JF: Jack Womack's latest novel is LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US. Set in post-Soviet Russia, this is not really a departure from the rest of his writing when you get down to the themes and world in which the characters dwell. Jack, tongue only somewhat in cheek, has described this novel as historical fiction.
To begin, is there any easy way to describe the Dryco series?
JW: The best way to describe the Dryco series is to say that it's today's world tomorrow, a little more intense and a whole lot worse.
JF: What themes would you say encompass the series?
JW: The themes within the series are predominantly satiric, relating to interpretations of present-day imbecilities, and secondarily theologic.
JF: Have you encountered people who've missed the fact that they're satiric, and take such premises as the Church of Elvis seriously?
JW: No, everyone I've encountered understands them to be fiction. I think I'm lucky in that regard. Re the C of E, however, note that this is beginning to be taken seriously as a theological concept.
JF: I had heard that from you before, which is partly what prompted the question. Who/where is this happening, and has it taken any coherent (or incoherent) form?
JW: It started in the South, of course, and has taken off from there. See, in particular, the recent book Reflections On the Birth Of the Elvis Faith, by John Strausbaugh.
JF: I must say you have the most amazing collection of books and curios (along with an encyclopedic knowledge of same) that I've encountered. Is this book in print?
JW: Yes, the Strausbaugh book was in print as of last year.
JF: Is there a special significance to you regarding 1939 and the World's Fair?
JW: New York was in many ways at its best then, I think, and the fair has never been equaled as an exposition of outlandishly incorrect utopian prediction. That kind of thing appeals to me, needless to say.
JF: 1939 seems to appeal to a lot of sf writers like Howard Waldrop & Bill Gibson. I think of it as the last 'pure' vision of a white, benevolent America, fictional though it always was.
While searching on your name online, I came across references to a CD you did of Random Acts, of which I was unaware. Can you tell us what it has on it?
JW: I didn't do the Random Acts CD. It's on Henry Rollins' label, 213CD, 4 CD set, excerpted and beautifully read by Tricia Warden. I've seen it for sale at Tower downtown in NY, and it's available through Rollins' web page.
JF: So it's primarily a reading of excerpts (too bad) of the novel?
JW: It's very well excerpted, yes; the narrative holds. The entire novel would have been probably 10 CDs and no one except obsessives would have gone for such a thing.
JF: Sad but true. When did you first visit Russia, and when did you begin writing LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US?
JW: I first visited Russia in March 1992 and returned this past June to cover the election. I started writing Let's Put in 1994 and finished it in Sept. 1995.
JF: Would you connect it at all to the Dryco books?
JW: I wouldn't directly connect it as regards action or world; the themes are similar, i.e. human stupidity and corruption in action. The difference being that Dryco is exaggeration and Let's Put is ultimately restraint.
JF: Restraint only comparatively speaking...:-) How much exaggeration is there in Let's Put? At this point, you've referred to it as historical fiction.
JW: Frighteningly enough there's very little exaggeration in Let's Put. I call it historical fiction in that the situation in Moscow, certainly, has become even more surreal, and reminiscent of the parallel world.
JF: That's truly a sobering thought. What about fred? (This is not a person, as Jack will explain.)
JW: fred is the actual name of an actual drug. As near as I could tell fred was a Soviet equivalent of something like Thorazine, except rather more powerful, used exclusively on political prisoners in psych prisons. No one would tell me, exactly, what it did -- the thought of it seems to unnerve them even today. So in the book I made fred rather an ultimate drug, with a variety of effects.
JF: I took great delight in your description of fred. Would you mind sharing the concept with us?
JW: The way fred, as I recreated it, acts upon you depends upon your own particular physiological and psychological state. It can be as good as the best marijuana you've ever smoked, it can be as pleasant as habanero peppers, it can drive you insane, it can kill you on the spot. You won't know what the result will be until you take it. The second time you take it, it may be the same effect or it may be subtly different.
JF: It strikes me as being (if you'll forgive me) somewhat Gibsonesque. It sounds too dangerous to take, and too enticing not to think about.
JW: Whatever. I'm busy at the moment feeding Gibson Russian material I didn't use in either my novel or in the article for his next book, somebody ought to get some good out of it and I'm not going to be a Russian novelist hereout.
JF: I take it that means you're done writing about Max?
JW: Yeah, there's nothing more to add about Max. He'll get by. I'm just sitting here watching the news and seeing that an upper-middle class woman in New Jersey tried this afternoon to strangle a nine-year old girl scout because she didn't like her selection of cookies. How can I possibly write anything to equal that?
JF: Yes, fact will always outdo us all. So where is your next work set?
JW: The next novel is the last in the Dryco series. Clute [in the Encyclopedia of SF] had it wrong, there were always intended to be six and not five. The next one, the last chronologically, takes place fifteen years after Elvissey, and starts off in the parallel world, for those familiar with the earlier works.
JF: I'll be looking forward to that. Which of the Dryco books are currently in print?
JW: Right at this moment only Random Acts of Senseless Violence. Grove is reissuing Ambient and Elvissey in January, and Heathern and Terraplane early in 1998, the same year the final book in the series comes out. At that point all will finally be available simultaneously.
JF: That's great (and amazing). It's rare that any series (especially one of 6 books) is available at the same time.
JW: Yeah, it pleases me.
JF: Which of your books (if any) do you see as the most cinematic? I saw Let's Put while I was reading it--especially the climactic scene at the pet market.
JW: Elvissey, I suppose, but the budget would be several hundred million dollars.
JF: Have you ever considered writing treatments for screenplays or other media?
JW: No, I have no desire to do screenplays of my own or of anybody else's fictional works. When it comes to Hollywood the smart thing to do is take the money and run.
JF: AgreeMsg. Yet I seem to recall your once speaking of collaborating with another major sf writer on a screenplay...?
JW: That was five years ago with Gibson and Rachid the Kazakh director. Nothing came of it except my first trip to Russia. Seeing how much fun Gibson had with Johnny M confirmed me in my belief that such things are best avoided.
JF: I don't believe I know the story of that director, but we'll let it slide till next time... Have you ever thought of producing some shorter works of fiction?
JW: I've written four short stories. They're as hard to write as novels and I make much more money doing nonfiction if I'm writing something other than novels.
JF: Do you plan to increase your nonfiction writing?
JW: If I keep getting assignments and projects that are interesting. I can't see myself becoming a full-time journalist, it's too hard to feign interest when I haven't any.
JF: What major interests (of any) of your have you yet to commit to paper?
JW: I don't know off the top of my head. I have to think about it, and it's just getting too late for me to be able to do that.
JF: I think that sounds like a cue for signing off. Any last statements/requests/words of wisdom for tonight?
JW: That's about it. Thanks for having me on.
JF: Thanks for being here.