Alex S. Johnson is a very talented writer/novelist/poet/lyricist/reviewer ..hell the man is fucking fabulous . He has a laundry list of credits to his name that would put Mistress Rosie to shame. His Books includeThe Death Jazz (The Shwibly Press 2012); an official novel spinoff of the popular Friday The 13thh movie franchise, “Jason X IV: Death Moon” (Black Flame 2005); “The Doom Hippies”, “Doctor Flesh”, the upcoming “Black Tongues of the Illuminati” and a work in progress, “The Satanic Rites of the Nuns of St. Sophia”. (Dynatox Ministries2013) He is currently working on a new novel in the magical realist mode called Hondurica.
“Alex S. Johnson’s poetry is edging towards a new kind of hybrid multi-genre noir/sci fi/surrealism. Go over the edge with him”–John Shirley, Bram Stoker award winner, principal screenwriter for The Crow, lyricist for Blue Oyster Cult
Alex’s most recent Chapbook – Matador of Mirrors is currently available through LucidDream Publishing.
Alex also has numerous short stories published in ezines.
Alex is also a good man and a friend of mine and I am honoured that he has granted me this interview with the impending release of his latest title BAD SUNSET.
LD= I have always wanted to ask a fellow writer this question, I also write short stories, mostly for anthologies, and I write poetry as well..which do you find easier to compose?
AJ= Poetry is great because by virtue of its extremely compressed language, I can encompass a number of ideas and concepts in a small space. By the time I actually write down a poem I have been churning those ideas in my subconscious and flipping them around and playing them off the literary canon to see if any sparks fly; then, it is just a matter of how to visually represent the words. I find the greatest freedom within the restricted space of a poem, and as freedom is something I crave not only as a writer but as a person, it is far easier for me to invoke that Promethean spirit in an audacious burst. Short stories are harder for me but I welcome the challenge of representing that kind of free play of concepts but within a different set of standards. I really enjoy the craft part of whatever I’m writing. I guess the short answer is that it’s all good.
LD= You and I have similar ideas when it comes to writing, not that I am calling you twisted Brother Man, well perhaps a tad bit, but where do you draw your ideas from?
AJ= I read voraciously, watch a lot of movies and listen to music. It’s hard to say where specific ideas come from, because I deliberately draw from everything I see and read and hear and throw it into the compost. With Bad Sunset, that compost includes such things as my fascination for the American southwest and borderlands culture. My great-grandfather, Herbert Eugene Bolton, was a well-known historian who actually named the Spanish Borderlands and shifted the focus of American history from the Pilgrim settlers to the Spanish missionaries. We’re still talking about the acts of white European males, but at least thanks to Dr. Bolton historians started looking at the Americas, plural, and the whole problematic interchange with advanced civilizations like the Aztecs. When the Spanish conquerors arrived in what is now Mexico City, they found this amazing, complex culture which they then proceeded to systematically destroy. In my research for my M.A. thesis on the Latina lesbian activist, writer, poet and theorist Gloria Anzaldua, I became more aware how much of indigenous Meso-American culture was actually preserved by smuggling it into popular Catholicism. Bad Sunset is on one level a commentary on how culture clash influences both the conqueror and the conquered. And at another level it’s pure silly entertainment with reference to everything from the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural character to the sublime Cheech and Chong. As Keith Richards once said, if you steal from enough people you’ll eventually develop your own unique style. I am an indiscriminate culture vandal.
LD= Another trait that we share is our love for history..I enjoy writing historical fiction after researching skewered history, challenging it in a way, I suppose.. Have you ever felt that just maybe somewhere down a long the line they wrote it wrong, and we have to fix it, or at the very least fuck it up more?
AJ= Wow, that’s eerie–I hadn’t even read that question before I responded to the previous one! I do enjoy reading about history, especially from the point of view of those peoples and cultures that have been systematically erased and silenced; also, how gender and race play such powerful roles in shaping how history is written and represented. It is truly astonishing to me how little we have gained from the explosion of scholarship on non-European ways of doing and being, as far as how the world actually operates. Obama aside, it’s still angry white men striking attitudes with phallic objects–whether weapons of mass destruction or the Pope’s miter. And the doctrine of American Exceptionalism infuriates me. There are so many histories vying for supremacy. Some of the best history I’ve read is really fiction, or science fiction, such as the work of Philip K. Dick. We need a vast shift in our understanding of history, away from the us vs. them paradigm, into a rich, diverse, truly global discourse. I think fiction has a huge part to play in articulating that shift, or its possibility, absolutely.
LD=I began writing when I was 3, My influences were Hemingway, Lovecraft, Poe, and My Dad’s John Wayne Celebrity Magazine’s that I used to steal and read,,do you recall any of you earliest influences and how they affect you today?
AJ= If I started listing influences it would go on for several pages. Here’s an interesting story about early influences. I discovered William S. Burroughs because I was such a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs! True fact. I read through the children’s section at my local library–which, these many years later, is still my local library–and started poking around in the adult stacks. Damn. I think I surreptitiously read the good parts in Naked Lunch for a few years before I actually checked it out and read the whole book. Burroughs not only blew my 13-year-old brain all shades of funny but continues to fascinate me now. At the same time I started getting into writers like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, all the horror collections that were out like Whispers, and of course H.P. Lovecraft. If it was horror, I read it. Heavy metal was a big influence too. I felt instinctively that I wanted to push the limits of style and subject as far as they could go, to write stories that would have the same power and generate the kind of adrenaline rush I got from music. And I loved that King quoted AC/DC! The Beats were and continue to be hugely influential in terms of style. Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Philip Lamantia, Richard Brautigan, Michael McClure are godlike for me. And always, always, Hunter S. Thompson. We haven’t even touched the classical canon yet. Dante, Cervantes, Juvenal, Homer, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Milton, et al. are consistent reference points. I loves me some heavy lit!
LD=Your use of surrealistic imagery seems to flow naturally, just as it did from the great ones like Lovecraft and Poe. It really is who you are isn’t it? I mean either you have it or you don’t? I am not trying to get you to toot your own horn, but each of us are endowed with certain gifts, and it is up to the individual to channel that gift.
AJ= Surrealism, the art and literature of the original movements in Europe down to contemporary artists such as Alexandro Jodorowsky, to me that is the magic. Some of Andre Breton’s philosophies and aesthetic statements sound fairly naive today, but the notion of unleashing the marvelous through a dedicated attention to the articulation of unconscious forces still works for me. I love reading Rimbaud, Alfred Jarry, Lautreamont, all those cats. I believe there is another equally valid reality behind the one that is apparent, and that in some way we unconsciously shape what is apparent through the imagination. We can go further, though, and deeper, to make the reality that feels natural to us, command it and mold it, as William Blake suggested. I don’t think a penchant for surrealistic imagery is a gift, more a tendency or an ambition or a facet of character. Some are born surreal, while others have surrealism pushed upon them, he he! I think surrealism is simply one expression of the desire for personal freedom and liberation that is the legacy of romantic movements. And it’s more interesting to have a character who rides a salamander instead of a horse. Horses have been done–it’s time amphibians had a chance to show what they can do. The world is full of incredibly strange facts. The axolotl salamander can actually regenerate its own heart, for example. I personally think it’s surreal that we have a president who decides who to murder by remote controlled drones by consulting medieval Catholic theology. Maybe surrealism is just an enhanced form of 21st century realism. Quien sabe.
LD= BAD SUNSET seems to have everything one would want, Steampunk Bondage, My rival, The Devil, and he appears to have stolen my favourite Red Dress, Jesus,and Zombies..One hell of a showdown In Old West. What genre would you classify this, Brother Man? Am I going where I am not supposed to go?
AJ= Bad Sunset is listed as “Satire” on amazon. I think that is a perfect characterization. It has elements of spaghetti westerns, Ed Lee-style bizarro horror or “splatterspunk” in the form of characters like the Skull Fuck Kid, a whole raft of references to Italian gore/exploitation movies such as City of the Living Dead and Cannibal Ferox, the Bible, Carlos Castaneda, Beavis and Butthead, Herman Melville, Terry Southern, Dorothy Parker, the Beatles, the great British grindcore band Carcass, and a whole lot more. More than anything else, I hope people enjoy it and get some laughs out of it.
Anything written by Alex S. Johnson is worth at least 2 or 3 reads in my opinion. I would like to thank him for his patience with me, and granting me this interview.
Thank you so much for the interview, Lisa!