This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.
Excerpt from David Perlmutter’s Story “A Murder in Time”
“So, Professor Fey,” the tall female reporter said to the all-too-human creature standing next to her. “How does it feel to be the first human scientist to travel forward in time?”
“It’s…not what I expected,” was the response. The Professor was trying to use diplomatic language, which was difficult for her since she’d long been accustomed to us dogs being her non-verbal subordinates, helpmates and what have you. Actually talking to them as equals was something she seemed not to have taken into account when she made her fancy calculations and came forward to our time. Nevertheless, she was giving it the old college try, far as I was concerned.
“We, honestly, were never expecting to encounter a real human being, either,” the reporter continued the conversation. “I mean, with them being gone from the Earth for three centuries and all…”
Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer? Did you always know that you wanted to be one? And what about your background in animation?
I knew I wanted to tell stories from the beginning, as my family can testify to me doing them fairly early, although I didn’t know I was doing it then. Once I discovered that it was possible to get positive attention from doing it, as well as to possibly make money from it, it was something that I came to aspire to doing.
A lot of my stories involve my interest in animation. I have experimented with fan fiction, although, to get it published professionally, I have had to employ roman à clef pseudonyms for the characters. (That said, those familiar with the series will know exactly who is what if and when they read it.) My novel “Orthicon” and my story cycle about the para-military group known as the Cartoon Republican Army have been the biggest outgrowth of this. They allow me to have characters I admire experience situations that are morally thornier and more ethically complex than the producers of their series might want or like, and make them more “literary” in nature. However, I have discovered that many fiction editors look down on overusing italics and ALL CAPS to convey emotion in dialogue, and, since most cartoon characters would communicate that way in that fashion if their dialogue was written down, I have struggled to find the right way to convey emotion for them in the “right” way ever since.
The other side is that many of my original ongoing characters could easily be stars of animated programs if given the chance, given how many of them are anthropomorphic animals, superheroes, or supernatural adventurers of one kind or another. Animation is the only visual medium that offers those kinds of things true justice, in my opinion.
My research into the history of animation has made me greatly aware of how it has enacted and mirrored many of the great labor/management conflicts of the 20th century, particularly the rise and stagnation of unions in the entertainment industry. I also understand that many cartoon characters, if they existed in “our” world, would undeniably be victims of racial prejudice, particularly in the current heated environment for such issues in the United States. So these issues have become ones I have explored often in writing about cartoon characters.
“A Murder in Time” is a science fiction mystery with some unique characters–unusually dogged police officials. 😉 Was this an idea that came to you before writing the story, or did it transpire organically as you wrote?
It was a merger between the central idea of a story by Robert Bloch, about the murder of an extraterrestrial visitor from the moon with the personalities of a pair of characters from a television animation series from the past in the heroic roles. I do this kind of thing all the time. I see or read something I like, and I think about how it could be improved, or done from another angle. I used to be ashamed of this, thinking I was stealing, but I have since discovered that this is part and parcel of being a working writer, and so I don’t feel guilty about that anymore.
Who are your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that you admire most?
-Robert Bloch. (He was mainly known for writing the novel Psycho, but he was a prolific author of very good fantasy, horror, science fiction and mystery stories over the course of a long career. He showed me how not only to remain versatile, whatever it was you wrote, but how to maintain a high standard while doing it.)
-Jack London (The first author I really admired, and the first one I openly emulated. The themes and genres he addressed in his work remain big parts of mine.)
-G.K. Chesterton (He seemed to write a book or article about anything he thought about, and he always sounded like he knew everything about it.)
-Mark Twain (He made writing funny things and holding difficult opinions about the world in spite of opposition much easier than they really are.)
-Frederik Pohl (The Mark Twain of science fiction, whose work is delightful and inspirational.)
-H.L. Mencken (A difficult man who easily chronicled a difficult country in difficult times.)
-I.F. Stone (A doggedly accurate journalist able to do anything and everything in pursuit of the truth. We need his kind of person more than ever now.)
Do you find that you often return to the same themes in your work? And if so, what are they?
Friendship, loyalty, honesty and justified vengeance. People with Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have, probably hold these values in higher regard than other people, and are more easily disturbed by them being violated in public than other people. So I’m not surprised that my work often tends to come back to these ideas.
Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?
I wish I did. I try to work to a set routine when I’m at home, but I can’t always get exactly the amount of time I want or need. Since I recently got a job as a library assistant at an elementary school, time has gotten harder to find. But I can always find or make time if necessary to contribute to a project if I am truly committed to the idea or theme.
Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?
I am in the process of working on an encyclopedia of television animation programs produced in North America between 1948 and 2016, which will be published by Rowman and Littlefield, hopefully later this year, or early in the next one. This is a companion to my narrative history of television animation in North America, America ‘Toons In, which was published by McFarland and Company in 2014. I am also making final revisions on my novel Orthicon for its upcoming publication later this year by Linkville Press, and awaiting publication of my novella Honey and Salt by Scarlet Leaf Publishing, which will mark the first of my books to be published in my native country, Canada, as opposed to an American or British publisher.
About David Perlmutter
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He holds an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and as a lifelong animation fan, has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers, including SFF World.com. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.),The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra House), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing), and Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea ( Linkville Press, forthcoming). He can be reached on Facebook at David Perlmutter-Writer, Twitter at @DKPLJW1, and Tumblr at The Musings of David Perlmutter (yesdavidperlmutterfan).