The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Fred Venturini

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 Fred Venturini, whose short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South ’13. His story “Gasoline” is featured in Chuck Palahniuk’s Burnt Tongues collection. Fred’s darkly comic superhero tale, The Heart Does Not Grow Back, publishes November 4th from Picador. Read an excerpt from the novel here on!

Join us!

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

My best impersonations are Bane, Andrew Dice Clay, Borat, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a friend of a coworker that we call simply “lunch guy.” You don’t know him, but if you did, you’d be impressed.

What is your favorite short story?

“Orientation” by Daniel Orozco. When I take people around the office, I channel the narrator of that story, and whoever’s with me often doesn’t even know it. “That’s my cubicle. I sit in there.”

The Heart Does Not Grow Back Fred VenturiniStrangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?

I know more than I should about the black market for body parts and organs, and I had no idea there was such a cadaver shortage. I thought only a live, steaming organ would yield a profit, but it turns out a dead body is worth a nice little chunk of dough. You can even sell the parts. Turns out doctors across the country need to practice on dead body parts, and it’s created a market. Who knew?

If you could choose your own personal theme song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?

The “Glass Shatters” theme that Stone Cold Steve Austin comes out to in WWE, or “Big Gun” by AC/DC. The key to a walk-out song is scaring the crap out of everyone with the first note. You have to get people’s attention.

Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?

A lightsaber, which is what you get when a phaser and a wand have a genetically gifted lovechild. I have seen a lightsaber in skilled hands deflect the equivalent of phaser blasts, and Jedi probably use wands as kindling in their campfires. You have to hold a lightsaber with two hands a lot of the time, I mean that thing seems substantial. Phaser just looks like a Harmony remote, and a wand isn’t threatening at all. It’s just there. Now, a staff? Like a Gandalf staff? Getting warmer. I would say that phaser, saber, wand would replace paper, rock, scissors, but I’m pretty sure lightsaber wins anytime you throw it.

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

Freddy Krueger—we are both guys named Fred who have been set on fire, so there’s a kinship there. When I was ten years old, I actively rooted for Freddy to win in all of his movies (which some might say explains a lot).

What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?

It wasn’t Halloween, but this has to count—my wife and I went to the premiere of The Dark Knight. Packed theater, but only a few people were actually dressed up for the movie, a handful of Jokers. At the time, the casual audience didn’t know that Two-Face was in the movie. When the film was over, my wife went to the bathroom and I was waiting in the lobby as everyone milled out, and a few people stopped and wanted to take a picture with me. Because my burn scars are distinctly on one side of my face, they thought I was dressed as Two-Face and complimented the makeup job. “You have no idea how hard this was to pull off,” I told them.

What literary or film science fiction technology do you wish existed in our world right now?

Most of the stuff from Back to the Future, including sneakers that tighten themselves, hoverboards, cars that take garbage as fuel, and a Cubs World Series championship.

Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time.

The Joker. Not just the Ledger Joker, either. I still love the Nicholson Joker. That one scene where he smears the blood on the newspaper and just goes “ooooh… ooop! Oooop!” and laughs? Haunted my childhood. I loved it.

Calvin Candie. Unbelievable, overlooked performance by DiCaprio. Candie has his own blood-smearing scene that haunts my adulthood.

Hans Gruber. The man at the top of my personal villain list. He has it all—the ego, the accent, the twisty-turny plan, a vendetta for our hero that gets personal. Without him, Die Hard doesn’t work. “Shoot the glass!”


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