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 Wayne Gladstone, a longtime columnist for Cracked.com and the creator and star of the Hate by Numbers online video series. His writing has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Comedy Central’s Indecision, and in the collections You Might Be A Zombie and Other Bad News and The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes. His novel Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is available now from St Martin’s Press. You can read an excerpt here on Tor.com.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Bar Mitzvahs to the Arpanet, and more!
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I’ve written a weekly column for Cracked.com for years so there’s not a lot about myself I haven’t shared. And those details I did omit, I probably did because I thought no one would care. That means answering this question requires me to be both very personal and very boring. To that end, I’m pretty sure no one knows that when I went through puberty, I noticed my new body hair appeared more heavily on the left side first. Yep. Now you know.
If you could choose your own personal theme music to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
Well, I sort of have. I chose Morphine’s “The Night” as the theme music for my old Hate By Numbers video series. It’s just the sexiest song ever written and it makes me feel calm and cool and happy. A few years ago, the DJ at my nephew Aaron’s Bar Mitzvah played it as I came up for a toast. It was the closest I’ve come to feeling like a rock star. And definitely the most “rock star” anyone has ever felt at a Bar Mitzvah except, I’m guessing Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. He probably had a bangin’ shindig twenty-five years ago.
The majority of the research I did for Notes from the Internet Apocalypse came from my daily exposure to the Net for years so it wasn’t really research. However, for Book Two which I’m currently writing, I did a lot of research about the history of the Internet. Andrew Blum’s Tubes helped me immensely. Apparently, in the early days of the Internet—when it was called the Arpanet and connected only the computer networks of the US military and selected academic institutions—there was an actual physical directory of everyone’s email address who had access. An Internet phone book that was about the size of a Fall Fashion magazine. That’s a fact that plays prominently in the next book.
Describe your favorite place to write.
Without question, I like writing on trains. It came as a matter of necessity because my commute is where I have the most free time, but I’ve learned to love it. When you’re writing well, you can feel a rhythm that’s similar to motion. The cool thing about trains is that they mirror that feeling of motion even before you’re writing. It helps me kick-start the process.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
Without question, it would be Arcade Fire. I listened to The Suburbs nonstop during the writing. It’s a great album, and it even deals lyrically with some of the same themes. There’s a lyric that goes “first they built the roads, then they built the towns.” That applies to suburban Canada, but also works metaphorically for the infrastructure of the Net. Incidentally, I’ve been listening to ELO’s New World Record for most of Book Two. I don’t know why it’s such a good match, but it is.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
The gateway was my father, Joseph Gladstone, who basically read every single science fiction novel ever written from 1958-2000 while he commuted to work. He would talk about the stories at dinner sometimes, and he passed down all the Asimovs, Heinleins, and Herberts to my brothers and me. For the record, Dune is my father’s favorite book of all time.
What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?
Well, this is a gimmee. An Internet Apocalypse? I feel uniquely qualified to handle one having written a novel about what it would be like. As far as avoiding? I’d very much like to never see a “Everything-Gets-Subtly-Harder-And-Worse-Until-It’s-All-Over Apocalypse” and I think that’s exactly where the world is now.
Cast the main characters of your new novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).
For Gladstone, the protagonist, I’d have to go with Joaquin Phoenix or maybe James Franco or Charlie Day. For Tobey, I’m really stuck. I’d like Owen Wilson from 15 years ago. For Oz, you need someone who can appear radically different from artificial porn hot to natural beauty while landing the humor. Emily Browining or maybe Rooney Mara. For Jeeves, I’d go with Patton Oswalt. For Rowsdower, Willem Dafoe or Steve Buscemi. For Melissa Bramson, Kirsten Wiig. For Hamilton Burke, I’d like to go outside the box. I think Robert Redford would be amazing.
If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?
I am a huge fan of Steven Moffat and his work on Sherlock, Jekyll, and Doctor Who, but I’d love to haunt him. First, in nice ways for all the hours of enjoyment he’s brought me with this genius. Maybe I’d put a glass of water by his bed after a night of drinking or scare away burglars trying to steal his treasured possessions. But then I’d have to haunt him in petty, spiteful ways for the few times in Doctor Who he had me yelling at my set. Again, he inspires me daily, so nothing too mean, but I’d have to at least hide one of his slippers for the Matt Smith farewell episode.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
As long as everyone’s clear about the whole left side body hair thing at puberty I think we’re all good. But I’d like people to know that this book is not any one thing. It’s a satirical, sci fi, noir mystery, psychological character study. But most of all, it’s a love story.