I’m so thrilled to have my friend and Bizarro author Scott Cole featured on my blog. His debut novella SUPERGHOST is really something special. A cinematic bit of comedic horror and bizarro strangeness, I read it basically in one sitting and cannot recommend it enough. Read on for the interview:
Lucas Mangum: First, tell us about SUPERGHOST.
Scott Cole: Well, SuperGhost is my first book. It’s a bizarro mad scientist story, about a man who invents a way to steal phantom limbs from amputees, and then assemble them into a giant ghost-monster, as part of a plan to attack the city and destroy his detractors. From there, things get weird.
“Frankenstein meets Pacific Rim” is one of the comparisons I’ve been using when I tell people about it, but I think there’s a dash of Monty Python and a sprinkle of Cronenberg in there too. And some people have been comparing parts of it to Ghostbusters.
LM: When writing the novella, did you have Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series in mind or did you choose it as a market afterwards?
SC: Yeah, the New Bizarro Author Series was what I was aiming for. Prior to writing SuperGhost, I had always considered myself to be strictly a short story writer. But I wanted to get into the NBAS, and I knew I’d need to put together something longer in order to have a shot at it. I was stuck for a while, in terms of HOW to structure a longer work (longer than a few thousand words, that is – SuperGhost is not exactly epic, in terms of page count), but eventually something clicked, and when it did, I hunkered down at the keyboard and knocked out the first draft in two weeks.
There would eventually be several rounds of revisions to come, but I felt like I unlocked something in my brain at that point. And suddenly I have no shortage of ideas for longer-form fiction. So I hope people check out SuperGhost and I can get more books out into the world.
LM: I’ve never read a story dealing with phantom limbs before, so I found your concept highly original. What made you decide on that theme?
SC: Phantom Limb Syndrome is something I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. It’s just such an unusual real-world thing, and it goes to show how complex our brains and bodies really are.
I had never read a story about phantom limbs either, and I guess that was part of why I decided to write this story, at least on a subconscious level. The idea of a mad scientist assembling them a la Frankenstein just sort of came to me in a flash. Eventually I combined that idea with another story idea, and I realized the whole thing had legs, so to speak.
I was at a sci-fi convention recently, selling copies of SuperGhost, and someone recommended Larry Niven’s “Gil The Arm” stories to me. They’re collected in a book called Flatlander, which I plan to pick up soon. Beyond that, I don’t know of any phantom limb fiction either. Maybe it’ll be big twenty years from now.
LM: The cover art is also yours. As someone who works in both mediums, what would you say is your first love?
SC: Art was definitely my first love. I was drawing from a very early age, and eventually got into painting, sculpture, and digital photo manipulations.
I did some writing pretty early on too – short stories here and there, and more than my share of awful poetry. But I zig-zagged in and out of that over the years, while visual art was near-constant. For the past several years, however, writing has definitely been taking priority in terms of my creative output, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
LM: How often does your graphic art influence your writing and vice versa?
SC: Well, I’ve always been an extremely visual person. I think visually, and I tend to learn visually. When story ideas come to me, it’s usually in images, either static or moving. I’m not sure if my own art or design work has been an influence on any of my writing (or vice versa), but the work of other artists definitely has. If I’m ever stuck for inspiration, I can usually crack open an art book and find a spark.
It doesn’t really relate to influence, but I will say it was fun to come up with my own cover art. I do some work as an illustrator and graphic designer, so I had a good time taking an idea from the book and translating it into an image that served as cover art, but could also be used as an iconic design element for promo pieces.
LM:. Do you have a favorite passage from the book you would like to share?
SC: Well, some of my favorite parts are a bit spoilery, and I don’t want to ruin some of the surprises in the book… But here’s a little exchange I like:
Michelle, Darren, and Trina had a quick conversation with their eyes: Someone’s here. Should we go? We gotta get outta here! What the fuck are we waiting around for?! But before they could act, something entered the room from the far corner. Two things, in fact, each semi-transparent, and glowing green from within.
“Oh shit,” said Michelle. “The guard dogs are here.”
The first of them looked like a mutant starfish—three human legs and two arms, all a bit larger than they should have been, all attached at a central point. Despite its monstrous appearance, however, it spun into the room cautiously, in a slow cartwheel roll.
The second thing followed closely behind. It was a pair of larger-than-normal human legs, connected by what looked like a forearm across the top, like a ghostly, mobile Stonehenge with a floppy hand hanging over the top of one leg. It walked in like any normal pair of legs might, if legs could walk without a body. It took short strides, perhaps unsure of its movements.
Trina screamed. There was no point in being quiet any longer. Even the octopus in the tank had suddenly become more animated, undulating his arms, occasionally splashing water over the top edge of the case.
“Whoa… Are those… are those phantom limbs?” Darren asked.
“Fuck! That’s it!” said Michelle, stunned. She had her hands on her wheels, but didn’t move.
“What’s it?” said Trina.
“That’s what that body cast contraption was all about. It wasn’t a pain-relief procedure. That bastard was actually stealing our phantom limbs.”
LM: Ice cream plays a big part in the story. What’s your favorite flavor?
SC: That’s a tough one. The Happee Freeze company in SuperGhost is sort of a bigger version of Little Baby’s Ice Cream here in Philadelphia. They’ve done some really odd, bizarro commercials which people may have seen on YouTube (like “Ice Cream is a Feeling”), and they have flavors like Everything Bagel, Peanut Butter Maple Tarragon, and Earl Grey Sriracha. They do some really delicious stuff, including the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever tasted.
So I guess my favorite ice cream is one scoop each of whatever they have available on that particular day.
LM: Tell me one, little-known fact about yourself that you’d like readers to know.
SC: I don’t like bananas, or honeydew, or cantaloupe. So no matter how much you enjoy SuperGhost, please keep your fruit salad to yourself, thank you very much.