Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds, Double Dead, Dinocalypse Now, and cowriter of the short film Pandemic, the feature film HiM, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Under the Empyrean Sky, the first book in the Heartland Trilogy, is available July 30th from Skyscape.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from ill-advised nicknames to the genetics of corn, and more!
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
There existed a very short period of time in junior high—three months, at max—where I tried to get people to call me “Chazz.” This was a terrible error and we shall never speak of it again. And if you try to call me Chazz in public, I will condemn you in front of all the gods and spray you in the mouth and eyes with some kind of toxic vulture musk.
If you could be reincarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
Benjamin Franklin. He must’ve been a blast. He’s always going on about coffee and beer, he’s out there flying kites and inventing stuff and making up pithy sayings. Plus, that whole Declaration of Independence thing. Then again, he owned slaves and had gout, so, yeah, maybe not.
Still, he wrote a great epitaph for himself very early on in life, apropos for any writer:
The Body of
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
Do you have a favorite underrated/unknown/under-read author?
Bradley Denton. Author of Blackburn, Lunatics, Buddy Holly Is Alive And Well On Ganymede. He’s like Christopher Moore shot through with an injection of Joe Lansdale. Brilliant writer. (Blackburn out-Dexters Dexter any day of the week, twice on Sundays.) He hasn’t published anything since, what, 2005? Where the hell’d he go? Did he fall down a well? I miss you, Bradley Denton. Write more! Hurry! You’re our only hope!
Do you have a favorite word/phrase/etymology?
I’m pretty fond of “sesquipedalian,” if only because it’s a really long word whose definition in fact means “really long word.”
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
In researching Under the Empyrean Sky, I found out all manner of wacky facts about corn.
A stalk of corn contains more genes than a human being (32,000 versus 20,000).
Much of the corn grown in this country isn’t for food.
Corn has over 3,000 uses. It reportedly found in 75% of our grocery products. Corn yields have increased over 500% in the last century.
According to the documentary King Corn, human hair contains corn DNA. (And Mayan mythology suggests were made out of corn. Stephen King was onto something, apparently.)
Corn is weird stuff.
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
If we never get a planet named after Ray Bradbury, then I would consider that a personal failure by all of mankind. C’mon, folks, we need more than just a Martian landing site named after him.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Can I pour a little on the curb for my homey, Gurgi?
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
Seanan McGuire is my familiar. Whenever I’m off-track in life, she whispers ghostly vulgarities in my ear.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
Okay, I want to clarify that I’m not embarrassed by this, but whenever I tell people that one of my favorite shows of all time is Gilmore Girls, I get this look. Like they want to ask me, “Are you a 14-year-old girl?”
Trust me, it’s one of the sharpest, sweetest, funniest shows that ever did air. For me, it’s a proper companion piece to Buffy the Vampire Slayer—similar whip-crack dialogue, great drama, very funny. Er, fewer vampires, of course. But it has Jared Padalecki, so, you get that Supernatural connection. And Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes. See? Geek cred!
Listen, just go watch it right now. I’ll wait here. And stare at the back of your head until you’re done.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
I write a whole lot. I may have a problem. I should probably go to a meeting. Between novels, blog posts and miscellaneous script work I write about 750,000 words a year. Sometimes more. In the last six months I wrote three novels—like, novels that will actually be published. One of them was the (surprisingly large) sequel to Under the Empyrean Sky, tentatively titled Blightborn.
I also just passed the 100,000 “tweet” mark. Meaning, I’ve tweeted over 100,000 tweets. Again: is there a program I can join? A 140-character 12-step program? (Hint, hint, you can find me on Twitter @ChuckWendig.)
Finally, I talk a lot about writing and publishing and storytelling (and toddlers and recipes and culture) at terribleminds. It’s NSFW. Probably NSFL. Hope to see you there.