Monday, November 28, 2011

The Conversation

The following is a transcription of a conference call between Greg Bardsley, Kieran Shea and Jedidiah Ayres – editors of D*CKED: Dark Fiction Inspired by Dick Cheney

Jedidiah Ayres: Hello?

Greg Bardsley: Hey, I’m on.

Kieran Shea: Present.

JA: Uhhh…

GB: Shall we start?

KS: Jed?

JA: Right… Sooooo, D*CKED… Y'know, something that kind of surprised me with this whole project was approaching potential participants who were nervous about the possible fall out of being associated with a project like this? Did you get that much?

GB: Yeah, I heard some of that. But not a lot.

KS: When we first approached writers and agents at Indy's Bouchercon, sure, and often it seemed to play out like this. "That's so cool! I'm in!  Uhh, (pause) you know what? Let me think about it..." which I'm fairly confident we all took for a 'no.'  

GB: What surprised me most were established writers who signed up eagerly, even helped us recruit other authors, and then later excused themselves from writing their own stories. They never said it was because of the possible political fallout; but we did have a lot of bigger names excuse themselves after first demonstrating considerable enthusiasm. Maybe some of that was borne from a developing concern about a fallout. I still think that in most cases, it was because they’d gotten overloaded with deadlines for novels and other stories.

KS: It's weird, people have this illusion of far reaching tentacles which, in and of itself, is a testament to our ravaged national psyche.

GB: End of the day, folks had a right to decline us any and all reasons. One thing we made clear was that we wanted a spectrum of stories, including what some might call “hero” pieces. We gunned hard for a romance piece by an established writer in that field, but struck out. We didn’t want the book to be polarizing for readers. Ultimately, we’re happy that the final product offers a variety of perspectives on Cheney and his influence. We didn’t get Rush Limbaugh to write a story for us, but we were able to publish a real range of pieces.

KS: Perhaps they thought we were playing with matches in a gas-soaked shack, I mean, who were we?  A bunch of scrappers and upstarts? As the former VP has said on more than one occasion, pillorying comes with the territory of public office. 

JA: Scrappers and upstarts... Yeah, what the hell did we think we were doing? Incidentally, do you hear that clicking on the line? Is it just my phone? 

KS: I just finished reading How to Disappear by real life skip tracer Frank M. Ahearn.  Welcome to the 21st Century, dude.  We're all being tracked.

JA: I keep hearing from people who've put together anthologies that they are absolutely finished with them. Never again. What's your temperature on future projects?

KS: There are some noble efforts out there on the anthology front. Good people keeping the crime/mystery and even the beloved western genres alive for the shorter attention spans –  but, God, Jed, we were so lost. Thank goodness we had Bardsley banging the drum on point. 

GB: My temperature on developing future anthologies is probably pretty low. It was rewarding, and I feel great about the final product. That said, developing and producing D*CKED required far more work and time than any one of us ever anticipated, and we all have our real jobs and primary fiction projects. 

JA: Gary Phillips suggested ‘Rove Noir,’ which I’d love to read, but yeah… somebody else is gonna have to put it together.

GB: What do they say? "Fools rush in"? The only thing is, we rushed in for all the right reasons, I think -- the chance to do something pretty cool, with a lot of really cool artists and writers. I'll never regret that. But let's admit it. The three of us -- Jed, Kieran and Greg? We're writers.

KS: Back in Ireland a lot of my relatives on my grandfather's side were and still are shepherds. Let's just say, I'm not one of them...although I do make a mean carré d'agneau.

JA: Why were you so up for D*CKED?

KS: As anthologies go, the concept wasn't like anything else out there. We have the cops and the amateur sleuths, the noirs and the thrillers, the supernatural and the why not take big old stick and stir a new pot?  And the focal inspiration, the character of Cheney himself---just so polarizing and mysterious. Sure I could wade through the chickenhawk hubris, the bitter tide of recent history, and the ruthless, jaw-dropping corporate cronyism but that could take all day, so let me just say this. The man had his property on the Eastern Shore of Maryland scrubbed from Google Earth and he shot a dude in the face. As a writer, how could you not take a crack at that

JA: You can't not. I couldn't.

KS: By the way, did you know Greg makes a terrific latte?

(GB audibly blushes)

JA: Seriously, you don’t hear that clicking?

KS: I stayed with his family for a day or so out during San Francisco's B'con, and when I crawled away from the inflate-a-bed in his office he asked me if I wanted a cup of joe.  I said sure, expecting the usual drip. The dude does the steamed foam and everything.  

GB: ... Thanks?

JA: Right... My favorite part of the whole gig was just hearing people's ideas. They seemed endless and popped immediately into people's minds, Dick was such a great muse. Greg's piece put Cheney in that uniquely Bardsley reality, Kieran’s story’s description just about made me pee my pants, Eric Beetner's piece is a fantastic concept -

GB: Yeah, there were some really good ideas, including the ones that made it to the book.

Hilary Davidson slays
JA: - and Hilary Davidson absolutely killed reading her story during Noir at the Bar... I guess my dream contribution would've been James Ellroy doing one of his 'bad white man' stories... Do you recall any great ideas that never made it to the publication?

KS: No, because it was an egalitarian effort from the start. But I will say it was heartbreaking to push back on some. There were some really gonzo ideas percolating out there. 

GB: I agree regarding Beetner’s concept. There are a few ideas that had great promise, but the authors never turned in the stories. One was to do a Dick vampire story; that would have been a riot, to have him sucking on people’s necks and living  that life. Another idea we received (from a literary agent) was to include a romance piece by a true romance author (you know, Dick between the sheets, between two satin sheets), but we couldn’t recruit anyone from those ranks. Another author had Dick as  a con planning a jailbreak, which I would have loved to read –

KS: I only wish we could have had more. 

GB: I still laugh from the imagery of Dick on the bus from Speed, and of Dick turning into a woodsy survivalist in the Alaskan wilderness, wrestling bears and eating insects. That imagery still cracks me up, and I'm glad those stories are in the book.

KS: I did relish taking an alternate slant on a movie so iconic. If anybody else wants to try assembling a collection like that I'd be interested in contributing for sure. Like, you know, instead of using the jump off point of Speed in my story for D*CKED we see Quint from Jaws brawling in Singapore, all salty New England patois and spittle. Or Lieutenant Frank Bullitt with a flat tire in the Haight and throwing down.  God, can you imagine what one could do with Patrick Swayze's Dalton character from Road House? Or hey!  Cartoons! Quick-Draw McGraw in his vigilante "El Kabong" outfit taking on the Mexican drug cartels and losing horribly...oh, so horribly - 

(Soft 'thnnnk' sound)

GB: K? ....

JA: I think he got disconnected...

(Loud crashing sound on the phone)

GB: What the?

JA: Greg? You okay? Guys? Hello? ……. Guess we got cut off. Weird. Is that somebody on the roof?


D*CKED is available in Print or as an eReader. Buy one if you dare. 

1 comment:

Greg Bardsley said...

Real men *do* steam milk