Interview with Dr. Bender
<<The phone line crackles when the call is answered.>>
Dr.B: <<silence for a moment>> Doctor who?
Mr.E: <<low chuckle>> While I enjoy these games, Dr. Bender, some mutual friends of ours have an interest in your work. There are questions that must be answered.
Dr.B: How did you get this number?
Mr.E: Relax. If I meant you harm, this isn’t the number I’d call.
Dr.B: Point taken. Who are you?
Mr.E: No-one of consequence. Those I represent, however, are worried about your work on the Whateley Universe.
Dr.B: -bitter laugh- If they have a problem, they can tell me so. Everyone else does.
Mr.E: They are; they don’t call people personally.
Dr.B: <<silence for several seconds>> Go on then.
Mr.E: How close to the Mythos ideal is the setting likely to get?
Dr.B: Nowhere near the ballpark. Classic Mythos stories feature heroes incapable of fighting the universe forever. Whateley is first and foremost a superhero universe. Do you remember the Pages of the Darkhold comic by Marvel?
Mr.E: I wasn’t ever into comics.
Dr.B: The late 80’s and 90’s gave us a sub-genre in comic books that were more horror comics than superhero comics but in the end it all boiled down to the antagonists being really scary supervillains. If you boil it down in those terms, Cthulhu is really the ultimate Omnicidal Maniac, like Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet series only without the McGuffin. It’s not my intention to turn Whateley into a Lovecraftian horror novel, I just refuse to shy away from difficult topics and turn everything into a comedy.
Mr.E: Interesting. How much deeper into the mythos do you intend to take your part of the Universe?
Dr.B: That’s the beauty of Sara, she’s designed to handle that sort of storyline and leave the others out of it. She’ll probably get her feet wet but the others can get in deep or stay in the shallows at their leisure.
Mr.E: Will we see more Lovecraftian influences?
Dr.B: Probably but they were there before I arrived.
Mr.E: The next Sara story is taking a while, are you making any headway on it?
Dr.B: It’s about a third done. No, I’m not making headway on it. After the debacle that plagued me through Insanity Prerequisite and other problems I have in real life, writing has been impossible. I’m sorry about that but it seems there’s nothing I can do. I’m not giving up, I don’t do that, but it’s hard for me right now.
Mr.E: Are you planning to wean Feral off Sara during the next story?
Dr.B: That was the plan, yes. Sara’s storyline needs a big shake-up and it’s all tied in to her handmaidens.
Mr.E: What about Jet?
Dr.B: Jet’s creation is a big part of the next story. Babs already has her companion piece written. All will be explained.
Mr.E: What about tying up the loose ends of Insanity Prerequisite? The Nightbane vs. Sara fight in particular?
Dr.B: Oh, dear. This will take some explaining for them to understand.
Mr.E: I have all day, Doctor.
Dr.B: Ok. You have to understand that the Halloween Horror was always supposed to be a communal effort. I don’t want to dwell on things but it wasn’t until I gave everyone carte blanche to change the whole structure, Bek stepped in to co-ordinate the effort and Diane arrived to edit the pieces together that it got done. There was just too much work for one person to do it. I attempted to keep things in line but it didn’t work, straight up. Consequently, plans I had for Sara vs. Nightbane no longer fit. Frankly, anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to what happened between the two of them. Only thing we can be sure of is that it involved property damage and both survived.
Mr.E: That’s… not a very satisfactory answer, Doc.
Dr.B: It’s what I have. Wish I had more.
Mr.E: <<long silence>> Ok, did Sara or Merry inform anyone at ARC about the second implant or that Merry found the name ‘Nimbus’ on Frank’s PDA?
Dr.B: Ask Renee. I don’t know about everything that goes on, nobody can keep track of it all. It’s crazy.
Mr. E: Do you personally view Ayla as a boy or a girl?
Dr.B: Is the glass half full or half empty?
Mr.E: I get it but that’s not an answer.
Dr.B: Gender is complex enough without throwing hermaphrodites into the mix. I see Ayla as Ayla; what she is physically doesn’t matter as much as whom she is.
Mr.E: Hmm. Have you considered any ‘preview teasers’ of books Sara has written?
Dr.B: Well, the Little Purple Book is out and there’s a short summary of Incongruity in the Canon Material section of the forums. Other than that, I don’t have any plans.
Mr.E: Two linked questions. What works do you consider to be your primary influences as an author and how did you get into these dark, violent and sanity defying ideas such as the Cthulhu Mythos anyway?
Dr.B: Another question that requires a bit of explaining because it has to do with my early childhood.
Dr.B: Didn’t mean it to be, more innocent, really. Ever hear of the Parkes Radio Telescope? Featured in the movie The Dish? Helped track the moon landings, observed Haley’s comet back in the mid 80’s?
Dr.B: I lived near there between 1980 and 1986. I attended my first primary school there, I was there for Haley’s comet, I lived through the mouse plague where every horizontal surface for miles was covered with rodents, I lived through heat waves hot enough to boil water if you left it in the sun. But most of all, I lived through the intolerable boredom.
Mr.E: Things you mentioned sound exciting.
Dr.B: Events, certainly, but not enough to mitigate six years in the middle of nowhere. There are only two things to do in a small town like that. Go to the pub or go to the drive in theatre. Then they closed the drive in. Not being born there put us in the outs with the locals anyway… which was a good thing if the opinions of their children were any indicator.
Mr.E: Does this story get to the point?
Dr.B: You have plenty of time, remember? The point is, however, that was why my parents got into Dungeons and Dragons. It was something to do. Being a little kid at the time, I hung around with the people that formed their group and my parents. So, I got into DnD, used to read the Monster Manuals, Fiend Folio and Deities and Demigods under the coffee table habitually. Which was the start, really, I read my first novel when I was nine. Piers Anthony’s ‘A Spell for Chameleon’.
Mr.E: Not exactly the most sanity strangling beginning.
Dr.B: Things start small and that was my introduction to literature and monsters. Monsters fascinate me and the best monsters inhabit the horror genre. Of course, my introduction to horror was rather ill-conceived.
Mr.E: How so?
Dr.B: My cousins were staying over and my father unwisely decided to hire Nightmare on Elm Street 3 at their recommendation. Their parents let them watch that sort of thing, though they were of a similar age. I’m the first to admit that you don’t want kids to see that sort of thing, as much as I love it now. I’ve also always been prone to nightmares… do the math. I had problems sleeping alone for a very long time. I had problems with it before I saw the movie but… it became a challenge. Look where others fear to. It’s a good lesson for a boy who needed the strength to continue living. I’m not being melodramatic, that’s what growing up was like for me. Now, I have to look; I have to see the worst. Frankly, I’ve seen worse things in real life than in any horror story. From there, I got into horror comics, movies, books. It’s my drug of choice.
Mr.E: And influences?
Dr.B: Raymond E. Feist, Clive Barker, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Akira Kurosawa, Masamune Shirow, Todd McFarlane to name the major ones. I can’t rightly name authors like King and Lovecraft because their endings are always bitter sweet, which I dislike. I have to single out the TV adaptation of ‘IT’ and the comic ‘Spawn’, though. Actual works by the named authors would include ‘The Magician’, ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Nightbreed’, ‘Lensman’, ‘Family D’Artago’, ‘Lord Tedric’, ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’.
Mr.E: New questions, more about how you started at Whateley. When did you join the Canon writers, what was your original proposal?
Dr.B: You’ve all read A Simple Game? I caught the hint back in 2004 that they wanted more authors. I’d been a fan for ages, so I wrote Simple Game in a white heat over the course of a week and submitted it. Not the most grandiose of stories, I know. I wouldn’t recommend the approach now.
Dr.B: Too many cooks. Everyone is feeling the squeeze.
Mr.E: Will we be seeing anything from your litchick's perspective in the future? How did you decide on Arachne as your Author Avatar?
Dr.B: <<long silence>> It was a mistake.
Mr.E: Excuse me?
Dr.B: Arachne was a mistake. Her powers and personality all come from me; every character comes from something inside the author. I made the mistake of making Arachne uninteresting to me for writing, however. It’s also hard for me to imagine myself as a girl because I have… personal issues about the subject. Anyone who really wants to know about those can ask but I won’t bore others with my neuroses. Biggest mistake was the powers, I literally have no interest in writing a spider-avatar chick, I chose it as a nod to something in my own past. So the answer to the first question is no, unless ‘Arachne’ has a severe retcon, no.
Mr.E: When you write, do you imagine things from Sara’s perspective in first person?
Dr.B: Always. Sara is me to a great extent. A fantasy author insert power fantasy but me none the less. If I can’t see things from her perspective, I can’t write her realistically.
Mr.E: How do you stop Sara from being a literal Deus Ex Machina?
Dr.B: The same way we stop Fey, Tennyo, Chaka, Carson, FUBAR… the list goes on and on in Whateley for cool characters with ultimate power. Such characters are defined by how they’re limited. It might be a concept that’s alien to many but sometimes the best course of action is to help and sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing, even with people like Puppet. Sara’s help comes with strings attached; she’s doing many people a favour by staying out of their problems. The WV may be Mythos Lite but you still don’t want to fuck with it, no matter how might think you want to.
Mr.E: When you write stories that happen in many places, do you prefer to use first person and change the character POV or ‘follow everyone with an invisible camera’, alternating between cameras as necessary?
Dr.B: Depends on the story. Different techniques work for different genres and styles. My preference is to stick with one person while using first person, so I generally prefer the latter style with third person.
Mr.E: Got any non-whateley in the works?
Dr.B: <<laughs>> It’s my main focus at the moment. Whateley’s stifling for me, I can’t go certain places with the story, the readers complain enough with what I do now let alone what I could do if other characters were more involved with Sara’s story. I get that what I’m into isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’m ok with that, my stuff is written for myself and people who enjoy that sort of thing. I have no interest in writing Archie-inspired comedy, though I am a great proponent of injecting humour into horror as a method of playing with reader’s emotions. Yes, I’m trying very, very, hard to work on my non-whateley stuff. I have things I want to do and stories I want to tell, I just wish I could get them down on paper. I’m not a quitter, though, so you can expect something out of me soon.
Mr.E: Last question. Will there be tentacles?
Dr.B: <<pause>> There will always be tentacles.