Hostile Questions: Sam Weller
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
When you think Ray Bradbury, what do you think of next? Well, yeah, Martians, but after that? Yeah, OK, futuristic book burnings, of course. But after that? Anyway, somewhere not too far down the list is Sam Weller, the world’s leading expert on the late legend. Weller’s indispensable biography, The Bradbury Chronicles, was followed up by Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews and Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, a collection featuring new works from such fine folk as Neil Gaiman, Dave Eggers, and Kelly Link. (And, you know, Ray Bradbury.)
Great work. But perfect? No. My appetite for Bradbury esoterica shan’t be sated until I have an oversize coffee table book crammed with his desktop doodles, shopping lists, tattoo designs, and half-finished sudoku puzzles. Hop to it, Weller!
Just who do you think you are?
I have served as the Correspondent of October Country for the last 12 years and let me tell you, the fog never lets up here! But I’ve proudly kept the lantern burning. I’ve spent more than a decade working as the authorized biographer of Ray Bradbury with three books published about the man that hopefully, in a flame retardant world, will never be burned at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. I am also a fiction writer and journalist. Beyond that, I’m a prof. at Columbia College Chicago—a mecca for the future movers and shakers in media, arts, and communications.
Where do you get off?
Is this a Larry Flynt publication? What a question. I’ll tell you what I love, if that’s what you mean: children’s books; old Carnegie Libraries; hard rock, old school country, old school punk, cool jazz. I love my family, I love creating, and I love writing. I love the essay form—Joan Didion, E.B. White, Hemingway, Virginia Wolfe. And, of course, I love the Olympian oeuvre of one Ray Douglas Bradbury. I lecture on the man at libraries and universities across the land throughout the year and I never, ever, tire of the subject. He is more interesting to me today than he was when I first started working with him. The man is the poster child for imagination and inspiration. “Do what you love and love what you do,” he often instructed. And he was so right.
Next? Well, to boldly go off into Bradbury territory through a novel that is told in decidedly my own voice through my own vision. It’s a punk rock, calliope, sideshow about nightmares and outcasts. It’s a Johnny Cash hard luck story with creepy apparitions in it. After that? A short story collection that’s almost wrapped that is sad and lonely and haunted. The title story is available, for free, as pdf on one of my two web sites. Bradbury loved this story. I started writing it in his house, a pretty magical place to write given the fact that he lived there going back to 1958. After that, another bio on an undisclosed pop-culture icon that I will say more on, hopefully, in the coming year or so. I also have a children’s book in the making. Busy times here in October Country! Can someone help me rake up all these leaves? They never seem to stop falling!
What is your problem, man?
Not enough time in my day! I wish someone would invent a sort of cool, steampunk clock—all cooper and whirligigs and cogs and bells—that literally slows time down. I keep looking for it in curios shops and antique stores, but it eludes me still. Maybe I’ll find it at Target? I teach writing full time with all of the draining administrative duties that pull me from the creative stuff. Beyond the teaching, I have three lovely little daughters. I’m like Fred McMurray, but in reverse. This show could be called My Three Daughters— and it would be set in October Country, or Mars.
Haven’t you done enough?
Never enough. I have more ideas than I will ever tend to.