faith, doubt, and frustrated questions.  And the first postapocalyptic story I encountered.)

I like to think that I write from a place of faith in practice. I was volunteering at a homeless teen ministry called Outreach Inc. That became the inspiration for my first novel trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, a retelling of the King Arthur mythos through the eyes of homeless teens in Indianapolis. I guess you could say that in some ways, I’m working out my own spiritual journey in front of my readers. And sharing my nightmares.

5-You do a lot of community outreach. How is your writing bound up in that?

For a long time I struggled with the notion that “I’m only a writer, what can I do?” and, if I’m completely honest, used it as an excuse to do nothing. Art lifts community. Story creates identity. If we don’t control our own narratives, others certainly will. Our communities are more self-sufficient, more capable, than the dominant narrative wants to portray. Through art, through writing, we can catalog the positive things happening in our neighborhoods, we can make the invisible visible, and be the change we want to see. Through art, we resist.

These days, I am the Kheprw Institute’s resident Afrofuturist. Basically, think of it as strategic foresight planning through an Afrofuturist lens; visioning rooted in black history and culture to create a vivid picture of what the world could look like. Afrofuturism is the marriage of my faith, my social practice, and my writing. To me it looks like dreaming alongside community, highlighting my neighbors and their work (through a magical lens, for example, Ache of Home. The dreaming impacts the work, the work impacts the writing, the writing impacts the dreaming, and so it goes. I can’t wait to see what folks think of my next novel, Sweep of Stars, because these days, I’m dreaming of the stars.

Huge thanks to Maurice for taking the time to answer the questions! You can find him online at his website.

Wishing a very happy holiday season to all and sundry, whatever you celebrate. I’ll be back next week with another interview, and things will keep rolling into the new year!

Five For Writing – Bill Bodden

Bill Bodden says on his website that he likes really nice cheese, so of course I’m going to like him. He’s also an accomplished tabletop RPG writer with a foot in the fiction world, and we’ve shared a table of contents twice, most recently in Transgressive Horror: Reflections On Scare Films That Broke the Rules. So without further ado, here’s Bill Bodden:


1-What’s interesting to you about transgressive horror?

So much of current horror media involves buckets of red corn syrup or ‘torture porn’ – a la the Saw series – that something different is a welcome change for me. I like the transgressive horror idea because so much of horror is about expectations, and when you challenge those expectations you add a greater element of the unexpected, which for me makes horror both more powerful and more thoughtful.

2-We shared a table of contents in the anthology HAUNTED. What inspired your story there?

The Original Ghostbusters film was my inspiration for my story “A Quiet House in the Country”. I wanted to write about people doing serious investigations of hauntings using tools and technology that actually exists – not done for laughs. Lo and behold, Reality TV took that idea and ran with it, and the various ghost hunter shows on several networks have been very popular for years now.

3-You’ve written for a wide variety of tabletop games. What’s your favorite and why?

My favorite to play is Charette and Hume’s Bushido. It uses a system very similar to D&D, but I love the setting of mythic/feudal Japan. A VERY close second would be Call of Cthulhu. As far as writing for a game, I’ve enjoyed writing for D&D in the Scarred Lands setting. I appreciate the world-building that’s been done there. I’ve also enjoyed writing for Onyx Path in the World of Darkness Universe. Next up, I’m hoping to have some community content available for Call of Cthulhu in 2022.

4-What does someone going into tabletop game writing need to know?

Two big things. First, the pay is low, and the vast majority of contracts are work-for-hire, which means once you get paid, you don’t own the rights to anything you’ve written on that project. Also, no royalties – you’re paid a lump sum upon completion, and you’re done. One expects low pay on first starting out, but the problem is it doesn’t improve much.

Second, you’re writing in someone else’s world: their world, their rules. You have to take constructive criticism well in any situation, but in game writing, you need to not love your baby so much that you’re unwilling to make changes that are required of you.

5-You’ve done both game writing and fiction. Which do you prefer, and why?

It’s a tough call. I enjoy gaming, and when it’s my turn to GM for our group, I like to write adventures that engage the players with more than just hack and slash, although there’s still plenty of that. Sometimes, those adventures are good enough that I want to clean them up and publish them.

In writing fiction, you have a bit more freedom, but at times it can be harder for me to focus – like a kid in a candy shop, I sometimes don’t know where to start (or when to bring it to a close!)

If I had to choose, I think I prefer writing fiction simply because I have greater latitude to explore themes and ideas that intrigue me.


Big thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer the questions! You can find him online at his website, on Instagram and Twitter, and at DriveThruRPG. Photo credit for Bill’s portrait is to Amy Atalla Hill, Shine Photografx.

Next week Christmas arrives early at Five For Writing with an interview with the renowned science fiction, fantasy and horror author Maurice Broaddus. Tune in and check it out!

Five For Writing: Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty needs no introduction, but I’m going to introduce her anyway. The award-winning host of the I Should Be Writing podcast, she is also the proud owner of an Astounding Award and a noted editor as well. From the humor of the Shambling Guides to the deep space thrills of Six Wakes, she has been a versatile and skilled storyteller. And now she’s consented to answer five questions. Without further ado, here’s Five For Writing with Mur Lafferty:

1-You’ve won a giant pile of awards for your writing and podcasting. Where do you keep them all?

You’re setting me up for a massive hubris fall, aren’t you?
Back in 1998 when my husband and I bought our house we discovered a corner at the top of the stairs that jutted out, creating a small, pleasant shelf. I told Jim that it was the “hugo shelf.” Did I ever think I’d actually put one there? Heck no. But there it sits now, with some other awards around it and hung on the wall above it.

2-Six Wakes is probably your most critically acclaimed work. What was the inspiration for it?

I love stories where people are deep in the void of space. I had been wanting to write a generational spaceship story, but unlike others I had read, I didn’t want the people aboard to gradually lose their memory of why they were there, or even knowing they were on a ship. So I tried to figure out how I could use the same crew generation after generation without bringing in space elves or space vampires.
Then, while playing the spaceship sim game FTL, I noticed the cloning tech that you can put in your ship would not clone a crew member to make more of them, but only cloned them when they died, so cloning was a way to boost immortality. I hadn’t seen cloning treated like that before, and it got me thinking. Eventually I put the “cloning to live forever” idea with the “same crew drives the starship” idea.

3-You did the novelization for the Han Solo origin movie. What was it like to take on that challenge?

It was exciting and a huge honor. People think that the novelizations are just churned out retellings with deleted scenes, but more often than not, those expanded scenes were added by the novelist. For Solo, the scene where Han and Qi’ra hide among in the vat of eels was a deleted scene, but the scenes of Chewbacca taking over Lando’s bathroom (and his rare hair products), and the real reason L3 consented to upload to the Falcon, that’s canon that I wrote.
I discovered partway in that the novelist has a unique opportunity by presenting a different point of view. I was trying to figure out how to write a scene that had already been written in the script, and then written in the middle grade book (which was nearly finished by the time I started the adult novelization). Every character does the same things in all three tellings, so how could I make mine different but still the same? I realized presenting a different POV would show the expected scene, while making it feel new and presenting new information.

4-You’ve also done a Minecraft novel. How did you come up with a story for a game that doesn’t really have a story?

I get asked this a lot! Minecraft was super easy to write for specifically because the game doesn’t have a plot. You can put whatever story you want in Minecraft with one overall rule: the story must follow the rules of the game. I was constantly checking what items or food could be built with what materials, what monsters were where, etc. My biggest hurdle was that I wanted the mysterious journal writer to be terrible at mixing potions, so I had to look into potion mistakes more than potions that helped.

5-You’re an award winning podcaster. How does the podcasting intersect with  your writing?

I wouldn’t have the career I have today without podcasting. Being one of the first in the space allowed me to build an audience and to interview authors and network (I had no idea I was doing the networking thing, fwiw). I started publishing my own fiction via podcast and I started knowing more and more people at conventions as I set up interviews. Those two things finally helped boost my career toward getting published.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have eventually been published otherwise, but I met my first editor while I was in line for a drink at a private party. I had gone to the private party as the +1 of the writer I had interviewed earlier that day, and he was at the con alone, so he offered me his ticket. Networking is like being tall and playing basketball. Can you build a career without networking? Sure! Does it give you a boost if you can network? Definitely. This is why I encourage all baby writers to get to cons, or at least virtual cons, as soon as they can (taking into account pandemic, money, bandwidth, etc.)
Huge thanks to Mur for sitting down for these! You can find her and her multitudinous projects online at the Murverse.

Five For Writing – John Goodrich

John Goodrich is a a man who knows what he likes, and what he likes is giant monsters. An authority on kaiju, he’s also an accomplished fiction author, with titles like Hag and  to his credit. He lives in Vermont, which is possibly the last state that Godzilla would destroy if given the chance, and he was kind enough to sit down for five (plus one bonus) questions. Here’s Five For Writing with John Goodrich:

1-Why the obsession with kaiju?
Godzilla made a real impression on me when I was young. Kids live in a world where many people are larger, and stronger than them, with often unguessable motives. So kaiju were very much fantasy fulfillment, someone who was bigger than the adults around me?
1A-What about giant monsters speaks to you?
Their general don’t-give-a-shit attitude in regards to architecture and infrastructure. Also that often, in a film, the very common plot resolution of ‘shoot it’ or ‘bomb it’ doesn’t work, so another plot solution has to be found.
2-Why would a toddler take up a life of crime as a hitman?
When someone, even if they are very young, has a very specific set of skills, how else are they going to earn money? My protagonist was barred from the usual legal gun-using professions. He barred from police work because of the height and age requirements. The same for the military. What choice did he have but to turn to a life of crime?
3-You play a lot of roleplaying games. Has that influenced your writing at all?
Absolutely. Sitting at an RPG session listening to how other people perceive their characters is a great mine for characters who don’t think like I do. Further, my first articles were published in role-playing magazines, and several of my stories have been published by Chaosium, who produce the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. I’ve learned a lot of history to give my games more credibility, and that often finds its way into my fiction.
4-You live in Vermont. What impact does that have on your writing?
Leaving New England for eleven years and then coming back has led me to a greater appreciation for this part of the country. New England has a history of hidden sin and judgment, of old stories like Old Slipperyskin, the bear that walks and talks like a man. Also, the summer of 1770 when northeastern Vermont was overrun by a wave of worms that ate all the wheat and corn.
5-You’ve written for a couple of anthologies centered on the Lovecraftian Mythos. What’s the appeal for you?
The unknown. Vampires, werewolves and ghosts have some pretty strict rules about how they operate and can be destroyed. You can defy those rules, and plenty of writers have, but they have to be acknowledged in some fashion. Lovecraft’s creations are a total curve ball, the scary unknown something we don’t understand. There’s a thrill reading something that is that unknown, and a real pleasure in writing something so strange.
That’s all from John. Thanks to him for taking the time to answer! Next week, my interviewee is someone who needs no introduction, but I’ll introduce her anyway – the mighty Mur Lafferty! See you then!

Licking Roadkill at Pseudopod

I am very happy to announce that my Thanksgiving werewolf story, “Licking Roadkill”, is up for your listening and reading pleasure thanks to the fine folks at PseudoPod. Check it out here!