Salvatore Ambulando’s Detritus: Self Portrait


“I’d like to think my approach to science fiction is fresh and new,” the author replied. “In reality, I don’t know if it is, or not. I haven’t read everything out there. In the end, maybe it is all regurgitation. Once upon a time, a man said: I’ve just written the greatest story ever told, and it starts with ‘Once upon a time, a man said: I’ve just written the greatest story ever told, and it starts with …”

“Describe your approach to science fiction for us,” the interviewer prompted. She tapped a poorly tightened ballpoint pen that rattled irritatingly against her clipboard. Like others who had interviewed the obscure author, this one seem disinterested – as if science fiction and any crackpot with connections to it was beneath her.

“I grew up reading pulp fiction, discarded in old boxes, usually only found in garage sales and occasionally those forbidden back rooms in discount book stores. It wasn’t just spaceships and aliens like you got with Asimov and the like – it was dark, shadowy material. You saw a portion of it in comic magazines in the early sixties before superheroes took over. There was brooding evil in those pages, elder gods, dark things that existed before the beginning of our universe. I grew up in the eighties, so I missed the true golden and silver eras. You saw it in Howard and Lovecraft during the pulp fiction days. Barker and King make it ridiculous in modern horror.”

The author paused, gauging the interviewer’s attention, then trudged onward.

“That kind of science fiction was before my time, but it is my favorite. I believe that in these modern times, we want to believe we’ve surpassed the wonder those old writers tried to evoke in the readers. We have computers, robots, global communication, space exploration. So then, what is science fiction to us now? Just another tool to hammer the same nail. We’ve learned how we can sell it just as easily as anything else.”

The interviewer – thin, made-up, plastic and vapid as the Hollywood that spawned her – stared blankly at him.

“My approach is not to be a prognosticator. I have no intention to predict what grand technological achievements will propel us into the future. I like to focus on what we’re going to take into that future from the past.” The author paused for dramatic effect. “Our fear.”

“So you write mash-up fiction? Horror Sci-fi?”

“Have you ever seen Goya’s painting of the yard full of madmen?” the author asked.

“I don’t believe so,” the interviewer said, absently looking at her watch. “Who is Goya?”

Dismissing her ignorance, and proceeding purely for the viewer, the author spoke on. His eyes took on a mysterious glow – some unintended effect of the studio lights.

“The painting is simple. Several lunatics are standing in a courtyard. Above them, an open ceiling with almost blinding light. In the courtyard, the shadows descend into void. A couple of madmen grapple with each other. You can see violence in the faces of the men. But there’s one figure in that painting that always gets to me. The figure is dark and obscure. When you observe the lighting of the scene, you start to think that you should be able to see that figure more clearly. You begin to fear that the lighting is right – its the figure that is wrong. A void. A darkness amidst dark things. An unknown evil hiding among well-detailed lunacy. This is what I write.”

“You write shadows?”

“I write little girls waving goodbye to men just released into a vacuum. I write polite alien parasites. I write geniuses who build rockets from scratch just to send their wives away. I write man as a virus spreading into space where he will soon meet things worse than himself.”

“Thank you,” the interviewer said, wrapping up the interview. As she gathered her things, she felt odd. There was a strange humming vibration causing her teeth to chatter.

The author gathered his satchel, lovingly placing his latest published novel into it, and then said his farewell. Holding the interviewer’s hand, he squeezed just slightly.

“I believe your eyes are bleeding,” the author pointed out.

“Thank you,” she responded. As the humming continued, she tried desperately to wipe the quickly pooling blood from the page of doodles she had created during the interview.

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