The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Alan DeNiro

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by author Alan DeNiro! Alan was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the College of Wooster with a B.A. in English and the University of Virginia with an M.F.A. in creative writing. He now lives outside of St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife Kristin Livdahl and their children. Alan is the author of the story collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead (Crawford Award finalist; Frank O’Connor Award longlist) and the novel Total Oblivion: More or Less. His latest collection, Tyrannia and Other Renditions, is available November 12th from Small Beer Press. You can read an excerpt from the collection here on

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from the classic rock band Genesis to classic Greek philosophers, and more!

Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.

The creature from The Host.

Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?

Not a book per se, but for a work of interactive fiction of mine called Solarium, which is set in the early parts of the Cold War—just the depths of paranoia by the U.S. government and how that was exhibited bureaucratically, in really disturbing covert operations and, um, really bad propaganda/training material to prepare people for nuclear war. And on the Soviet side, the “closed cities,” although I didn’t get to use any of that research. Maybe on a future project.

Tyrannia Alan DeNiro If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?

The Mekons would be a perfect fit for this story collection: gritty but a bit unreal. I love them so much.

What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?

Choosing a D&D “Red Box” answer: straight up Chaotic.

What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)

I’m a big fan of Genesis, and, yes even their 80s work—and in a non-ironic, non-“I only like them because of American Psycho” kind of way.

Do you have a favorite unknown author?

Ioan Culianu(or Couliano) is one of my favorites. He was a professor at the University of Chicago and an expert in the Renaissance and the occult. His work Eros and Magic in the Renaissance is one of my favorite books; although it is non-fiction, it has the sweep and narrative scope of, say, an Umberto Eco novel. A brilliant writer and thinker who, sadly, was murdered savagely in 1991 on the campus of his university.

List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.

1. My story collection Tyrannia is all over the map. It has a little bit of everything—space opera, weird experiments, secret histories, dystopias.

2. I also write interactive fiction—choice-based hypertext works that straddle the line between game and story. Lately I’ve been using a program called Twine to make these. And I love Twine and you probably would too.

3. I have a son and daughter who are both almost 2 years old. They keep me on my toes.

If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?

That would have to be Heraclitus; his On Nature exists only in fragments quoted by other writers, but to have the whole thing would be an amazing thing.


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