The Name of Calvin, fiction, June 1, 2009
Birthdate? March 14, 1972
When did you start writing? As soon as I could pick up a pen I was writing poems and stories for my grandmother. Probably in an attempt to charm some candy out of her.
When and what and where did you first get published? My first publication was a poem titled "Alligator, Alligator" which
appeared in Humpty Dumpty's Magazine when I was 8. When I was a teenager I started publishing my own photocopied comic books and contributing to punk-rock zines; that eventually led to music
journalism, which I started doing professionally in 2002. For some strange reason, though, it took until 2008 before I started writing fiction. In fact, it was my New Year's resolution. I submitted my first story in May of 2008, and I had my first real fiction
publication -- a dark science fiction story titled "Behold: Skowt!" -- in Apex Magazine in November of '08.
Why do you write? Honestly (and I hope humbly), it's one of the few things I'm decent at! The act of writing isn't always pleasurable -- sometimes it involves much internal ass-kicking and turmoil -- but when something good comes out of that process, it's its own reward. Selling the stuff
every once in a while is just icing on the cake.
Why do you write Science Fiction and/or Fantasy? I fell in love with science fiction and fantasy when I was around 9. I'd ride my bike to the library and fill my backpack with novels by Gordon R. Dickson, Roger Zelazny, Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Fred Saberhagen, Stephen R. Donaldson, John Varley, Frank Herbert, and so on. I know it's probably cheesy to admit now, but David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean remain some of my favorite (and most re-read) books of all time. The thing I've always loved about speculative fiction is its fundamental paradox: It's escapist literature that winds up saying far more about humanity and reality than most "real"
lit. And, of course, it's far, far more fun.
Who is your favorite author? Your favorite story? J.G. Ballard, may he rest in peace, has been my favorite writer since I discovered his books Chronopolis and The Crystal World in high school. The Crystal World and High-Rise are my favorite novels of Ballard's -- for very different reasons, as those are two of the man's least similar books -- and my favorite short story of his has to be "The Intensive Care Unit" from 1975, one of the most chilling dystopian tales ever written.
What are you trying to say with your fiction? Even when I'm being weird for the sake of weird, I like to think I have some underlying message going on. Even in an odd little folk tale like "The Name of Calvin," I'm trying to make a statement about identity -- its arbitrary nature, the way it alienates as well as socializes, and even the inherent absurdity of human beings having
names in the first place. Overall, my stories deal (or at least try to deal) with similar themes: loneliness, otherness, and the arbitrary nature of hierarchies and other social constructs. Not to mention the
ultimate relativity of perception itself. Of course, sometimes I just have lasers blowing stuff up.
Do you blog? Where? I blog very sporadically at jasonmheller.blogspot.com, but I also contribute spec-fic-related nonfiction to The Onion A.V. Club, Fantasy
Magazine, Weird Tales, and others.
If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say? Kindly refrain from animating these remains. I like it down here.
Descended from a long line of truck drivers, waitresses, and convicts, Jason Heller has been published or is forthcoming in Sybil's Garage, Farrago's Wainscot, Apex Magazine, Kaleidotrope, Everyday Weirdness,
Expanded Horizons, Brain Harvest, Atomjack, and other fine outlets for
strange fiction. He also plays guitar in a punk band called The Fire Drills. They do the worst Cheap Trick cover you've ever heard.