The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Robert Repino

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 Robert Repino, whose fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize among other awards, and has appeared in The Literary Review, Night Train, Hobart, Juked, Word Riot, The Furnace Review, The Coachella Review, JMWW, and the anthology Brevity and Echo. Robert has also taught for the Gotham Writers Workshop. His debut novel Mort(e), a science fiction story about a war between animals and humans, is forthcoming from Soho Press in January 2015. You can follow him on Twitter @Repino1.

Join us!

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

When I was 13, I took a pair of pants and a button-down shirt and spray painted them silver. Then I painted my face silver, sprayed my hair with a silver dye, and wore aviator sunglasses. Then I duct-taped a plastic blade—a grim reaper sickle—to my wrist. I was supposed to be the T-1000 from Terminator 2, in mid-transition from liquid to solid form. I’m very proud of that costume, but I was definitely high off the paint fumes by the end of the night.

Robert Repino pop quizStrangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?

For Mort(e), I had to research the behavior of ant colonies, the logistics and rituals involved with dogfighting, and some military lingo. But the weirdest thing I learned came from one of the authors who blurbed my book. He tells me that rats and horses are the only mammals that can’t vomit.

Yes, a giant, mutated rat vomits in my book. The manuscript had already gone to press, so I had to leave it as it is. But I assure you: other than that, the science in my novel is quite sound.

Choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this.

My novel has four POV characters: Mort(e), a housecat who is recruited in the war against humanity; the Queen of the ants, who triggers the war; Culdesac, a bobcat who trains Mort(e) to be a soldier; and Wawa, a pitbull and former dogfighter who serves as Culdesac’s second-in-command.

I just watched season one of Game of Thrones, and I thought that Peter Dinklage’s voice would work for Mort(e); he’s supposed to be sarcastic, vulnerable, a little bitter, and surprisingly brave, and Dinklage’s performance as Tyrion captured those qualities. Culdesac would have to be some older tough guy. I originally envisioned him as Clint Eastwood, the same way Stephen King imagined Roland from The Dark Tower, but maybe Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, or Christoph Waltz could do it. Wawa would have to command respect as well; I was thinking of Viola Davis or Uma Thurman. And then the Queen deceptively speaks with the voice of a young mother—how about Amy Adams?

If a movie ever gets made, I may end up denying all of this.

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

The first movie I recall seeing all the way through was the 1978 version of Superman. We watched it on a projector(!) at my neighbor’s house. But, I think what really got me into the genre was the fact that my parents were big fans as well, and they let my brother and me watch all the big science fiction and action movies even at an early age. (To get an idea of what I mean, I recommend reading Colson Whitehead’s New Yorker essay “A Psychotronic Childhood,” which I think depicts a similar parental attitude toward film.)

My dad insisted on taking us to the movies when we were way too young. To name one example, I recall seeing Star Trek II in the theater when I was only four, and talking about the infamous worm scene on the ride home. About a year later, my dad took us to the 3-D movie Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. After it was over, my dad told us to lay low in the theater for a little bit; then the movie started up again, and we took in a (free) second viewing. My dad also took us to see Back to the Future twice because he enjoyed naming the old cars that appear in the film.

My mom is a very sweet woman who nevertheless made us watch some really violent movies, like The Omen and the underappreciated The Naked Prey. The funny thing is, my mom didn’t like it when people used swear words. Even when a character was getting stabbed or incinerated—if he yelled fuck, my mom would say, “What’s with the language?” I remember watching Young Frankenstein during one of our many Friday night movie viewings. For some reason, the station showing the film bleeped out goddamn but left in Jesus Christ. My mom was beside herself. She said, “They cut out GD but not JC?!”

If you were secretly going to write fanfic about characters from SFF, who would they be?

I have dabbled in fanfic. Here’s the story: back in the late 1980s, there were three made-for-TV movies based on the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk show. The third movie ended on a down note (hint: it’s called The Death of the Incredible Hulk), and the network was talking about producing a fourth. But then, tragically, Bill Bixby passed away, and the project was scrapped. A few years ago, I was trying to teach myself how to write screenplays, and I wrote a feature-length script for that fourth movie. In it, Dr. Banner remains in Hulk form the whole time, meaning that Ferrigno would be the star. Banner is being used by the government as a weapon in the so-called war on terror, but begins to rebel when he gets his memory back. I even threw Tony Stark in there as well.

Hey, Lou Ferrigno is still in good shape—it could happen!

Lou, are you reading this? Lou!?

If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?

We still have a number of peacemakers, scientists, and non-Western mythical figures to go through before we get to some of my nominees. But, once that happens, I’d like a planet named after Ursula Le Guin. I’ll settle for a planet named Gethen, which she invented for The Left Hand of Darkness. Gethen is one of the best examples of world-building I’ve ever read, so it (or its creator) deserves the honor.

What’s your favorite fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling?

Not exactly a fairy tale, but I’ve been waiting twenty years for someone to top the ending of The Shawshank Redemption. That closing scene includes so many satisfying elements: a reward for years of hard work and suffering, a reunion of two friends, a new adventure, a redemption, and a comeuppance for the bad guys. Maybe if someone could do all that and still throw in a believable love story, then it could be topped. Until then, my loyalty lies with Andy Dufresne.

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