Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ask Heck: What was your favorite book when you were a kid?

At first, the Peanuts anthologies, then the Hardy Boys, then Jules Verne, then the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, then Dune, then Catcher in the Rye, then Crime and Punishment, and then a book of matches.

Ask Heck: What is your middle name?

My middle name is E which is short for Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

Ask Heck: Do you enjoy drawing?

I used to, but the only things I draw lately are the curtains, flies, and negative attention.

Ask Heck: Do you have any pets? What are there names? What’s your favorite food? Pizza?

I wish I had a pet named Peeve. Right now I oversee two dogs. One is Simon (full-name Simon Corn Kernel Happy Tails Basye) who is a 16 year-old Jack Russell Terror/Terrier held together with spite and goiters. The other is a year-old chihuahua named Tula, which is short for Tula. Actually, in terms of chihuahuas, everything is short.

Favorite food? See above. Or, in a pinch, sushi or ethiopian food. Y-U-M. Pizza is good, but—in a house crowded with food allergies—finding the perfect pizza that won’t make one person gassy, the other grumpy, or the other coughing up phlegm, is a problematic fool’s errand with cheese.

Ask Heck: What did you want to be when you grow up as a kid?

I wanted to be a slightly larger kid. Then I wanted to be other people, which is a frustrating endeavor. Even more frustrating is that I wanted to be other people who weren’t even real, like Captain Kirk and Luke Skywalker. As far as jobs, I loved animal, so I thought I’d become a veterinarian, but then I realized you had to give animals shots, remove their giblets occasionally, and sometimes even, you know…put them down (and not in the sense that you would insult them, but actually put them to sleep). So that was out, though if I had served in the military and sworn off meat I could have been a vegetarian veterinarian veteran. I think then it was comic book artist, actor, filmmaker, and rock and roll star: the last dream lasting well into my late 20s-early 30s.

Ask Heck: Did you go to college? If so which one?

Let’s just say that I was trying to “find myself” in college…the first place I should have looked was in bed, trying to sleep for at least 18 hours. After high school, I took a year off and lived on the beach in Southern California, where I soon learned that you need money to live on your own, so I got the worst job EVER: a telephone solicitor. After a couple of months I realized it was idiocy to work all day at a job I hated to pay for living on a beach I never saw because I had to work all day at a job I hated. Next, I went to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where I learned neon sculpture and how to draw naked people (luckily I was never asked to make a neon sculpture of a naked person…I can only imagine what would blink), and then to the San Francisco Art Institute where I studied avant-garde filmmaking and film appreciation. That was great because I would watch really, really obscure movies first thing in the morning which would wonderfully skew my whole perspective for the rest of the day. I would also submit ten minutes of blurs and scratches and get an A because of my film’s emotive power and vague allusions to Bergman. Then I went to San Francisco State University and studied journalism and music, until I needed to raise money to buy a new bass amp then got a job.

Ask Heck: What elementary school did you go to and Who was your favorite teacher?

I went to Sherlock Holmes School, that was elementary, my dear reader. Elementary. Actually, I went to Foster City Elementary School in Foster City, California named after Jack T. Foster who I think invented landfill. My favorite teachers were Mrs. Yates in 2nd Grade—she really supported our creativity, even if it interfered with our lessons—Ms. Giachetti in 3rd grade—who was the first and last teacher I ever had a crush on—and Mr. Kopel in 4th Grade, who let me make Super-8 films instead of book reports.

Ask Heck: What is your least favorite childhood memory (w/o being too much of a downer)

Overload! I absolutely hated middle school, which is the bitter fuel I use to write the Heck books. I find that if I transform a couple teachers into demons and change around a few names, the books are really just memoirs. One of my least favorite memories was my last period at school. See, all my friends from elementary school had been transferred to another school, where I was sent to another where I had friends in the negative numbers. And my last period class was always at the far end of the school, and I had to make it to the bus at the front of the school, and if I didn’t get their early, I wouldn’t get a seat first, which was imperative as no one would let me sit with them. I still get tense whenever 2:32 rolls around. There’s other stuff too, like pets dying, kids stealing my lunch money, and the Iran hostage situation, but that’s all that my fractured, fragile psyche will allow me to dredge up right now.

Ask Heck: What is your favorite childhood memory?

With so few to choose from this is almost too easy. Probably going to Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions (I hope your browser has the Geek filter turned off or you may never see this). It was a chance to dress up as my favorite Sci-Fi characters (everything from Scotty on Start Trek to a Tusken Raider from Star Wars) and not get beaten up or shoved in a locker. It was such a rush to be surrounded by people even freakier and geekier than I, if such a thing is possible. I also remember how fun it was to wait in line to see the first showing of The Empire Strikes Back: me and a dozen friends camping out for eight hours. And it didn’t disappoint! It was the exact opposite of my experience with The Phantom Menace.

Ask Heck: When did you first get into writing?

I was sort of a “Johnny come lately” when it comes to writing (as is evident by my use of phrases such as “Johnny come lately.”). As a kid I was really into drawing: mainly spaceships and superheroes (such as The Volt and the ill-named Human Faucet). Later, I was really into music, which was my driving passion up until my early 30s. I used to write stories, though, to supplement my drawings: mainly based on existing properties such as Star Trek. You know: having Kirk and Spock do cool things like destroy entire planets that wore white after Labor Day, or do awesome mash-ups with the Enterprise battling the Fantastic Four. I would also view the burden of writing a book report into an opportunity to use whatever subject was imposed upon me as a launch pad to write what I really wanted to write about. Like when I had to write about the Declaration of Independence. I housed my essay within a post-apocalyptic story where a man finds the document in the rubble of a destroyed building (razed by alien lasers) and, though English had changed so much he could only make out part of it, he gets the gist just as humanity is enslaved by our new alien overlords. It got an A, though that could have been because I used glitter on the cover. I became more serious about writing when I worked at The San Francisco Chronicle. Though I was mostly a messenger, I would review night clubs and books so that I could go to night clubs for free and get books before they were released to the masses. I found that I really enjoyed being published! Oh, and the writing too. From there, I began reviewing movies and became a movie critic, then started my own newspaper in Portland (Tonic), then was an Arts Editor at Willamette Week before being sucked into the Netherworld of advertising. When I look back at my reviews, they remind me a lot of the writing that I did as a kid, where I’d approach a subject as a springboard to talk about something else that sort of relates but doesn’t really. Like when I reviewed Alien 3 and it turned out to be mostly about my difficult relationship with my mother. I think it was the whole “hatching eggs, bleeding acid, and things eating their way out of stomachs” thing.