BETWEEN TWO FLAMES WITH THE SEVENTH TERRACE
Thank you for joining your hosts Lola Silkysocks and Noggy Splitfoot for another installment of Between Two Flames — where we place authors in our hot seat for what surely must feel like an eternity of environmentally unfriendly gas grilling.
Today we welcome Laird Ryan States, author of Someone Else’s Story, a queer body horror globetrotting adventure you can read in an afternoon and have bad dreams about all night. Please tell us a little about yourself in exactly forty-two words.
LRS: I am smart enough to be aware of my failings. which are that I’m lazy, cranky, fantasy-prone, arrogant, mopey and out of shape. Unlike most magician/writers, I’m not a degenerate addict or sexual creep, so I’ve got that going for me.
TST: And you love animals, and that’s something special! And now, let’s get to your story. You’ve begun a grand setting with Sleeping Underwater (and Silver Bullets) and now Someone Else’s Story which you describe as your Sel Souris Cycle. How did this setting come to be? What inspired it?
LRS: I discovered a previously unknown half-brother who lived there. He contacted me, because he discovered he was carrying a hereditary disease, and felt like he should track down our father’s many MANY children and share that information so we could get tested. I’m not a carrier, but what an amazing thing to do for people.
He’s an entomologist, and Sel Souris is a really interesting place for an entomologist to be for reasons which you’ll know if you’ve read Sleeping Underwater.
Like most people, I’d never heard of it, but after I started researching it, I found the island has had a HUGE impact on our culture through its influence on artists. The island inspired a lot of things in the work of, for example, William Burroughs (who appears in Someone Else’s Story), the song Purple Haze, Frank Herbert, and the name of the freaking Beatles. And yet, nobody talks about Sel Souris.
It felt to me like a place the world was trying to point us a way from, a place with a kind of cloak drawn around it. As a magician, that sort of thing is catnip to me. I started poking at it, and never stopped.
Sel Souris was a huge part of my work as a practicing magician, right until it unfortunately collapsed into the sea altogether.
Since then, I’m also finding fewer and fewer references to it on the internet, except for me. Eventually, I suspect that people are only going to see my stuff, and assume I made it up.
I didn’t. I’ve been there. I have pictures.
And I’ve been very sad that it’s gone…but I know that it happened for good reasons I can’t really talk about just at this time.
TST: We’ve heard a rumour that you are enamored by the writing and worlds of Philip José Farmer, another illustrious universe builder able to entwine historical figures and places with his imagination to create something amazing. True? If so, what makes him so compelling?
LRS:Would that rumor be my NEVER shutting up about him for 10 minutes at a stretch? Phil Farmer had an imagination as big as the moon, and he was brave as hell. He was the first writer to bring sex into science-fiction, for example.
Now, Phil’s prose varies widely from workmanlike to awfully good. He’s like Philip K Dick, in this way. You aren’t there for the prose, you come for the ideas.
His Riverworld series posits an artificial afterlife for humanity. A race of benevolent aliens created artificial souls so that all living things can survive death, and live again to ethically improve until their artificial soul becomes part of a detected and unknowable over mind made up of the souls of all who have moved on in this way.
After the end of humanity, every person who ever lived is resurrected on the banks of a million mile river to start again, and build a new culture?
It’s a CRAZY ambitious idea. He doesn’t quite stick the landing, but who cares?
What really got me onto his work was his biography of Tarzan, Tarzan Alive, which reveals that the fictional Tarzan was based on accounts of a real man raised by very rare hominids in Africa. His research into the real life of this extraordinary man was a huge influence on me. He later wrote a sequel called Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, which discussed the real man Patrick Clarke Wildman, on whom the classic pulp adventurer was based.
He led me to look more deeply at the secret history of the world, which is a FAR more interesting place than most people truly realize.
TST: Frankenstein and Islamic folklore is a heady blend we don’t think we’ve seen before. And one of the many reasons we are Laird Ryan States fans. How did that happen?
LRS:Well, I was inspired by Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead. His work in that book pointed me at some of the primary documents about the black stone discussed in Someone Else’s Story. Despite the fact that Crichton turned out to be kind of an asshole, his work on discussing the Andromeda Strain and the InGen incident that most people think he made up for Jurassic Park was another rung on my ladder to more secret history.
TST: What’s next for Tom, is he going to be popping up again in the future? What about his new sidekick, Lisa? And are you continuing the cycle of Salty Mice?
LRS: Lisa’s living in Berlin under an assumed name, and Tom is trying to give her some space. He’s been in a terrible TERRIBLE headspace since Sel Souris went down. He’s also incredibly mad at me, which means dragging things out of him is very difficult. Happily, he talks a lot when he’s drunk. And that’s not an uncommon thing for him.
There is a book I’m compiling which I’m tentatively calling Wonderland which deals with what happened to the island. Also, I discuss what really happened at Roswell. It wasn’t aliens from outer space. I was disappointed by that, but the truth was so much weirder.
TST: What’s next for you personally? Any forthcoming releases, hatchings, or germinations we should be on the lookout for?
LRS: I’m at work on compiling Wonderland to send to you folks, actually. I’m also, god help me, about half a million words into a story set 175 years in the future, after the ecological collapse. It’s shockingly optimistic, and features a religious sect based on Klinger from M*A*S*H where the followers are trying to get out of the shit detail of life by getting a Section 8.
So, I’m keeping on keeping on.
I’m also working on a one man show in which I discuss the history and influence of Sel Souris….but as almost nobody knows what that is, who’d come?
TST: We’ll be there for it! We may not have visited the island in person, but it’s there in our dreams. Thanks Ryan!
LRS: Thank you.
About the Author:
Laird Ryan States was born in 1971, in Calgary Alberta. He spent his childhood and early adult life in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is an excellent place to grow up for a writer, as it’s at least as weird as Austin, Texas. He currently lives in a lovely old house in Edmonton Alberta, with his best friend, novelist Gayleen Froese, three dogs, and so many reptiles and invertebrates that he has lost count.
Someone Else’s Story is his third book, and a sequel to his self-published Silver Bullets and Sleeping Underwater, which is kindly published by The Seventh Terrace. It is part of a cycle of stories and mixed media art about the island of Sel Souris. He has nearly completed the sequel to this book, tentatively titled Wonderland, and is many hundreds of thousands of words into a long novel about pro-wrestling and the end of the world that also has loose ties to this cycle.
Ryan has loved Frankenstein’s monster since he was a small child, and though he thoroughly takes the piss out of him in this work, honestly believes him to be one of the greatest creations in literature, and feels a kinship with him that is occasionally uncomfortable.