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 Danie Ware, who has been hosting and running events at the cult retailer Forbidden Planet for more than a decade. She is the author of Ecko Rising and its sequel, Ecko Burning, available now from Titan! Follow her on twitter @Danacea.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from haunting Google searches to Ron Perlman, and more!
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
Under the heading ‘things you wish you didn’t know’ know – the thick, rich smell made by decomposing flesh when it burns. Not something to Google, as the images are enough to haunt you for weeks—and even some of the descriptions are particularly graphic.
The oddest thing was finding out that it makes you hungry. Understandable enough, from a Pavlov point of view, but this is the thing those apocalypse movies never told you—you torch zombies and your mouth waters.
Truly, you learn the oddest stuff when writing fiction.
Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.
There are so many good ones! The Triffids. The War of the Worlds tripods. The thing with the eyes in its hands from Pan’s Labyrinth. Classic Eighties beasties: Aliens, Predators, Gremlins, The Thing. Audrey II. The giant squid in 20,000 Leagues. General Woundwort. Patrick Bateman.
My favourite, though, is Big Red: has to be Hellboy himself. And not only because Ron Perlman can do no wrong!
Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?
The fountain of youth—on Mars. A race of youthful beings on the Red Planet who are infinitely wiser and happier than we, and who can teach us the error of our stupid, blundering human ways…
Hang on a minute, though, isn’t that the plot of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’?
What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?
All of them, depending on the first thing I put my foot into. If it’s cat pee, then I am the smiting hand of the insufferably self-righteous; if my son’s left an unseen Transformer lurking in the darkest corners of the rug then I’m the rising rage of the savage tyrant.
If, on the other hand, I get clean carpet followed by hot coffee, then it’s benevolence all the way.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?
Choose the scientist, turn to page 3, choose the wizard, turn to page 74. I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference—only of genre and (al)chemical materials—I fear the loony lone experimenter outcome would be very similar.
If I had to choose, I’d go with the wizard—because the scientist is more likely to have some twisted assistant called Igor who traps local wildlife for sinister kitchen purposes, wheras the wizard might be able to conjure toffee popcorn.
And why is the wood yellow? Did I miss something?
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
As a small cub, the Greek and Nordic myths—I think they’re the favourite gateway drug for many heavy users. As a larger cub, I borrowed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain from my cousin, (and never actually managed to get out of the maze). Then, as a teen, my friend lent me Donaldson’s ‘The Illearth War’—and that was me hooked for life. It led me to scour W H Smiths for anything else with a fantasy cover, and then read it over and over until it fell to pieces.
Thirty years later, I’ve done a loop. I’ve drifted away from fantasy into urban horror, historical fiction and classic SF, and then found myself drifting back again. In some ways, picking up the familiarity of genre has been like finding an old friend, and in others it’s exciting to see its new directions and how the boundaries have been pushed.
Do I need to give the ‘let speculative fiction speculate’ speech?
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (Music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
In younger years, my vices were many and gleefully varicoloured… but that, as they say, is another story. These days I’m both wiser and warier. I no longer smoke, I don’t really drink, and I usually shy away from bad food. I exercise (probably) too much, and I’ve never had any patience with mainstream celebrity culture (ack). What’s that comment about making stupid people famous?
I do ‘fess to liking trashy telly, though, and have a particular guilty weakness for Two And A Half Men (the Charlie Sheen one, not the one with Aston Kutcher). That and Frasier. And Burn Notice. And Sons of Anarchy.
And… and why do I own two copies of Fantastic Four on DVD?
Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
Oh please—they’re the same! Was it Tom Hiddleston’s Loki who said that every villain is a hero in their own mind? And was it Neil Gaiman who said that Hell is something you carry around with you?
You can’t have good villain without them being sympathetic in some way, accessible. And sanctimonious heroes impress no-one; every ‘good-guy’ character needs a darkness, a flaw, a history, a lesson to learn…
Probably why I like Hellboy so much. And why Ecko turned out the way that he did!
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?
The apocalypse to avoid is the slow, strangling destruction of the planet, the critical overpopulation and struggle for resources, the death of our flora and fauna, and that final scrabbling bid to secure power and profit that won’t last anyway…
But look on the bright side – we do get all those pictures of abandoned theme parks.
In terms of the apocalypse I’d prefer? If I had to choose, it’d be the zombie version, Pavlov or not—because I do still have a cupboard full of old re-enactment weapons, and can just about remember which end is the pointy one. Plus: the enemies are clear and obvious and you won’t wind up in a cell for thumping one with a sword.
Or, for pure glamour points, maybe the epic meteor strike? Five minutes of frenzied Instagram goodness, and then BOOM. Tom Lehrer said it best, as I remember: his famous little ditty about all going together.