by Gabino Iglesias
Shane Cartledge is one of the really cool emerging voices in bizarro fiction. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012 as part of the New Bizarro Author Series. Since BizarroCon is nonstop fun and mayhem, I didn’t get to sit down with my Bionic Brother in Portland, but have been in touch ever since, and he’s a great guy: talented, mellow, humble, and he loves Junji Ito. Now Shane’s second novel is here, so it’s a perfect time for him to show us his stuff and talk books. Dig.
Gabino Iglesias: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
Shane Cartledge: I’m Shane. I read books. I write books. I live them in my head. Books are the key to my imagination. Smashing words together in a way that makes different people picture different things in their heads, I think that’s a very powerful thing. It seems mostly harmless, but it can be terrifying, the things books can make you think. It can also be beautiful. At times it can be blissful, surreal, chaotic, or cathartic. With each book, there is a different experience to be had, and within books, a complex network of thoughts and emotions. It overwhelms me. I read to experience those feelings. I write hoping that other people can feel it too while reading my own work. What more is there to books?
GI: You were part of the greatest NBAS class ever. What did you learn? Do you think it changed your career in a significant way?
SC: I have five other authors to thank for my NBAS class being so great. The books were magical. I went to places I’ve never been and never could imagine from the comfort of my own home. I made so many friends and I learned that this first book was only the beginning of something. I learned what hard work really is, and that I’ll never achieve much without it. I learned that respect and admiration is earned. You don’t wake up published and dive Scrooge McDuck style into a pool of royalty money. Every book sold is a blessing. Every book read. Every review. Every time someone tells someone else about this book they read that was yours. I learned that everyone won’t love my book (and some might really dislike it) and that’s okay, and the solution to it is to wake up the next day and keep writing. Write something better. Write what you love to write. Write what you’re afraid to write because you think it’s beyond your limits. Don’t be afraid to go insane. Of course the NBAS changed my career in a significant way. I became part of a collective. I found out how little I knew about the publishing industry, how little writing experience I had, how much hard work I had ahead of me if I really wanted to stick around. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
GI: Is living in Australia an impediment to your career in the US? Are there any pains that come from it besides the price of sending books this way?
SC: Pretty much all the book-related shipping I do is international shipping. I’ve had books sent to me that have wound up missing, and some of those books were one-of-a-kind limited edition type deals. It hurts both me and the guy on the other end. Every time I ship books out I’m worried they won’t arrive. I’ve come to peace with the cost of international shipping, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to work around that to give people the best deals I can without running at a loss. But I’m always concerned about whether or not my books will arrive. It sucks being so far from all the writers I cherish. It sucks that I can’t afford to fly out to Portland for BizarroCon each year. Talking with other writers is something I’m getting used to, trying to work around American time zones in order to have a decent conversation. I guess the other thing would be that I don’t really have much of a local writing collective. It might just be that I’m shy and don’t get out all that much, there isn’t much in terms of readings/events/conventions in my part of the world (and specifically my part of the country). I’m constantly telling myself that I need to talk more with local poets and writers and try to latch on to everything that comes along and try to boost it up a bit, to try building up a local network.
GI: You read books and comics, so let’s split it: give me the best five books you’ve read this year and the top five comics.
SC: Okay. Books:
One – Long Lost Dog of It, by Michael Kazepis. His prose is so smooth, the details are so sharp and clear, the story is raw and aggressive.
Two – Crystal Eaters, by Shane Jones. I just finished it, and there’s this mythic quality about it, the child-like simplicity of the concept and the way that you see it from the beginning charging head-first towards heartbreak.
Three – The Creek, by Justin Grimbol. There is a lot of humour and a lot of heart in Justin’s writing, and I think it is beautifully displayed here in his poetry collection.
Four – The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World, by Brian Allen Carr. Carr’s writing, like Jones, has that mythic quality about it, but it exists on a darker spectrum. It’s an all-consuming monster, and it is beautiful.
Five – Black Cloud, by Juliet Escoria. This is the world unfiltered and brimming with conflicting emotions. Short stories with characters saying and doing things you wish they wouldn’t, feeling things you know are true feelings. It feels real.
Comics, while I read American comics on occasion, I read a ton of manga. Here’s my five picks:
One – Knights of Sidonia, by Tsutomu Nihei. If there’s one name I can hammer into the skulls of people reading this, it’s Tsutomu Nihei. His works are beautifully, apocalyptically sublime. He is a science fiction visionary and artist.
Two – Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi. This one’s been going on for a while, and I’m currently up to date at volume 24 in the series. The story has a Dragonball Z style build up of powerful heroes fighting powerful monsters with each volume building up to something larger and more inconceivable than the last. I read it for the monsters which never cease to amaze me.
Three – Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama. Giant naked humanoid creatures eating humans towards extinction? Brilliant!
Four – Gyo, by Junji Ito. I’ve had this manga on my watch list for a long time but volume 1 was always unavailable. It’s a 2 volume horror manga from the author of the infamous Uzumaki. Same tone, except instead of being haunted by spirals, it’s a fish apocalypse. Gruesome. Wicked.
Five – Mardock Scramble, by Tow Ubukata and Yoshitoki Oima. Cyberpunk assassin revenge story. Seven volumes. Lots of action. And there are shape shifting hamsters and talking dolphins in there somewhere too.
GI: What’s your new book about and why should we spend our coffee money on it?
SC: My new book is about milk (get Day of the Milkman HERE! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for a free PDF.). How a world is drowned in it, people rely upon it to continue their day-to-day lives, and then a milkman wakes up to find that he’s the last of his people, left floating in a curdling ocean. It’s about the will to survive. It’s about the search for meaning and understanding. It’s about coping with loss and trying to comprehend the world around you. But really, it’s just about milk.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias