INTERVIEW | Bill McCormick
Sean Clancy, one of Scummy’s main minions, was dispatched recently to learn more about the world of Korzac and its discoverer Bill McCormick. Here is the transmission Sean sent to Scummy detailing his findings:
SEAN CLANCY: ‘kay, that should work.
BILL McCORMICK: It just told me “this call is now being recorded.”
Yeah I think they’re legally required to make sure everyone knows when that’s happening.
Oh, that’s cool. I do a radio show on Fox and we have all sorts of disclaimers.
Oh, no kidding? What about?
I do a weekly radio show called “The Big Wake-Up Call” on WBIG, which is Fox Sports, and I talk about anything but sports. I talk about politics and science and comedy, comic books, whatever crosses my mind. It’s a pretty free-ranging show. It’ll be seven years this October.
And it’s on a sports network?
They’ve got plenty of sports stuff, and they brought me in originally to do pop culture. It kind of got free-ranging, and then when I started getting science fiction stuff published, people would write in and go “Well, if you’re writing science fiction, do you know anything about science?” One thing led to another and here we are.
Always great when you come in for one thing and can move it towards whatever you want to do.
Like I said, it’s a pretty free-ranging show and it’s a lot of fun to do.The guy who hosts it is a guy named Ryan Gatenby, and he’s been doing it–I don’t know–twelve, thirteen years. I’ve been with him for the last seven. So it’s fun. Once a week, get on the radio, wave at people, you know. They can’t see me waving, of course, because it’s the radio, but I do it anyway.
So with “Korzac,” it seems like one of those stories where a lot of thought has been put into how this species functions. Did you think of this alien species first, these strange, warlike bug-people? Or did you conceive the plot of the story first, and then slot this species in?
None of the above. I was playing around with a language exercise, and instead of just saying “this is ‘mom,’ this is ‘dad,'” trying to come up with different synonyms so I wasn’t always boring. Came up with “progenitor,” and once I started working with that I came up with this whole fake lineage of random names–mates and progenitors and different things. And I looked at it and I said “Wow, that’d be a fun story,” and I backtracked into it to figure out, well, what kind of species would do this and how would it work? Next thing you know I’m writing “Korzac.”
So you started with alternate terms for parentage and went from there?
(Laughter). I know. But, it’s where I started.
Could you ever see Korzac or the Dernians–even something tangentially related to this setting you’ve created–appearing in other stories?
I try and keep my stories separate, but obviously I only have one brain, so things do occasionally cross over. With “Korzac” though, if I was going to cross something over, I would probably just go back and expand that story. It’s a story that if I really wanted to sit down and tackle into it, I think I could make at least a novella out of it.
It does seem like we’re coming in on the tail end of a larger story.
Right. I mean, “Korzac” is actually a slice of the middle if you think about it for a second. Obviously the Dernians have done all these amazing things, and now they’re starting to piece the galaxy together in one giant web. I actually wrote what the threat really is. I’ve got that on my computer somewhere. But it just became such a long, wandering piece that it took away from Korzac. If I was going to go back to it, I would insert that threat and build what the Dernians are like. Probably break out my synonym generator and burn it to the ground trying to get it all to happen. I’ve thought about it, but right now I’ve got two… three… two and a half novels I have to get knocked out and turned into two different publishers. Plus I’ve got four graphic novels and two comic books that I’m working on. Korzac is going to have to be a labor of love. But I’ll get to it. I know it’s one of those things.
What was really interesting about how they’re presented in the story is that–in part–they have this throwback, pulpy science fiction quality with your stereotypical empire in space, but also they’re strangely progressive. Like all good heroes or villains they view themselves as the protagonists in their own story, right? They think they’re doing what’s best? Is that how you see the Dernians?
I’ll be blunt here, I definitely ripped the whole pulp concept from A. E. van Vogt. I mean, everything he did was just larger than life, sci-fi pulp-type stuff. As a child that ruined my brain, forever. So there’s always going to be an element of that there.
As to the species themselves, it was more a matter of–like I said before–backtracking into how they would mate, how they would have all these children and do all of this stuff. I just started having some fun with it. That’s an integral part of anything I write. I have to have a good time doing it. So coming up with the different chambers… (laughter) and what they have to deal with just seemed like a fun way of doing it. And you can actually credit one of my ex-girlfriends for calling her private area her “cathedral and chamber of love.” So that made it into the story.
(Laughter) We won’t mention any names, but…
Yeah I can’t give her name out because I’ve got a new girlfriend now, who lives with me, and…
I understand. You mentioned the work you’re doing, and it’s always great to hear of writers who are able to get their work out there and be busy. Being busy as a writer tends to be both a curse and a blessing. I was looking at your website, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on self-promotion.
My experience is kind of unique, but it’s fun. I lost my job in 2010. I was going through a really dark time. So I started writing, kind of as therapy. I’d always written non-fiction. I wrote stuff that ended up on Fox, I’d been published in a bunch of different magazines. I did a lot of music-related stuff, because I’d played in bands and worked with bands for many many years–some very famous, and some “ehh.” Not so hot.
My experience was coming at it from the entertainment industry. In 2011 I wrote a story, called “And the Beat Goes Phut,” P-H-U-T. It got picked up by Bewildering Stories–much to my surprise and much to everyone’s surprise I think. They decided to release it on September 11, 2011. That was going to be the release date of the story. Then they realized that the “villain,” such as it was–“antagonist” I guess, would be a much better word–was this Muslim guy. It hadn’t clicked that September 11 with an evil Muslim might set off a lot of warning bells and sirens. Personally I wished they would have released it then. Probably would have gotten some great pub. But they pushed it back a month. Anyway it came out, and it came out to really good reviews. Again, much to my surprise. It was really my first real take at trying to do this. I’d played around with different stuff before but I’d never really, seriously done it.
That came out, and then a story called “If Thou Art God,” came out–which I wrote, obviously. Then, all of a sudden offers started coming in. Originally to write for a comic book series, and then to get other short stories done. I’m just kind of fielding stuff right now. I’ve had calls from different publishers and different things and sometimes it’s a good fit, and sometimes it’s accidental. Like finding you guys online.
Do you have anything you try to avoid when you’re sending work out?
My stuff tends to be edgier and a little more adult, so I tend to avoid any religious publishers. I see no reason to offend them. There are certain publishing companies that have very strict guidelines–some I can adhere to and work with and others that I just don’t. There’s plenty of room out there for everybody. Including me! I try to keep my audience engaged. I’ve got a few thousand people that follow me or are friended with me on Facebook. A few thousand more on Twitter. I don’t do Instagram or stuff like that–mostly because I don’t do a lot of photos. Only so many pictures of my ugly head I can throw online. We have a running joke that I have a face for radio, and that’s fine.
I love the fact that my last novel, The Brittle Riders, got bootlegged in Russia. On the one hand I’m upset they sold 35,000 copies of my novel and I’ll never see a penny from it. But on the other hand it’s pretty exciting getting fan mail from Russia!
If someone’s going to go to the trouble of bootlegging your stuff, clearly they liked it.
The funny thing is that, in Russia, the themes I touch on–in Brittle Riders, not in “Korzac,”–are actually against the law. This has got to be an underground book over there, because–
Like a Beatles, rocks and rolls thing going on.
It’s like punk rock literature. Very underground. That’s cool to me. I grew up being a punk. I was talking with a pastor at my church and he was like, “You’re 55-years-old and you’re still more punk than all the kids running around with safety pins.” I came up with a lot of the originals. There’s a lot of that attitude that’s ingrained in me, which makes me a little prickly to be around sometimes but, I try not to. I try not to drop an f-bomb every three seconds.
Any other upcoming work you’d like to plug?
The Brittle Riders trilogy is hitting the first week of April. “Korzac” is coming out, which I’m really stoked about because I wouldn’t let my girlfriend read it until it got published. There’s an anthology out called The Dogs of War, which I wrote a furry-themed horror piece (for). If you’re into furries, there’s a horror piece for furries that I wrote. It’s getting really great reviews. The story is called “The Loving Children.” Then my comic books Legend Parallel and Pestilent. Legend Parallel Issue 02 is coming out right now, and Pestilent will be out this summer. Both are very dark, both are rated “M for Mature.” They’ve got nudity and boobs-a-popin, and lots of really good violence. Lots of gross, mean violence. Ripping peoples’ hearts out and stuff like that–it’s a lot of fun.
That’s how I avoid therapy. See, I have these thoughts in my head, and if I acted them out I’d be in prison, but if I write them out they give me money. So I think this is better.
Bill McCormick began writing professionally in 1986 when he worked for Chicago Rocker Magazine in conjunction with his radio show on Z-95 (ABC-FM). He went on to write for several other magazines and later transitioned to blogs. He currently writes a sports blog at Jay The Joke, as well as a twisted news blog at World News Center. The latter provides source material for his weekly radio show on WBIG 1280 AM, FOX! Sports. Yes, you read that correctly, he does a show about anything other than sports on a sports radio station.
In 2011, Bill started submitting some fictional short stories to various publishers. Much to his surprise, and the consternation of linguists everywhere, they began publishing his efforts. Bill has expanded his repertoire to include comic books, graphic novels, and full length novels. He has currently penned everything from dystopian nightmares to cuddly children’s stories.
Bill is a big fan of nicotine, vodka, music, and this rambunctious redhead (formerly a bottle blonde) who keeps waking up in his bed.