Eyeballs, Angst, and Short Fiction: An Interview with Tony Rauch

Tony Rauch is an author of absurdist, whimsical, and Bizarro short fiction. I’ve enjoyed his work a lot. You can read my review of his latest collection, what if i got down on my knees?, over at Medium (originally it was reviewed at the now-defunct Adventures in SciFi Publishing): https://medium.com/@benarz13/book-review-what-if-i-got-down-on-my-knees-by-tony-rauch-b310cd5d8a47

Ben Arzate: Introduce yourself. Who is Tony Rauch?

Tony Rauch: If I’m doing my job correctly as an artist, I am a guide to previously unseen places and also a mirror reflecting the weirdness, confusion, feelings, and wonder running wild in the environment.

At other times I’m just the apple of your eye. A giant, fuzzy bunny in the guise of a man-boy who only wants to be your friend. The last potato in the bag. The electrolysis you can’t afford. That thing on your back that you should have checked out, but you don’t know it’s even there because it’s on your back. A miscellaneous collection of your regrets displayed like items at a garage sale. The dark, tilting, creaking stairway down into your failures. The elongated spore that will work its way into your subconscious to fester and will gradually buzz until you enroll in a low-budget tap dancing class. That little man in the blue suit and little hat who is always peeking at you from a distance. What finally became of Stinky Sullivan from Growing Pains. The burned-out clutch of the rusted-out orange’78 Camaro you’ll soon be living in. The guy behind the guy . . . behind . . . the guy.

I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I get around.

Ben: How would you describe your writing style?

Tony: Depends on the book. The first two were more experimental or odd fairy tale.

The third was whimsical, dreamy, surreal fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tale adventures full of longing, discovery, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life.

The fourth was tales of wonder and woe about people trying to find meaning and a place in an absurd, indifferent world, and their discoveries, revelations, secrets, failures, struggles, connections, and odd encounters along their way.

I’m more of an absurdist swirling genres into a new gumbo. I do this mostly for the people, and only a little for my own modest megalomania.

Ben: What are some of your biggest influences?

Tony: Rust, mud, gunk, goo, the void, your mother’s secrets, your futility, troubles, the mist, the goombees.

In terms of writing: Steve Martin’s “Cruel Shoes” for its absurdism. Donald Barthelme for his inventiveness and ability to break out of the box and narrow confines of previously established conventions. Ray Bradbury and other sci-fi for forward thinking ideas. Richard Brautigan for his word craft and sense of play. Salinger and Fitzgerald for their sense of pacing, regret, and heartbreak.

Anything creative, imaginative and different. Anything concise and efficient. Anything that causes a reaction, that makes you think, feel, empathize. Anything that probes new possibilities, sets new boundaries, declares new freedoms from pathetic and obsolete rules.

Ben: Why write fiction?

Tony: I like ideas. Art deals with ideas, therefore I like art. I like playing around with ideas. I aspire to participate in the arts, produce art, share art, advance art. As an artist I need that periodic infusion of newness to keep life fresh and alive, so life doesn’t feel stagnant or stuck in only one thing, one gear, one vibe. Music, literature, and other fine arts infuses and replenishes me with ideas, new thoughts, new combinations. Art moves me along and open doors that I did not realize were there. And a lot of it is free – google, youtube, galleries, free little libraries, the public library, readings. All free. So an interesting diversion and investment in thought for only the cost of your time. Art forces new ideas, new combinations, new blood, new thoughts into the body, refreshing, challenging, building, and adding to your sustenance.

I like writing specifically because literature moves – it is active, not passive, it grows, flows and changes, it’s alive. Literature is not static, where paintings or collage is often just a snapshot in time, even the ones that are vibrating with energy. Also, many people have access to writing, where only a few people might see a painting or other form of physical art. So writing to me is a way to reach a lot more people than I could with painting. Also, a lot of my ideas are fluid, they flow and change, so writing is the best artistic format for me to replicate that sense of movement and progression.

Ben: Does your job as an architect have an influence on how you write?

Tony: Occasionally. I’m lucky because from time to time my job allows for some introspection and contemplation, so I get some time to think about story arcs, ideas, and endings, etc. Writing is just designing with words.

But having free time with no other thoughts is a huge advantage – walking my dog, biking, cleaning, driving (or sitting in traffic), wandering the aisles at the supermarket, or wandering the back alleys with a vacant look in the middle of the night can all afford time to think. I have learned to use the interstitial spaces of the day to my advantage.

Ben: All of your books are short story collections. Why do you favor the short story form? Have you considered writing a novel?

Tony: Like punk rock, I like the burst of color and pungent flavor, condensing, distillation, immediacy, economy, efficiency, the manageable scale to allow for experimentation and exploring the elasticity of the format that shorts allow.

I wrote a novel last year and hope to work on the second part in that series this coming year. It is a short chapter novel, which is similar to a series of stories or linked adventures. I had some left-over material that had similar themes and took place in similar settings, so like a puzzle they seemed to link and fit. I thought it would be a novella – maybe ninety pages, but it ballooned to three hundred pages. That first novel is like a series of linked shorts.

Ben: Do you write your stories with a theme in mind for collections, or do you just focus on them as stand-alone stories?

Tony: Stand-alones. But sitting and thinking and typing, and then walking around thinking, gets me on a vibe. So there are similar themes in each – loss, escape, absurd situations, existential longing, discovery, secrets, identity, strange happenings, endurance, regret, fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, discovery, ennui, loneliness, irresponsible behavior, confusion, change, and absurd situations. The stories seem to fall into several templates that then get funneled into each collection.

Ben: You have a few screenplays on your website. Have any been sold or are in the process of being developed by any filmmakers?

Tony: I had some local indie filmmakers interested in “A light in the darkness” but nothing went beyond the initial development stage, which surprised me because it’s a walk-n-talk indie that would take maybe three weeks to film. I have an idea for another film, and notes for it somewhere, but haven’t had time to dig into that one. My books have been more of a priority because they garnered the most fruit. Every once in a while someone will want to try one of my stories out as a short film or play, but so far nothing concrete has ever come of those inquiries.

Ben: Which of your books would you recommend for someone just discovering your work?

Tony: I have 4 story collections published. Samples are on my website – see the link below. It would depend on your personal tastes, but they’re all ripe for the adventurous reader who is looking for something different, creative, imaginative, thought-provoking, hard to classify, and/or a mix or swirl of genres. I would say “eyeballs” or “what if” since they are the latest and thus represent more life experience and more writing under my belt, but any of them would be fine.

Ben: What are you currently working on?

Tony: Probing your demons. Scoping your lobe for leaks. Tripping the light fantastic. Finally living up to lowered expectations. The usual. Finished a mostly YA sci-fi novel late last year and am sending to agents, which is daunting. I’ll start the second book in that series this summer. I have the notes and an outline. Will start to send to some smaller publishers because it doesn’t look like the agent route will work out, which is deflating because the book is righteous.

I also have 3 or 4 other completed story collections I need to find a publisher for. Three of those are strange YA sci-fi, fantasy, fairy tale adventures and one is a more adult absurdist collection. They’re just as interesting and inventive as my last two collections, maybe even better. If anyone knows of anyone out there looking for odd story collections, please let me know.

Ben: Any links or anything else to plug?

Tony: Book and story samples can be found on my website at https://trauch.wordpress.com/

Hopefully I’ll be able to find a suitable publisher for the books mentioned above, and then will have more wares to pitch in the near future.

Muses of a Strange Land: An Interview with Rhys Hughes

Welcome to another addition to our growing list of author interviews. This discussion with Welsh writer Rhys Hughes is long overdue, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. As usual, feel encouraged to follow Mr. Hughes on his Amazon page. I’m certain you’ll find much to admire in his ever-growing oeuvre. 

Justin A. Burnett: The first thing I noticed when familiarizing myself with your work is that there is a lot of it. Not only that, but you seem to explore a variety of styles as well. How many books have you written so far? Do you see your fiction work in the context of a particular genre?

Rhys Hughes: I have written 48 books so far. In fact the latest has just been published, but I haven’t announced it yet. I don’t have a copy yet and I feel I can’t really announce it until I have a copy for myself and can see that it has turned out well in terms of production, that the pages haven’t been printed in random order or whatever. So yes, I am very prolific, but that’s because I write fast, and the reason I write fast is because the work sort of prepares itself in my mind before I sit down to write. It’s already half formed in my head. I guess that I could slow down and be more careful but the pressure of new ideas would build up if I did that, and it might prove unbearable.

As for different styles, when I was younger I wanted to try every style, every genre, I had no fixed abode anywhere in literature. But that has changed now. I have settled down, become more focused, and I no longer try my hand at everything. There are certain types of writing I know I will never be any good at. I know this because I tried them twenty or more years ago. Erotic fiction, for instance. Or genuinely scary horror fiction. I can’t really do those. My mindset and everything about me isn’t really conducive to writing effective examples in those genres. I tried but I soon realised it wasn’t for me. I used to see myself as writing in all genres, but primarily in science fiction and fantasy. Now I don’t see myself as writing in any genre, unless speculative fiction is a genre. But I suspect it isn’t. Also not all my work is speculative. There was a time when I liked the term Fabulism to describe the kind of fiction I do, but even that wasn’t quite right. The critic John Clute described my work as belonging to a category called Fantastika and I rather like that. I have adopted it.

I suspected you weren’t too focused on genre; I think I’ve read enough of your work to make the claim that there’s such a strong, distinct voice in your fiction that it feels uniquely Rhys Hughes in the same way that Borges is simply, indisputably Borges and Calvino is Calvino over any claims that concerns of genre might make on those particular writers. I’d like to return to Calvino in a minute, but do you mind elaborating on Fantastika? What distinguishes it from Fabulism or magical realism?

It’s no more precise a definition than Fabulism or magic realism, so very little or nothing at all distinguishes it from them, if we are going to be honest. I just like the sound of the word. It still seems fresh and therefore liberating. If I say I write magic realism people are going to assume I do a bad imitation of the brilliant Marquez. If I say I write Fabulism they are going to think I write fairy tales in which some of the characters might be drug addicts. But Fantastika has no obvious meaning, at least not in English speaking countries. When I was in Serbia a few years ago, I walked into a bookshop and saw that “fantastika” was just the label for any fiction at all that wasn’t realistic, including all fantasy, science fiction, magic realism and horror. It’s one of those labels that isn’t really a label, like sticking a label that says “fruit” onto an orange when it could also be stuck onto an apple or a mango. It’s liberating and it’s also a bit fancy, maybe.

That’s probably the best defense of the term I could imagine, especially in your case, since coming to your work expecting something in the vein of Marquez would be misleading. In my opinion, it’s the bright, playful core at the center of your work that tends to resist the full identification with writers like Marquez or Barthelme. Is this “bright core” why you found it difficult to write horror? You mentioned your “mindset” in connection to your resistance to writing “genuinely scary” fiction. Is this where the delightfully infectious sense of celebratory wonder in your fiction comes from? Can you identify a parallel, in short, to your writing style or thematic choices and your outlook on life that might help potential readers understand what they’re in for when they’re picking up one of your books?

I can’t write horror that is creepy because I can’t bear to leave things unexplained. Either I want the mechanics of a ghost, demon, vampire explained scientifically, which ruins the horror, or I want them explained absurdly, which also ruins the horror. I just can’t leave things unsaid. That’s the issue. To be an effective horror writer you must be able to leave things unsaid. And the things you leave unsaid have to be the right ones, the ones that extend the tension beyond the end of the story or the end of the scene. I can’t do that and even if I could I am sure I wouldn’t be able to do it well enough to make a difference.

But you mentioned Barthelme and stylistically he has been the biggest direct influence on my work, absolutely, at least since I discovered his stories, which was almost 27 years ago. There is darkness in Barthelme but it still has the bright core you mention, and this bright core often comes from the rhythms of the prose, from the music, rather than the themes or the treatments or even the sense of the words themselves.

If a new reader is familiar with Barthelme and likes his work I definitely hope that reader would find in my work something similar or the same to what they find in Barthelme. Barthelme was style and Calvino for love of ideas. My two biggest literary influences. And Boris Vian for not being afraid of going very absurd, of going absurd and then going even more absurd. That was important to me too.

It’s interesting to me that Barthelme is the stylistic influence, but that might be because I’m in the thick of World Muses right now, which I happen to be reading alongside Calvino’s Cosmicomics. I seemed to sense the presence of Barthelme much stronger in the earlier work of Better the Devil. Do you find World Muses to be much less restrained in terms of going very weird compared to your earlier work?

World Muses is absolutely one of my favourites of the books I have written. It might even be my favourite of all. But I don’t know if I can explain why, because I’m not entirely sure why myself. I had no idea I was going to write a book when I began it. I just wrote a flash fiction for my friend, Ayu, who lives in Indonesia. Then I immediately had an idea for another and wrote that one too, also for a friend. As the days went on I began to write more, also for friends, female friends. At some point I understand that I was writing a book that was a collection of flash fictions, then I realized that actually no, I was writing a novel that only seemed like a collection, and that the individual tales were chapters and that the frame was contained inside them rather than outside them, somehow.

Maybe halfway or so through the project it occurred to me that what I was doing was a sort of tribute to Calvino’s Invisible Cities, but with women instead of cities, and I know how awful that might sound, but I absolutely made sure to limit the male gaze in these pieces, primarily because the women in these stories are based on real people, on my friends. Most of them anyway. Some were invented for the sake of completing the book. The idea is that in all the individual chapters, the woman wins ultimately in some way, and this holds true for all of them, except one, which insisted on being negative, and that one wasn’t based on a real person, I’m pleased to report.

So yes, Calvino was a bigger influence stylistically and in every way on World Muses than Barthelme was, but that was for the simple reason that I didn’t want to be ironic about people who are my friends. Barthelme is remorselessly ironic, intensely so, and that approach didn’t seem appropriate for this particular book. And yes, the weirdness was limited here too, because it didn’t seem necessary at the time.

I’m glad you dove into this one. World Muses is definitely a stunning work, and my favorite of what I’ve read so far. It’s an exhilarating experience, consistently unexpected and thought-provoking. I think the comparison to Invisible Cities is absolutely spot-on. You discussed the general process of World Muses, and I’d like to follow up with your creative process in general. Do you typically plan things out ahead of time, or does your work more or less reveal itself to you along the way? Was there anything significantly different in your process on World Muses than with your more lengthy formats?

I plan but only in the same way I plan a hiking trip. For example I might have a starting point and a destination and maybe a few places along the way that I am keen to visit. But the rest of the route is done without planning and might be prone to unexpected diversions with encounters that are wholly surprising to me. But I try to get back onto the route at some point. Maybe a comparison with jazz would be better. There are periodic resolutions that I am aiming for but I am free to improvise between those resolutions, provided they eventually do take me where I want to go.

I have planned books much more meticulously than this. The Percolated Stars, for example, was my most carefully planned book. I made notes for how the story was going to develop and these notes covered the entire story from beginning to end. But it’s very rare I do things this way. It’s also rare that I have no plan whatsoever and just wander aimlessly. Usually it’s something between these two extremes, or a combination of the two extremes. Sometimes I begin with no plan at all and the plan develops later. That’s what happened with World Muses and my latest book, The Nostalgia That Never Was. I have no idea which approach is better, if any. I guess that careful planning is less stressful. Maybe I ought to do it that way more often.

In an introduction to the revised edition of Better the Devil, you discussed a misadventure with a publisher that led to the reissue of that particular title. I found that to be delightful little vignette, and wanted to be sure and ask if you’ve had any other interesting or frustrating encounters with publishers over the years. Incidents like yours are very instructive, I believe, to newer writers who may be a bit starry-eyed and naïve when it comes to publishers. Did the Better the Devil issue ever resolve? What’s the most frustrating obstacle you’ve encountered in getting books published?

Publishers are just like people, they are all different, and even though we imagine that they probably share the same values and standards, this is only true in a very general sense. There are amazing publishers out there, and terrible ones, and everything between. All writers are probably going to end up dealing with the good ones, the bad ones, and the ugly ones too (ugly in spirit, I mean), but the main thing is not to let any of that distract you, as a writer, from your purpose, the purpose you have chosen, which is to write. Deals will go sour, publishers will pull the plug, you probably will be promised the world and you won’t get the world. Just keep going, keep yourself active, and don’t expect anything to happen until it has really happened.

The publisher of that particular chapbook you mention, Better the Devil, might have be a fraudster or he might have just been incompetent. The end result was the same. But I used what happened as an opportunity to expand the chapbook, create a better chapbook, and in the end it turned out positively.

And it made for a good introduction as well. I am aware that you’ve written essays, but I haven’t read any of them yet. What kind of nonfiction topics do you generally cover, and where would you recommend new readers wanting to dive into your essays begin?

I have published very few essays actually and most of them appeared in very obscure magazines more than twenty years ago, although a few are probably available online. The thing is, I never took essay writing seriously back then. I just wrote them because I was asked to. It’s only in the past two years that I have decided to start treating my non-fiction as seriously as my fiction. So I decided to start again from the beginning and the year 2017 for me was ‘Year Zero’ when it came to writing essays. Since then I have written 22 exactly. Not many but there’s no particular hurry. I am hoping that my first non-fiction book will be published quite soon, maybe this year or next year, but I need to create the material for it first.

I do have a title for that book. Bullshit with Footnotes. There will also be an essay with that title which will consist of just one sentence and each word in the sentence will have a long footnote and the footnotes themselves will constitute the real essay. That’s the idea anyway. Those footnotes might have endnotes too, and maybe those endnotes will also have footnotes. Let’s wait and see!

As for a list of the sort of topics I might cover, I prepared this list a while ago to act as my guide:

• Strawberries, the finest fruit
• The First Science Fiction Novel
• How every writer is their own favourite author
• Brexit: some thoughts on Europe
• Mazes, their symbolic meaning
• A most underrated writer, the work of Barrington Bayley
• When satire goes too far
• Parallel Universes, how even their non-existence will prove their existence
• Occam’s Razor, a new logical twist
• Alain Resnais, his films
• Why immortality accelerates time, an idea
• Life after death, a new way of looking at this question
• Kizomba, the most sensual dance
• Paradoxes, why they are so intriguing
• The Empathy Problem, some thoughts on empathy
• Mountaineering, a pure pursuit
• Coconuts, the floating food
• Jacques Tati, his films
• Penguin Café Orchestra, an appreciation
• Perpetual Motion, the joy of mechanical absurdity
• Logic and the monsters, an imaginary film script
• The hazards of being a pedestrian
• The perils of checking out women
• Three things I write about and three I don’t
• The Ultimate Existential Horror
• A logic flaw in the horror genre
• Walking through Portugal
• Predatory males, why they give real predators a bad name
• Italo Calvino, an appreciation
• Not in my name, usurpation through accidental nomenclature
• Unusual titles for stories
• The Workshop of Potential Literatures
• Desperate Straights, a logico-whimsical argument
• Some thoughts about Richard Dawkins
• The art and designs of Rodchenko
• Rules for an imaginary literary society
• The Poetry of William McGonagall
• The problem of evil, a possible solution
• Géza Csáth, his life and work
• Pierre Louys, his life, perversion and work
• Maurice Richardson, his neglected classic
• Romanticynicism, an outline for a new literary movement
• Magic Realism, what it might be
• What scares me, a personal list
• Metafiction, married a fiction, had lots of microfictions
• Stories never to be written
• John Sladek, an appreciation
• Creative writing classes, a few doubts about them
• Uranus, a planet neglected in science fiction
• Pretension, and what it really is
• Why songs are often illogical
• First band without the definite article in their name
• Rinky Dink Panther, Time Traveller

I absolutely love these. I’m utterly intrigued and can’t wait to read the products of your nonfiction labor. I keep a list of running essay titles and ideas as well; I find it immensely helpful. I’m sure my opinion hardly counts as qualified, but I tend to believe that essays truly test the mettle of a writer. You have several “appreciations” for writers, here. Outside of those already mentioned above, which authors whose work might appeal to readers of your work do you feel deserve more recognition?

Oh, the world is full of underappreciated writers. When I was younger I wrote essays about writers I admired but they tended to be writers who were already very well-known indeed, such as Samuel Beckett. I think that now it’s much more useful to write about lesser-known talents. Not that Geza Csath and Pierre Louys are especially obscure, to be honest, but they could be better known in the West. Having said that, obscure writers are often obscure for good reasons and it’s often pointless to lift them out of obscurity, not that I am really in a position to do that anyway. But there are many writers who might be well-known in their own countries or in their own languages or in their own milieus who aren’t well known to, say, the fantasy-loving or SF-loving audiences in the West, and maybe they should be.

Boris Vian definitely ought to be better known than he is, even though he’s a cult figure in France. Andrei Platonov is perhaps the greatest literary genius who remains relatively unknown outside his home country, Russia. I could list lots and lots of names. Milorad Pavic, Mia Couto, George Lamming, Cyprian Ekwensi. Lots of their writers were maybe more famous once but have slipped into a collective forgetfulness. For example, there were many writers who were mainstream in the 1980s that very few people read anymore. D.M. Thomas. Remember him? Why did he slide into obscurity? I have no idea. Mario Satz is another. Even Bruce Chatwin, so big in the 80s that people would read him on the tube trains, has become a very marginal figure.

I guess if I had to choose just three writers I regard as very good indeed but who are little known among the fantasy-loving audiences of the West, I would go for: Felisberto Hernandez, Mia Couto and Ismail Kadare, all of them brilliant, all of them celebrated in their own countries but not enough here in the UK, or in the USA, perhaps. I would perhaps like to write an article on Couto one day, for instance.

Excepting Beckett, of course, I have heard of none of these writers outside of Vian, Pavic, and Kadare, who I haven’t read. You’re always an excellent source of writers I should be reading who I would’ve never stumbled across otherwise.

Forgive me this, but why, especially given his new book on Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is there no planned essay of appreciation for Neil Gaiman on your list?

Ha ha! I have nothing against Neil Gaiman at all, but as his name crops up everywhere and everyone seems to love him, I just can’t resist having a dig at him now and then, purely for the sake of seeing the shocked reactions of others.

Gaiman is no longer a writer but an untouchable demigod and therefore the urge to make jokes about him is just too strong. I don’t know if that urge is a British thing or just a Welsh thing or just comes down to my own nature, but the moment someone is ubiquitous I have an urge to treat their reputation as a sofa and plonk myself down on it. Just for a lark really, just for fun.

I began reading Mombasa Madrigal last week; how did that book come together, and does a love for W. G. Sebald come into play here?

I wrote Mombasa Madrigal before reading the work of Sebald but the moment I read Sebald I wanted to be inspired by his method, so I regard Mombasa Madrigal as sort of being pre-inspired by Sebald, if that makes any sense, which I am sure it probably doesn’t. The first Sebald I read was The Rings of Saturn, and I have just finished reading Vertigo. He is definitely one of my best discoveries of the year 2018. Every year I discover writers I have never read before who turn out to be excellent and I am very lucky that this is the case.

Sebald’s work is gold, and I’m glad you happened across him. What artistic goals do you aspire to with your writing? What would have to happen, in an ideal world, for you to look at your writing career and say “aha, I did it!” Is there any work of yours that you feel comes closest to meeting this goal?

I have a very definite goal when it comes to short stories and that is to write exactly one thousand of them, link them all together into one big story cycle and then forget about the writing of short stories forever.

I have been planning this for years and years and I am now on story number #912. My earliest surviving story dates from 1989, so I am entering the 30th year of my short story writing ‘career’. With luck it will be finished within one more year, two years, maybe three. The question then remains whether I separate out my novels from this cycle or not. If I do separate them out (and I suppose I will) then I will have to write a few more short stories to replace their numbers in the cycle. That shouldn’t be too difficult, as I don’t have many novels to my name.

When the short story cycle is completely done, I will finish the novels I have ideas for. That will then mark the end of my novel writing ‘career’ too. What will I be left with? My non-fiction. I want to write exactly 1000 articles to match the 1000 stories. Also plays. I have been writing plays recently and really enjoying the process. I don’t know how many plays I will write in my remaining lifetime, I haven’t set a definite target yet, but I am free to specify 100 or 500 or any number. That should keep me busy for another couple of decades, I reckon. Alternatively, I might just retire completely before too long (after the completion of the short story cycle) and forget about writing altogether. I am not quite ready for that yet. Or rather my imagination isn’t, even if I feel that I am, because the ideas keep coming and crowding my brain and they demand to be put down on paper before they will agree to leave me alone….

So when I write the final word of my thousandth story, I am sure I will then say, “Ah, I did it.” But what “that” is precisely, and whether it was worth doing, are other questions.

That is definitely the most unexpected and interesting answer to that question I’ve ever received. What originally made you decide to write 1,000 and only 1,000 short stories? Does assigning a specific quota to each format help the creative process in some way?

I can’t remember exactly when I made the decision that I was going to write exactly one thousand short stories and no more. I am sure it is connected with the 1001 Nights. When I began writing short stories I had no such scheme in mind, I never considered writing a sequel to any story I wrote. Every piece was a standalone. Eventually, I wrote a story which seemed that maybe it could the first of a series and in fact it did beget a series. I added one sequel every year. It would always the last story I wrote in any particular year. Then after nine years it was done, so I put the stories together and they formed a novella. I had two other novellas that were connected with it in various ways, so I put them all together into a book, and the book turned out to be a novel called Nowhere Near Milkwood. But I hadn’t realised it was a novel until it was published. I just thought it was a collection of short stories. The connections between the stories worked more like the connections between the chapters of a novel and that was unexpected.

As for why I decided only to write one thousand stories, that is entirely because I believe one needs to know when to stop as well as when to keep going. Almost every writer reaches the zenith of their ability at some point, the summit of the mountain, and then it’s a slow decline to the bottom on the other side. There are a few authors who get better and better but they are in the minority. I never wanted to fade away, declining into the dusk of obscurity on the other side of the mountain. I’m already obscure enough. I want to reach the summit of the mountain and stop there. That’s why I put a definite limit to the number of stories I plan to write. It could be that I have already passed the peak, of course, and am already descending on the other side. But the target of one thousand is almost within grasp. I think I have done the very best I can.

You’ve had a flurry of releases lately, and a few upcoming, if I’ve understood correctly. Is there anything you’d like readers to know about these?

I am very prolific. Some would say I am too prolific. In fact my own publishers and editors have said this, and so have a number of other writers, even some writers who are well known. They have told me to slow down and publish less. But in fact I don’t feel capable of doing that. The ideas come into my mind, they have to be encased in stories on the page or otherwise they won’t leave me alone. But one day it will all come to an end. I will stop writing, no more books will emerge from my mind at all. So I’m not too concerned about being too prolific rather than remaining silent. the silence will catch up eventually.

I had three books published last year and by my reckoning there will be another three this year, or maybe even four. One of those, however, will be a strictly limited edition with a print run so small it is almost the same as not having it published. I don’t mind small print runs actually. I don’t mind them because I am so prolific. If I wasn’t prolific, if I only published a book once every couple of years, then small print runs would surely be an issue. Writers want to read after all. I’m not different. I want to read too. But if a publisher approaches me with an unusual idea, for example a very small print run of handmade deluxe copies of one of my books, then I am going to be willing to go along with that. It can always come out in a cheap paperback edition some time in the future. There’s always that option.

As far as I’m aware, my next book to be published will be Mombasa Madrigal, which is the handmade deluxe book, and that will be followed by a fantasy adventure novel The Wistful Wanderings Of Perceval Pitthelm. Maybe my big book of tribute stories to authors I admire, The Senile Pagodas, will also be out later this year, but I can’t be sure about that because it has been in preparation for about six years already and my published doesn’t seem in a mighty rush to ever publish it. I have already had one book published this year, The Nostalgia that Never Was, and I am really delighted with the way that one turned out, so we have to be grateful for what exists and not unduly fret about what is waiting to exist. That’s my view anyway.

Excellent! Before we wrap this up, is there anything you’d like to plug? Parting words of wisdom? 

I would like to plug my collection, Mirrors in the Deluge, which is one of my favourites but didn’t do very well. No idea why. The publishers were lovely people, so if I could somehow persuade people to buy a few more copies, that would be really great. I don’t have any parting words of wisdom really. I think that wisdom is a bit overrated and certainly those who think they have it generally don’t. I would just say that if you want to write, do it and keep going and don’t let anyone discourage you.

You Dirty Rat! An Interview with Editor, Author, Musician, and Artist Ira Rat

by Ben Arzate

Ira Rat is a fellow Iowan and a jack-of-all-trades in the arts. Here, I pick his brain to see what he’s all about. A quick disclaimer: I had a story published in his zine Fucked Up Stories to Tell in the Daytime and I’m very grateful he featured it.

Ben Arzate: Let’s just jump right into it. Can you give us a brief introduction? Who is Ira Rat?

Ira Rat: That’s the question I ask myself everyday. Without getting too existential or pretentious about it, I’m just a person who makes things. I get ideas and then I have to figure out what the best way of getting it out is. Over the course of all that, I make music, design, and write. I also like getting things out there for other people so I’ve run the record label Drug Arts and just started the press Filthy Loot.

Ben: Filthy Loot just put out its first zine, Fucked Up Stories to Tell in the Daytime. Obviously a riff on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. What was your inspiration to create it? Is this the first zine you’ve created or curated?

Ira: Making little publications is something I’ve done going all the way back to high school. I was making chapbooks and zines for the poetry and music writing that my friends and myself were constantly churning out. Really the three things that got me thinking I should make this was sitting at work binge listening to Bizzong, then appearing in Ben Fitt’s The Rock n’ Roll Horror Zine with one of my stories, and finally finding a few copies of Freak Tension that I bought from Emma Johnson years ago in the bottom of a box of books. There is no real eureka about the idea, basically the name popped into my head and it was a “duh, of course I’m going to do this” moment.


Ben: You also just put out a limited edition chapbook called Learned Animals. Can you tell us a little about that?

Ira: That’s a chapbook of one of my stories, it’s kind of a stand alone idea that was a tribute an odd fever-dream tribute to Shirley Jackson. After working with a few people editing it, I just didn’t feel like submitting it anywhere — so I just made a cover and printed up some copies.

Ben: You’re also currently taking submissions for another zine called No. What is the concept behind that one?

Ira: No. is pretty nebulous, the original idea was for it to be something that Lazy Fascist would have put out, because I don’t really see many presses covering that literary bizarro area. Though, I’ve learned from years of trying to force expectations that nothing is set in stone until it’s done, so it’s still open to interpretation from the people who submit. Fucked Up Stories… definitely was one of those projects that the submissions ended up defining what it ended up being. So I’m trying to learn not to push my own agenda on these zines and just let them be what gels together.

Ben: You also do music. What kind of music do you make? How long have you been doing that?

Ira: I’ve been making music since about 2000. Though much of the early stuff is mercifully lost. The music that I’ve made for the past few years is mostly focused on experimental, inspired by musicians like Brian Eno and Throbbing Gristle who really push the idea of actually learning your instrument can be detrimental to creativity. Everything that I make other than design has an element of purposeful naivete, because when I start taking things too seriously it gets boring. Though with my writing, I hire editors to make it sound like I know the proper way to use a semicolon.

Ben: Ha! I know how that feels. You design as well. Do you do all your own art? What do you enjoy most, writing, making music, or making visual art?

Ira: What I do is closer to collage than to illustration, but I do illustration here and there as well. Like the cover to Fucked Up Stories… is based off of a stock image I bought from a website years ago that I always liked. I then illustrated it to look like something that would have been on the cover of a Scary Stories book. I went to art school, so I come from the idea that everything is appropriation, but the idea is to pull enough randomness in there that it’s not just regurgitating the same things over and over. Or you know, blatantly stealing something and claiming it as your own — though some artists have done that and done really well. I weirdly compartmentalize and so I don’t have a preference what medium I’m doing. Like my short stories come from a place of my interest in odd conspiracy theories and other things that if I were to explore in other formats it might be considered taboo for someone like me to be exploring.

Ben: What are some your biggest inspirations in the different fields of art that you’re involved with?

Ira: Oh god. Francis Bacon, Kurt Vonnegut, Throbbing Gristle, Stephen King, Daniel Clowes, William Burroughs, Tomato Design, DEVO, Harmony Korine, Charles Bukowski, Jay Reatard, Angus Oblong, David Lynch, Marcel Duchamp, Neil Gaiman, Chip Kidd, Clive Barker, Sam Pink, Andy Warhol, Crispin Glover, Cindy Sherman, Aaron Draplin, Hannah Höch… I’m sure I’m missing some big ones in there. The first album I ever owned was a dubbed copy of The White Album when I was 6, so I’m sure that’s where my eclecticism comes from. I spent days in a creative process class just making lists of things that interest me and people who influence me so that’s far from comprehensive.

Ben: Besides the No zine, what are some other projects that you’re currently working on?

Ira: I’m also working on a zine called Drag Drugs Death that will be a weird fiction tribute to Warhol and The Factory, Fucked Up Stories #2, and I’m at the early stages of trying to figure out a good name for a splatterpunk zine. I’m always working on other stuff, like “Spektorvisions” by my band Neon Lushell is turning into our version of Guns N’ Roses’s Chinese Democracy. I’ve been telling people it’s going to come out “any time now” for 5 years.

Ben: What are your goals with Filthy Loot? Do you want to keep it a zine and chapbook press, or are you interested in putting out full length books at some point?

Ira: I’m seeing where things take me. Right now I’m doing zines and chapbooks because I can do them myself and not have to tie up a lot of money in one project. Though I’m not against anything.

Ben: Zines seem to be making a bit of a comeback recently. What do you think is the appeal of zines over, say, publishing online or with an ebook?

Ira: Zines have always been bubbling under the surface. One of the things I guess would be an appeal is that you can sit there at a copy shop and make a few copies and not have to get too invested in making 1k perfect bound books. Personally I’ve always just like cool little objects that even if they sit on a shelf or in a box that you can take it out later and appreciate. That’s one of the reasons why I put a few different bobbles in with the zine to just put cool things out into the world. The problem with digital publishing is that I literally have 100 books in my Kindle that I got for free or next to nothing, but I’m going to grab a book because there’s a physical presence there to remind you to read it. I know the argument that you’re killing trees, etc. but the world as it is we need less screen time. Or at least I do.

Ben: Last question, why did you choose Ira Rat as your pen name? Or is that your real name and I’m a fucking idiot?

Ira: To confirm the person who harassed me online a couple weeks ago. It’s because I used to snitch on the Irish Republican Army. There was thought behind the name, but more interesting than that is that I recently discovered that “irarat” in Latin is a congregation of “I become angry, I fly off into a rage” which is a good enough reason as any to keep using it.

Ben: Where can our readers find your angry, snitching ass online?

Ira: Filthyloot.com and Irarat.com

Ben: Thanks so much for the interview!

Ira: No, thank you. And thanks for the support and being in the zine and what not.

The Grim and the Grit: An Interview with Genre Veteran Chad Ferrin, Part II


Read Part I here.

A figure in a giant bunny mask murders the wicked with whatever implement is at hand, sending them to the Lord at the wrong end of a broomstick or the working end of a power drill. When the masked avenger’s not slaughtering the damned, it’s defending a damaged young man with a learning disability who still believes in the Easter bunny.

A cadre of cagey med students are introduced to a potent synthetic drug that leads them from the heights of sexual ecstasy straight into the arms of an unfathomable death.

A group of friends find themselves lost in LA’s notorious Skid Row district and must grapple with a vengeful gaggle of territorial homeless people hellbent on isolationism.

These are the unique and brazen horrorscapes that filmmaker Chad Ferrin gives us. They are picture books of a crappy world, restless meditations on the ethnocentricity, excess, insanity and addiction that blight our own society. This is fitting since Ferrin’s production company is called Crappy World Films.


But there is nothing crappy about the craftsmanship that this low-budget auteur brings to bear on his signature works. As you will see in the following bit of our conversation, Chad has come close to losing everything to bring his vision to the screen and, in some cases, he has been scammed for his efforts.

Like all or, at least, most artists toiling in the film industry, Mr. Ferrin has had projects fall apart before they could even begin. But it’s interesting to note that the projects in question were largely those written by other scribes. This seems like a certain strange but deliberate machination of destiny as it is all too obvious to someone who knows Chad that he’d be better off directing his own original material.

Whenever Ferrin puts poison pen to paper, the results are positively bugfuck. From his early shoestring gross-out pic Unspeakable to his reworking of Roham Ghodsi’s script for the contemporary cult classic Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Ferrin always leaves his grimy fingerprints on the words, resulting in image after image that cannot be shaken from one’s consciousness.

If you don’t know the kind of images I’m talking about then we have nothing to talk about. The films of Chad Ferrin hit you in much the same way a Saigon Kick song hits you the first time you hear it. Eventually they come to an end, but the the vestiges they leave linger behind your eyes forever.

One such flick is Ferrin’s 2016 picture Parasites which found its inspiration in an unlikely place. See, Ferrin isn’t a filmmaker like Tarantino who splashes common genre homages all over every frame of his canon. Instead, he is a meticulous artist who calls back unlikely or even forgotten films of old.

“It’s my take on one of my favorite films, The Naked Prey,” he tells me, referring to the 1965 Cornell Wilde picture that was shot in Rhodesia and was based on “the amazing true story of John Colter’s Run.”

As Chad puts it, “I just replaced the Blackfoot Indian pursuers with homeless bums.”

“I know you had a really rough time shooting this one all guerilla-style on Skid Row,” I say. “You wanna rap about that a little?”

Chad doesn’t pull any punches in his response. “We saw the homeless fucking in the middle of the street, pissing and shitting on the sidewalk, junkies shooting up, close to a 100 illegal street racers doing doughnuts in the parking lot of our base camp, gang members tagging buildings and, finally, a mob of bums chased after us for filming their tent homes. Every night was was an episode of Cops but without the cops.”

“What compelled you to risk life and limb to shoot in the wilds of Los Angeles like that?”

“It’s my love letter to Downtown LA,” Chad as he stares off somewhat wistfully. “With gentrification quickly changing the landscape down there, I had to catch the grit and grim before it was gone.”

It’s this grim and grit that will one day draw devoted crowds to revivals of Ferrin’s movies. But for now, fans will have to wait for such screenings to take place. In the meantime, they can look forward to the 10th anniversary edition of Someone’s Knocking at the Door which Chad says he is working on with Breaking Glass Pictures.

When Chad breaks this news to me it’s music to my ears because that’s exactly how we first met and I first discovered his catalog of films. “Back in the day, you said that you had a fairly positive experience working with Breaking Glass compared to other distributors. Is there any reason you haven’t worked with them again?”

“I can’t say enough nice things about BGP and Rich Wolff,” Chad says. “They’re top notch! We have been trying to get a film off the ground for years now, one a these days something will come together.”

I float the idea of Chad revisiting his body of work. “I still see Someone’s Knocking at the Door as your masterwork and the creative team behind it as the perfect marriage. Have you thought at all about doing some sort of follow-up with those people, whether it’s working on another movie with the screenwriter or getting the proverbial band back together for a pseudo-sequel?”

Chad is quick to respond, his eyes lighting up like a dumpster fire in an alleyway. “I have a prequel bouncing around in my head that would be about John and Wilma Hopper as they rape/murder in the 1970’s.”

“I know we could probably trade war stories all day,” I tell him. “For me, I’d probably cite the time some chick with Munchhausen Syndrome impersonated a producer so that I’d get on a train and meet her in midtown Manhattan and talk with her over coffee for four hours. Or there’s the former made-for-TV movie producer who verbally agreed to finance a web series I’d written only to pull a 180 and reveal that he didn’t actually have any money to contribute (“I’ll take your cast out for bagels, get you some wardrobe if you need it”). That sort of thing. I imagine it’s less absurd and a bit bleaker for you. What would you say is your most ridiculous industry experience?”

“Ugh! A while back I was in talks to direct an action film shooting in Mexico. The script sucked but I was assured it could be tweaked, so I met with the writer/investor/producer, lets call him Tito. After a three hour meeting, he agreed to my terms and went fourth to come up with the 200k budget.

“Next day I saw that he added my name as director to the IMDB page for the project. A month later, he says come meet me and my team, sign the contract and lets move forward. So, on the hottest day of the summer, I arrive at the restaurant fifteen minutes late and sweating like a pig. I find the group in the back sitting in a booth. Tito shakes my hand as he introduces me to his wife and 100 year old grandmother.

“I sit down and order a Margarita, I whisper to the waiter, ‘Why is it so hot in here?’ He responds, ‘No A/C today. Brown out. Conserve energy.’ I roll my eyes and think to myself, boy, I hate this town sometimes.

“Tito then grabs my arm, pulls me close. ‘Chad, here’s your contract and the new script.’ I take hold of the two-page contract and the slimmed down script that he’s shoving in my face. He then starts rambling in my ear as I scan the contract. I quickly notice that he has changed my pay from 20k to 10k with 5 points on the back end.

“I drop the contract into a bowl of salsa, look him in the eye and ask, ‘What happened to the deal we agreed on?’ He smiles, ‘That’s too much money, Chad.’ I lean back, ‘You think 20k is too much to direct and edit a $200k budget film in Mexico?’

“With a shit eating grin, he mumbles, ‘How about 11k?’ My eyes bulge out as I hiss through grit teeth, ‘NO!’ He looks over to his wife and mother. They begin to speak in Spanish. Smiling, he touches my arm. ‘How about 15k?’ I stand up to leave. He grabs me, ‘Okay, I’ll give you the 20k to direct and edit. You drive a hard bargain, my friend.’

“Sitting back down, I smile, look over to the wife and grandmother. They’re both staring at me like I had just raped their son with a Coke bottle. The waiter arrives with my drink, I gulp it down. I ask Tito about other investors and when he expects to have the budget in place. ‘I don’t want other investors’, he exclaims. ‘I want to own the whole film myself because it’s going to make millions and win an Oscar for best picture.’

“Taken aback, I nod my head in disbelief, ‘Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.’ I walk into the bathroom, wash the sweat off my face, take a deep breath of the humid air and scream to myself, ‘Jesus H. Christ, he doesn’t even have the FUCKING MONEY!!!’

“Delirious from the heat, I stumble back to the table just as a gaggle of waiters arrive with a small cake, singing happy birthday in Spanish to the grandmother. Holy shit, I can take this, I grab the script, say my farewells and exclaim, ‘Happy Birthday, grandma!’ Tito shakes my hand, says, ‘I’ll email you the new contract tonight.’ I nod, wave goodbye to all.

“That night, I flip open the new script. Lo and behold, it’s 80 pages of unpuncuated nonsense. Alas, I never got a chance to discuss improving his opus because little Tito never sent the new contract or called me again. I checked IMDB only to find my name removed from the project. First time I have ever been fired via IMDB. Probably not the last.”

This story is a severe skullfuck, but it’s one that all too many of us have had to suffer at the hands of cheapskates, con artists or wingnuts.

“Why as artists do we do this to ourselves,” I ask him. “Must we suffer fools and

scumbags in order to make cinema? Is it a necessary evil or are we all a bunch of masochists?”

“Masochists!” Chad bellows.

The subject smarts too fucking much, so I decide to change the subject. On a more positive tip, I them him that I’ve always known him to have a feew irons in the fire at any given time. “Is it safe to say that you’re developing a film right now? What have you got cooking?”

“I have two revenge scripts, El Camino and God’s Lonely Woman that are getting a little traction,” he says. “Don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. Fingers crossed they get made this year.”

As I’ll learn in a few minutes, this is Chad’s way of being modest. The truth is that he’s just completed a project that’s gonna leave a lot of horror fans shopping for fresh underwear.

“Gimme three words that describe the fundamentals of indie filmmaking,” I tell him.

“Passion. Crazy. Driven.”

One could easily see these three words appearing in blurb form on the front of a DVD jacket for one of Chad’s movies. It encapsulates everything that’s vital and noteworthy about the man and his creations.

“Feel free to plug anything you’ve got going on, brother.”

Chad’s furrowed brow relaxes for the first time all day and he smiles. “We just finished post-production on a really fun feature called Exorcism at 60,000 Feet with a great cast including Robert Miano, Bai Ling, Lance Henriksen, Bill Mosely, Matthew Moy, Kevin J. O’Connor and Adrienne Barbeau. And to top it off, we had the master himself, Richard Band, doing the score. And man, he really knocked it out of the park.”

I am pleasantly surprised by this development as our conversation was supposed to revolve around development Hell. At the end of it all, we actually got a happy ending from the last guy one would associate with such. “The whole experience was a wonderful creative collaboration between everyone,” Chad added. “Especially writer/producer Robert Rhine and myself, probably the best of my career so far. It should find distribution shortly, so keep an eye out for it!”

You heard the man, make like Un Chien Andalou and keep them peepers peeled! If you want to live in the Crappy World, click here.

Like and share this post or you may just get fucked to death.

The Grim & the Grit: An Interview with Genre Veteran Chad Ferrin, Part I

By Bob Freville

A stoner med student receives a knock on his dorm room door. When he opens it a lanky woman, butt naked, stands before him, her pert nipples staring at him. This temptress wants to fuck and who’s this pipsqueak to say no?

The med student invites her in and they get right down to it, but you can imagine his disappointment when she takes the shape of a hunched little man with fiendish eyes, gnarly teeth and barnacles growing on his flesh. This terrible little man also has the distinction of possessing a monstrously large cock which he uses to defile and demolish his young prey.

Drugs, sex and murder. This was my introduction to the work of Chad Ferrin. The movie was Someone’s Knocking at the Door and I first became acquainted with this trippy, batshit horror flick and its mysterious director after Breaking Glass Pictures sent me a press kit.

At the time, I wasn’t thrilled about writing small caption reviews of indie movies for horror sites because I was itching to make my very own. Up until that point I had only directed one hour-long video, the avant-garde anti-love story Of Bitches & Hounds which would go on to become a cult hit on Berkeley TV. But I wanted to do something slightly bigger, I just couldn’t figure out how.

What Chad Ferrin, the director of ‘Someone’s Knocking‘ taught me was that you could make a micro-budget film look like it cost way more money than it did if you could learn to think on the spot. ‘Someone’s Knocking‘ may not have the look of a Hollywood picture, but it’s densely packed with one-of-a-kind imagery from the prosthetic genitalia of its two thrill killers to the bizarre black face funeral sequence that comes later in the pic.

After the film came out, I got in touch with Ferrin and we talked shop. He gave me copies of his other movies, Easter Bunny Kill! Kill! and The Chair, and I loved them, warts and all. Over the years, we lost touch as each of us suffered at the hands of an unmerciful film industry, but I recently had the opportunity to remedy that.

Looking like nothing so much as the oldest guy at a Frat party in Encino, Chad Ferrin struts into a room with all the swagger of Robert Mitchum in his prime. At 5′ 11” and with his sandy hair trailing behind him as he walks, he is somehow more imposing than any 6′ 3” ex-con you’ve ever met.

Perhaps this owes to his battle scars, ones that are not necessarily visible to the naked eye but reside within him. They can be glimpsed in his face which wears the furrowed mask of a gunfighter who’s been in a series of brush ups.

The former Minnesota native and longtime Angeleno has lived in the pits of smoggy California long enough to have not only seen beneath the facade of palm trees and palm pilots but to have been burned by its ersatz rays of light.

At 45 years young, Ferrin has gotten enough raw deals to inspire a Dostoyevsky novel. A lesser auteur would have left the city long ago and turned to writing novels or film criticism, but Ferrin isn’t a man who sees himself to the door when he’s asked to leave. He’s the guy with his boots up on your desk, refusing to step off until he’s gotten what he came for.

A true embodiment of the By All Means Necessary spirit of filmmaking spearheaded by Spike Lee and his NYU brethren (Jarmusch, Soderbergh, Alexandre Rockwell, etc.), Chad has been churning out underground movies for the better part of 20 years, starting with the no-budget feature The Ghouls and running right up to 2016’s Attack on L.A., formerly Parasites.

I ask him about when we first talked. “At the time, you had come off a series of bad experiences with film producers and distributors and I was gearing up to let Troma ass rape me without the courtesy of a reach-around. Do you remember what your first experience as a director was in terms of navigating the world of film distribution and acquisitions reps?”

Ferrin casts his mind back to the eve of the new millennium. “I had just finished the rough edit of Unspeakable (available from Troma) and with unbridled enthusiasm, I copied it onto countless VHS tapes and mailed one to every distributor from Artisan Entertainment to Warner Bros.

“To this day, almost twenty years later, I still remember the excitement of seeing the Paramount letter head before reading the rejection below it. You know, sometimes the best thing in this business is the anticipation of your dreams coming true just around the corner.”

The name Troma, once synonymous with the satirical revenge flick Mother’s Day and the punk rock hilarity of Tromeo & Juliet, now makes me cringe. That’s what bogus quarterly reports and a worthless net profit deal will give you.

“I know we were both screwed over by Troma,” I say. “But you were the first with Unspeakable. And to be fair, you warned me about working with Troma prior to them acquiring my film Hemo. I’m curious how our situations differed though and if you could shed some light on why young filmmakers should stay away from this famous cult movie house.”

To my surprise, Chad no longer shares my distaste. “Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the bulk of the blame falls on myself for not negotiating a better contract with them. If I had been more shrewd in working out the details of the contract, like fighting for a split of gross profits or capping expenses at $5k instead of $25k, then things would have turned out better on my end.

“I’m not saying they’re saints, I can’t imagine there are any in this business that are but; they worked the contract in their favor and you can’t fault ’em for that. When our term ended recently, I called up Michael Herz, we re-negotiated a new contract, and now every three months I get a check. Not a big check mind you, but hey, a little something is better than nothing, right? So, for the love of God, everyone reading this go to http://www.troma.com and a order a copy of Unspeakable right NOW!

“That said, let me take this moment, swallow my pride, and apologize to Troma for the years of ill will that I harbored against them. Now, if you want a warning of a horrible distributor, every filmmaker out there should stay far, far away from 108 Media!”

We’ll get to that in a moment, but first it is worth acknowledging how humble Ferrin is. As someone who’s been raw dogged by this industry more times than I care to recount, I can’t say that I possess even a modicum of Chad’s understanding. The fact that he could not only forgive but also apologize to the bastards that ripped him off speaks volumes about his character.

It’s a character which Ferrin brings to bear on his actors when developing a scene which goes far towards explaining why his particular brand of exploitation cinema works—there is a beating heart under the layer of grime.

“I reached out to you about two weeks ago to ask if you had a screener of your last movie Parasites and you shared some pretty unfortunate news with me. As I understand it, the film’s original distributor, 108 Media, breached contract by not paying the MG and then breached your subsequent termination agreement by selling rights away to the Netherlands. Can you talk more about that and why the film’s name has been changed to Attack In LA?”

Ferrin thinks. Ferrin is always thinking. “After Parasites screened at the Fantasia film festival in 2016, it had a buzz swirling around which caused a bidding war that 108 Media came out on top of, and we signed a deal. Then, they failed to pay the minimum guarantee, thus breaching the contract. We terminated the agreement, and I searched for a new distributor. Then to my shock, I find out 108 had released the DVD in the U.S. on Amazon!

“I called them up screaming, ‘What the fuck?! It’s on Amazon, what the hell are you doing?’ They said, ‘Oh, sorry, Amazon made a mistake by putting it.’ Ughhhh! ‘No shit!’ I exclaimed, then proceeded to threaten to sue them for breaching our termination agreement and doing damage to the value of the film.

“After an hour of yelling back and fourth, we made a new termination deal, they pulled the DVD off Amazon, but the fact that it had been released pretty much destroyed the title Parasites. The new distributor ITN decided to change the name to Attack In LA and see if that shakes the stink of the previous release. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really caught on under that title. It has been heartbreaking, soul crushing ordeal which doesn’t end yet…

“…a few months later, I find it being sold on the UK Amazon by Red Square Film in the Netherlands. A sale which 108 Media denied up and down, in fact, they denied making any foreign sales at all. After about a week of research, I dig up a company called Take 1 in Sweden who admits to buying it from 108. Take 1 then sold it to Red Square Film. I call up 108, and with this evidence, they finally admit to selling it, but say, ‘Chad, we didn’t make much money on it.’”

Ferrin growls. “I said enough is enough and I sued the bastards. And on November 16, a judge in Toronto ruled in my favor, ordering them to pay me $25,155.00. Score one for the little guy!”

Stay tuned for Part II in which Chad talks about how to make a movie among junkies, street racers and gang members.