Cody Goodfellow on his Unamerica, writing, and inspirations. | More2Read
 

Cody Goodfellow on his Unamerica, writing, and inspirations.



CODY GOODFELLOW has written eight novels and four or five collections. His previous collections Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars and All-Monster Action both received the Wonderland Book Award. He wrote, co-produced and scored the short Lovecraftian hygiene films Stay At Home Dad and Baby Got Bass, which can be viewed on YouTube. He’s appeared in numerous short films, TV shows, music videos and commercials as research for his previous novel, Sleazeland. He is also a cofounder of Perilous Press, an occasional micropublisher of modern cosmic horror, and the editor of Forbidden Futures, a quarterly hyperpulp zine featuring art by Mike Dubisch.



Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and congratulations on this new work Unamerica.

 

Cody Goodfellow

Thank you! My head feels so much better, for its absence.


Lou Pendergrast

This novel, Unamerica, was a long time in the making from seed to first draft and final draft… tell me about the journey of this novel?

 

Cody Goodfellow

The concept for the setting came to me in pieces over several years. I remember reading in TV Guide about a Soviet propaganda film in the mid-80’s that depicted America as both lawless wasteland and open-air concentration camp. It came back to me with new urgency during the LA riots in 1992, when my roommate and I encountered wandering groups of immigrants on the otherwise empty streets. Dressed in Camel promotional clothing and drinking and eating stuff looted from a grocery store, they were ecstatic to have the day off from the sweatshops and enjoying America at its finest in the middle of a demilitarized zone. They caused me to wonder about the outer edges of what we’d accept as freedom and order, as the future closes in.
The rest of the concept was a long time coming, and the book as I imagined it lay well beyond the reach of my skills. I tried to start a draft of it in 2005, thinking it could be a breakout book, but the agents and editors I queried with sample chapters were downright discouraging, so I turned to what I thought were simpler, more accessible stories. I had to write a lot of those before I was ready to take on Unamerica, but once I sat down to do it, the book came out in a solid eight months, but I blew out my rotator cuff typing it. This book has visited every conceivable type of pain upon me, but it refused to be left behind.

 


LP

This Unamerica the seeds and inspiration behind it and this character a salesman of a wonder drug?

 

Cody Goodfellow

The inspiration and seeds are a constant flood; the worse everything gets in terms of the environment and global political situation, the more obsessed we become with entertainment and distraction, the more ironclad our resolve not to face the future, but to hide from it. The surge in YA dystopia books, in particular, was a disturbing trend everyone else hailed as a positive sign, because in all the new 1984’s, we’re presented with a savior, a Chosen One who will overthrow the rotten cobweb of lies in which the adults have ensnared us. In Nolan Hatch, I wanted to give Unamerica the savior it deserves, in a white middle-class expatriate drunk on his own notions how how to save the world.

Like a lot of people in my generation and class, I grew up free of religious indoctrination and discovered spirituality in psychedelic drugs. While a lot of the experiences led to false and flattering misconceptions of the world and humanity, the initial rush of ersatz enlightenment and the sense that this could change the world, even cause an evolutionary breakthrough and a better human race, led some people to genuinely empathize with others and work for a better world, just as it did in the 60’s. Because it’s as much of an ecstatic spark as the direct experience with the divine driving evangelical Christianity, it felt like the perfect progressive foil to the religious revolution that takes place in the book. And it’s every bit as much of a fallacy as evangelical Christianity’s need to dominate secular society, to think one person’s experience can spur a positive global change.


 

LP

What is the essence and the take away you want from this tale?

 

Cody Goodfellow

I want to bring horror up to date in addressing our real fears… so much of what passes for modern horror, for all its graphic gore and “edgy” modern trappings, is essentially comfort food that diverts us from what we really fear, which is that the system is designed to consume us and the world, and it’s all starting to fly apart, and we’d rather read a gnarly horror book about it, than consider how to weather, if not avert, it.



LP

Tell more about seed and inspiration behind the short story “Diablitos” from Flight or Flight edited by Bev Vincent, and “At the Riding School” in The Best of the Best Horror of the year, edited by Ellen Datlow.

 

Cody Goodfellow

Diablitos” was a tribute to Richard Matheson by way of stealing his stuff. Essentially, it’s Prey (the story famously adapted for Trilogy Of Terror) and Nightmare At 20,000 Feet. I found the idea while on my honeymoon in Costa Rica, where I purchased the mask. The legend and rituals behind it are thinly fictionalized from the real diablito lore of the Boruca people. I wanted to start with the anxiety we all feel before flying, even if we’re NOT carrying something we shouldn’t onto the plane, and take it as far as I possibly could in under 5,000 words.

“At The Riding School” came out of a girlfriend’s obsession with horseback riding. She once remarked that she knew a lot of girls who breached their maidenheads in the saddle, and having recently read chunks of The Golden Bough, I somehow came up with this idea of a chastity cult that finds a very unusual technique for empowering young girls.


 The mask of inspiration to the Diablitos story



 

LP

Short tales tell me more about your thoughts on them, they used to be very popular in days of Black Mask and Weird Tales are they making a comeback or have never failed behind novels? Short stories maybe don’t pay as well as that big novel?

 

Cody Goodfellow

We all thought the ADD generation would rediscover short stories, but it’s too little, too late. Though there are a lot of markets for them, the pay is essentially the same as it was in the 1940’s, and there just aren’t that many avid readers who aren’t themselves writers or at least aspiring writers. People will make time for stories, but they want a deep emotional involvement, and they’re willing to miss sleep for it, but I feel like the problem is that short stories require an emotional investment and some head-sweat, just to get into––to figure out who’s who, what’s happening and how it feels, and by the time we’re dialed in, it’s over. Not everybody welcomes that kind of return on their time, and it’s a shame, because some of the best short story writers alive are killing it, right now.


LP

Forgetting money, with art and craft in mind what’s your relationship and thoughts on shortness?

 

Cody Goodfellow

It’s good.

 


 

LP

Flight or Fright anthology with your tale in there Diablitos, was original published by Cemetery dance in Hardback, a publishing house that has published works for many writers for years and now it paper-back be published by Scribner publishing house of Stephen king. Your stories have been in many best of collections and anthologies, including ones by John Skipp and Ellen Datlow. This may have been more bigger audience amongst many bigger names. Tell me more about this having it further out in the world your work and the long road from your first tale on paper to now?

 

Cody Goodfellow

In one sense, I’ve been incredibly fortunate, but in another, I had to work my ass off and sacrifice more than I ever thought possible to be in the right place at the right time with the right work. I’ve been selling short stories since 2004, and my first novel came out in 2000. For nearly all of that time, I felt like I was shouting into a hole, and I lost any sense of whether my work was worth writing or reading. I only knew it was what I do. I had to learn to learn from criticism and rejection without taking it personally, and resign myself to the fact that almost nobody cares about this stuff, and that’s not because I suck or because they’re idiots, but because the world is full of other things to do with one’s time, and other voices clamoring to be heard, many, if not most, do so with more urgency, insight and craft than I’ll ever be able to muster. So just as I’ve tried to remind myself never to feel entitled or slighted when I don’t get the response I hoped for, I’ve had to remind myself not to feel vindicated by the successes I’ve had. Just lucky, and maybe proud of myself for a minute.


 

LP

Writing, when, where, and with what do you do it?

 

Cody Goodfellow

I used to do it at night after everyone was asleep, but as I’ve aged, I find it healthier and more productive to do it first thing in the morning. I used to have an office with mountains of books and inspirational art and toys and shit everywhere, but I think it was as stultifying as it was inspiring, and now I mostly write out on the porch, or in bed. I write on a Macbook using a pretty good Office clone. I haven’t written anything longer than a check or a shopping list in longhand since college. I’m left-handed, so my penmanship is pretty lousy even before the hell of my hand smears it.


LP

What key advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Cody Goodfellow

Recognize that our first most powerful tool is our voice, and our second is our empathy. Work to understand how people really feel and think and live, before speaking for them in print. Know your genre, but don’t get penned in by it. Read only stuff so good it hurts your brain the way lifting weights hurts your muscles. When you’re inspired, outraged, annoyed by something in the world, put it on the page, don’t waste it getting the fleeting dopamine rush on social media. Giving it away for free on facebook instead of in your fiction is like a porn star jacking off on the way to the set.


LP

John Skipp is he really your funky Dutch uncle? John Skipp appreciation day! What influence John Skipp had on you and in the publishing and writing contribution level, he has some mammoth anthologies?

 

Cody Goodfellow

John Skipp is my dude. My mentor. My best friend in the biz. I don’t believe in destiny, but my career would’ve been nothing like it is, if I hadn’t met Skipp at my first World Horror convention in ‘04. He’s a human singularity of joy and inspiration. As a writing partner, he challenged me to tighten up my work and open my prose so it flows faster, without losing content. Skipp taught––and still teaches me––most of what I needed to know, to comport myself somewhat like a professional, while remaining true to the passion that sets this apart from any other profession.


Order John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow Collaborations:


LP

Which authors and their books you have fresh in your memory as inspirational work for whatever reason like becoming a writer and author or aspire to?

 

Cody Goodfellow

Growing up, I deeply imprinted on King, Ellison (Harlan and Ralph), Dick, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Peake and horror comics. Later, I got into surrealists like Ballard and Burroughs, and crime fiction, which helped purge me of a lot of bad habits and write more succinctly––as Hammett wrote in describing how a tight-lipped character spoke, like someone was charging him by the word. Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, Stark, Ellroy… I owe a great deal to both cyberpunk writers like Gibson, Shirley, Laidlaw and Rucker, as well as splatterpunk writers like Schow, Koja, RC Matheson and the aforementioned Mr. Skipp. These are the kinds of voices that I’ve learned the most from, but I could double the length of this interview listing writers I’ve learned from.


 

LP

The Good, bad and ugly characters, characteristics of characters from fiction, your memorable characters worth re-reading? Why?

 

Cody Goodfellow

It’s a truism that the villain has to be the hero of his own story to be memorable, but I’ve tried a lot of other techniques to make characters stick in readers’ minds. I try never to give straight descriptions, even omitting basic details of main characters, but let little details, habits, mannerisms and behaviors fill in the details in ways that involve the reader’s own memory, so they’re complicit in creating them in their own minds. Mining all social interaction for textures and little bits of the kind of strange human detail that seldom works when invented is pretty much the only reason I like to leave the house, lately.


LP

Films which three are from your treasured favorite ones?

 

Cody Goodfellow

My three favorite films all came out the summer of 1982: The Thing, Blade Runner and The Road Warrior.


 


LP

Which reads your recommended reading?

 

Cody Goodfellow

I read less and less for pleasure as I write and research more, but I highly recommend Wetbones by John Shirley and Marc Laidlaw’s 37th Mandala as a double feature. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, and Scarstruck, by Violet LaVoit. My girlfriend cried when she finished the latter one, just because it was over.



LP

Thank you for your time and this peak into your writing world and mind.

 

Cody Goodfellow

Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.



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Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 05 April 2019