The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Ben Tripp

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 author and illustrator Ben Tripp! Ben grew up in a creative household of travelers and artists. He spent a year in England at age seven, followed by a year roaming throughout Europe in a VW camper van. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design for illustration and at the age of 22 he became the youngest show designer ever recruited by Disney to work at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is the author of the adult novels Rise Again, Rise Again: Below Zero, and Fifth Chamber of the Heart. The Accidental Highwayman, available now from Tor Books, is his first novel for young adults. Read an excerpt here on Tor.com.

Join us!

Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.

I make my own aftershave.

What is your favorite short story?

“Man Overboard!” is a very short story indeed—a thousand words and change—written by a young fellow named Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. It’s perfectly economical: late at night, an unnamed man on a steamer in the open ocean falls overboard. He is left behind. What now? He cannot swim to shore. He is afraid to drown, but he cannot live. He prays for God to put him out of his misery. He fails to specify how. It’s a corker of a story.

The excellence of this vicious little slice of horror has long been overshadowed by the author’s later acheivements, such as serving two terms as Prime Minister of England and winning World War II.

Ben Tripp The Accidental HighwaymanIf you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?

One of my projects is a story about discovering an original playscript of Love’s Labour Won by Will Shakespeare. It’s the most prominent of his missing works; there is speculation that’s it’s a sequel to Love’s Labour Lost. Maybe it did terrible box office or something, but how do you just lose a thing like that? It was Shakespeare who got me to understand the purpose of storytelling is to reveal who we are, not what we do. The idea of discovering one of his lost plays makes me come over all wobbly.

Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?

I once bit my own arm so hard it broke the skin. I was researching the medical aspects of human bite wounds for my zombie novel Rise Again. Everything you need to know is not on the internet. Doctors tend to focus on different aspects of injury. I wanted to know what it felt like when the flesh can’t compress any more, when it begins to tear beneath our blunt human teeth. Now I know.

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

The greatest monster of all time is the original King Kong. No competition. He’s a horror, a hero, a romantic. He’s a big kid, content to play in the woods forever; then along comes a girl. He falls in love, but has no idea how to woo her. He’s ugly and dumb and makes all the wrong moves. He has no idea what he’s up against.

Kong ends up trapped in the adult world, where he is expected to put up with loneliness, exploitation, and ridicule for the rest of his life. That’s not how Kong rolls. No matter what disaster is thrown at him, he is brave and true and keeps on fighting to the end, totally devoted to his love.

What happens to him happens to us all, in some way; we lose our childhoods and get our hearts broken and are made ridiculous. Most of us fade away by degrees with the fight knocked out of us. Some of us keep trying. But only King Kong had the guts to climb the Empire State Building and fight the airplanes. I get teary-eyed every time I watch that bloodied and bewildered gorilla stroke Faye Wray’s hair before he dies.

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