Genre: Adult fiction, fantasy, satirical novel
Publisher: Wattle Publishing
ISBN: eBook 9781908959218 | Paperback: 9781908959225
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 125,000 approx.
Cover Artist: L. Whyte and Cover design: Wattle Publishing
Ray Sirico used to have it all. Once, he was the brilliant and outrageous Clown Prince of Comics, who reinvented the venerable superhero Skylord, and ranted and rollicked everywhere from TV talk shows to Hollywood premieres.
But that was in the ’70s and ’80s. Now it’s 1993, and Sirico is a drunken has-been. His wife has left him, his movie flopped, and his comics’ publisher is doing so poorly that its new corporate parent has come up with a radical marketing stunt: the Death of Skylord.
Still, Sirico has one last chance to recapture the limelight: Fandemonium, the nation’s biggest fantasy convention. But others are coming to the con too: Harmony Storm, the sex-crazed actress who broke up Ray’s marriage; his former collaborator Tad Carlyle, who now has his own company, and a troubled relationship; Fred D’Auria, a fanboy fleeing adolescent traumas, and corporate conspirators who are plotting to sacrifice Sirico’s greatest creation for motives deeper than even his fevered imagination could conceive.
Together, antihero Sirico and his superhero Skylord stand at the crossroads of comics and commerce, where quirky creators, fervent fans, conniving businessmen and preening celebrities converge. Deal-making, drug-dealing, lovemaking and truth-telling all collide at the riotous climax of a fateful weekend that leaves no one unchanged.
Fandemonium uses the colourful world of comics and fantasy as a microcosm and metaphor for media consolidation and the excesses of global mass culture. It is at once a hilarious satire of business and society, a portrait of an artist no longer young, and a sometimes poignant look at a universal challenge: to grow up, face the world, and put away childish things.
About the Author:
Rick Schindler is an award-winning journalist and a lifelong comics fan and collector. He is an editor, writer and producer for NBC News Digital. Fandemonium is his first novel.
Publisher Twitter: @wattlepub
Publisher Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WattlePublishing
When did you begin writing? Why?
I might have been 9 or 10 when I started writing my first novel. It was going to about the kidnapping of Walt Disney, because that would give me an excuse to set it in Disneyland, which was the most wonderful place imaginable to me and millions of other American baby boomers, better even than Oz or Wonderland because it was real. We knew it was real because we saw it on TV every week, even if we couldn’t get there.
I even researched the novel; my mom took me to the library and found me a biography of Walt Disney. I probably got a couple of hundred words into Chapter 1 before I abandoned the project. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to write. The problem was that I didn’t know how to type.
Maybe I should go back to that project. Now it could be about Disney’s body getting stolen from cryogenic freeze. All right, nobody take that idea. It’s mine.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In my junior year of high school I was assigned to write a short story as homework for my English class. At the time there was racial unrest in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, as in many American cities. I wrote a story about the white owner of a little grocery in a racially troubled neighborhood. I lifted the ending from a scene in Lord of the Flies – not the words, mind you, just a visual idea.
I don’t remember how it got to my high school’s literary magazine; maybe my English teacher passed it on to them. All I know is that when the magazine came out, there was my story, in print.
The magazine titled the story “Henry P. Gordon” after its protagonist, because it hadn’t occurred to me to give it a title. One character’s name was changed, because the typesetter apparently misread my handwriting; I had written it in longhand. It was credited “W. Schindler” because the magazine’s editor thought my name was Bill. It was not really his fault. I was shy and didn’t know many guys (it was a boys’ school) outside my own classes.
Some weeks or months later I was half-listening to the announcements on the school’s public address system one afternoon when I was surprised to hear my own my own name mentioned outside a disciplinary context. It seemed my story had won an award, a New York Times certificate of honor. I did not know it had been submitted. I had never even heard of the competition. I guess the judges didn’t notice the Lord of the Flies swipe.
That was when I first considered myself a writer, as opposed to somebody who sometimes wrote things he rarely showed anyone.
Later on I had some other pieces published in that literary magazine, fragments of a novel I never completed. I even got a poem published. But I had been too shy to sign my name to it, and they put another kid’s name on it.
I have not thought of these incidents in a long time.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Fandemonium was inspired by a 1995 incident in New York City that I read about in the press at the time. I am not going to describe the incident because it would give away too much of the plot, but it inspired to me to write a single-sentence synopsis that eventually grew into a 400-page novel. I wish I still had that handwritten sentence.
· Do you have a specific writing style?
I hope not. Fandemonium is written from the points of view and in the varied voices of multiple protagonists — a rookie move, perhaps, but on the book’s Amazon page one reader says, “each voice was distinctive and compelling.”
How did you come up with the title?
For a long time Fandemonium was called Childish Things. That was the title under which it went to many editors the first time it went around. I don’t remember what specifically impelled me to change it, but I know the title change came after I had rewritten the original manuscript from start to finish. I found the phrase “childish things,” from St. Paul, kind of somber for a book with a lot of antic goings-on. It also provided very little clue that the book is about a comics convention. However, the phrase still appears in an incident in the novel.
When I got a new agent I wanted to call the book Smash-Bang Picto-Funnies, which I thought sounded very cool and postmodern but which I now think would have been a bad title, although that phrase also does appear in the novel.
One night my wife and I spent several hours batting a slew of titles around. In the end we couldn’t come up with anything better than Fandemonium, which I think does manage to convey some of both the subject and the spirit of the book in a single word. I’m OK with Fandemonium. I think.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Lots of them. Too many, maybe. But I guess the primary message is one that many artists have strived to convey, but still bears repeating: It’s OK to be weird.
How much of the book is realistic?
Funny thing about that. The book is set in 1993, and I felt I was taking poetic license with the scale of the comic book convention the story is set around, making the fictional con bigger and crazier and more colorful than the real cons I had been to. But in the time since I wrote it, reality has caught up; comic cons today are, if anything, even bigger and crazier than the one I dreamed up. I wrote about that in my blog after visiting New York Comic Con last fall.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon turned my head inside out so thoroughly that it has never fully returned to inside in. I touched on that in my blog here.
Few other novels immersed me like that until I finally got around to Infinite Jest, which is ineffable. David Foster Wallace is an immense loss.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
What book are you reading now?
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, a wonderfully written memoir about a white girl growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jeff VanderMeer did a lot to obscure the boundary between genre fiction and literary fiction with his Southern Reach trilogy, which is distinctive and haunting science fiction cum horror. And that is a good thing, I think, because that boundary isn’t useful for anything.
Why is Fandemonium a unique novel?
Because I was so naïve and clueless about the publishing business when I wrote it that it never occurred to me to try and write in a marketable genre or to a particular audience. I just wrote the sort of book that I would find entertaining.
Why should readers choose Fandemonium to read?
Because it’s fun. Because it’s a bit messy, on purpose. Because it’s about comics, on its surface, anyway, and comics are a medium whose vast and subversive influence is still sneaking up on us. Because comics are transverbal, if you will, and brand themselves on our brains before anyone can do anything to stop it, although plenty of people have tried. Because comics are like rock and roll in that they’re disreputable yet irresistible, and will never die. Because comics are like jazz (superhero comics are, anyway) in that they are one of the few art forms indigenous to America and hence explain a lot about America. Because I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have some kind of emotional connection to comics, whether they care to admit it or not.
I used to have some of my old comic books framed in my living room. Sometimes when grown men, burly men who had come to deliver furniture or do work on the house, happened to enter that room, their eyes would fall on those comics and soften, and I could tell they were remembering the boys they had once been. So maybe Childish Things wasn’t such a bad title after all.
And readers should choose Fandemonium because comics are only part of what it’s about. It’s really about people who make and love comics.
What is the message of the book?
Wait, we talked about that, remember? You already made me think about that, and I think I’m still OK with what I came up with then: It’s OK to be weird.
2 paperback copies of Fandemonium for giveaway.