What’s Desmond Reading?
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson.
The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel
Q: Can you tell us a few things about yourself?
A: Sure. The first movie I ever saw in the theater was Lady and the Tramp (the 1980 re-release, not the original 1955 run). My favorite ice cream flavor is cookie dough, but my favorite milkshake flavor is peach–so long as the peaches are chopped small enough that they don’t get stuck in the straw. My first car was a dark green 1974 Dodge two-wheel-drive pickup that I bought in 1992; my decision-making skills have not improved in the intervening decades. For the first several years of its mainstream existence, I thought the World Wide Web was a passing fad and refused to have anything to do with it. The most famous person I’ve ever met is Alex Trebek, though I once saw Steven Spielberg from about a hundred feet away. On my left arm is a scar from some stitches, which the doctor assured me would quickly fade; that was in 1981, and I’m still waiting.
Q: I was thinking more in terms of your writing (and I think you knew that).
A: There’s a bibliography elsewhere on this site, with links where appropriate. It’s really just short stories right now. If anything more exciting develops, you’ll be the first to know.
Q: Are you going to be this obstinate the entire time?
A: Fine; a brief history. I first considered writing fiction sometime during high school, when I bought a used copy of the first Writers of the Future volume at the Book Rack in Sharon, Pennsylvania. I wrote to the address in the back (this was before the Web) and was delighted to discover that the contest was still running (and does so to this day). Over the next few years, I submitted several terrible stories, most of which originated as creative writing assignments in English class. In college, I became more aware of the (now sadly-depleted) array of SF and fantasy magazines and submitted some mostly-bad stories there as well; the high point of this period was a personal rejection letter from Kim Mohan at Amazing Stories (which I’ve unfortunately since mislaid). I then wrote almost nothing for about ten years, until the fateful day of February 28, 2007, when a story idea sprang, unbidden and fully-formed, into my consciousness. Over a few hours I wrote it, revised it, gave it the awkward title of “Wikihistory,” sent it off to a webzine I’d been reading called Abyss & Apex, and promptly forgot about it until July 23, when they accepted it and it became my first published story. Buoyed by this unexpected success, I’ve been publishing stories off and on ever since.
Q. What are your politics like?
A: You’re really just asking me if I think one guy lies and steals slightly less often than another. I don’t care enough about it to risk annoying anyone with the answer.
Q: Can’t we at least get a hint?
A: I have a few principles: 1) I can rarely bring myself to sympathize with a mob, whichever side they’re on (or think they’re on); 2) If you’re trying to silence people, you’re almost certainly on the wrong side; and, 3) even if the Yellowstone supervolcano doesn’t erupt, even if the western side of La Palma doesn’t slide into the Atlantic and wipe out half of North America, almost none of the things you’re so worked up about will end up mattering in the slightest. We’re living at the tail end of a golden age. The past was terrible; the future will be worse. So enjoy yourself.
Q: Any chance of running into you at my local SF/fantasy/comic book/anime/Star Trek/polka convention?
A: I wouldn’t count on it. When a bunch of introverts get together and pretend to be extroverts for a day, things get weird fast, and my tolerance for eccentricity is, shall we say, something less than it probably ought to be. On the other hand, if it’s vitally important to you that I attend such a gathering, and you’re willing to pick me up, pay my way, put me up for the duration, and drive me home afterward, we can discuss it.
Q: Can I buy you a beer?
A: You could, but can I have the money instead?
Q: I know you’re joking, but–
A: I’m not.
But, what if I did want to make a donation?
A: I’ve noticed a lot of writers–including some I had assumed were making a decent living–have virtual “tip jars” on their sites to allow fans to contribute. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do so here. I suppose if one suddenly needed to relieve oneself of an excess sum of cash, and one’s garbage disposal were broken, one could Paypal it to the email address on the “Contact Me” page, so long as one understood that one could expect nothing in return for one’s money. On a more sane note, doing your Amazon shopping through my affiliate link (which I’ve hopefully bothered to put in a more prominent place on this site) gives me a few virtual pennies and costs you nothing.
Q: You don’t blog very much.
A: No, and I don’t tweet at all. Anything I come up with that’s witty or profound enough to share with the masses, I’d rather hold on to and place in the mouth of a character in a story. I don’t know how bestselling authors can tweet continuously and blog five times a day and still have the energy and brainpower to be creative. I suppose that’s why they’re bestselling authors.
Q: What’s with the title of your blog?
A: It’s a reference to something. The first person to tell me where it comes from gets a free autographed book when I eventually publish one.
Q: That’s some cheesy-looking banner you’ve got there.
A: I can’t really argue with you.
Q: May I reprint/adapt one of your stories in/on my magazine/anthology/website/podcast/interpretive dance symposium?
A: You almost certainly may. Feel free to email me with details and payment information.
Q: What if it’s a non-paying project; “for the love,” as they say?
A: Nothing in this life is free; not love, and certainly not fiction.
Q: It’s a good opportunity to expose your work to a wider audience.
A: A fellow could die of that kind of exposure.
Q: What’s the problem?
A: No problem. You’re saying that your project literally has no value. Who am I to argue?
Q: You’re a jerk.
A: It’s been remarked. And “you’re a jerk” is not a question.
Q: Okay, never mind that last guy. My upcoming anthology pays its contributors in royalties based on sales. May I reprint your story?
A: Possibly. Have you got a publisher on board with your project?
Q: Yes, the giant Xerox machine in Amazon’s basement.
A: Well, I am in favor of entrepreneurship, but I will require some sort of advance in that case.
A: Because I’ve dealt with operations like yours before, and those “royalties” never materialize. I’d have a better chance of encountering a UFO, or a unicorn, or Brigadoon.
Q: What’s Brigadoon?
A: Your ignorance is appalling.
Q: All right, so you’re a hack who only writes for money.
A: That’s not a question.
Q: How long have you had these delusions of grandeur?
A: Actually, you’d be surprised how little it would cost you to reprint my work, but you haven’t bothered to actually ask, have you? “Delusions” are a diagnosis more aptly applied to someone trying to run a publishing company on a budget of zero dollars.
Q: How come every writer I interact with is always so cranky?
A: I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.