Darrell Schweitzer--Living with the Dead
The novella utilizes multiple points of view and has a mosaic-novel feel to it. What made you decide to use such a technique?
The truth of the matter is that it was not planned as a novella. I began with the initial episode, "The Most Beautiful Dead Woman in the World," as a complete story and sold it as such, to INTERZONE. But it demanded a sequel, and then another and ultimately a complete structure emerged. The last episode in particular does not stand alone, and completes the work overall. The technique, I will freely admit, is derived from Zoran Zivkovic's various story-cycles, which he publishes as small books. But it began by simply writing the first couple paragraphs, and following through from there.
What were the challenges in writing Old Corpsenberg? Did you have several cities/towns in mind when you envisioned the location?
I suppose the chief challenge was to maintain the "reality" of the setting without slipping into illogic or absurdity. Outright comedy would have been wrong, but a decidedly ironic edge is required. It would have been a profound misstep to make Corpsenberg some kind of afterlife or purgatory. It can't be that simple. It must remain a mystery. Why does all this happen? Why don't the corpses rot? Where do they came from? The whole point is that even the Observatory Committee, whose job is to understand these things and appreciate how well the place is run, hasn't a clue. People do what they do because they always have, and no one can remember otherwise. You've heard of the "dead hand of the past." This is more like the whole body. The story requires, if you will pardon the expression, a deadpan approach, which one can learn from, among others, Kafka. Once the outrageous central image is taken for granted, all else follows.
What was the inspiration for Living With the Dead?
Hard to say. Besides the influences of Zivkovic and Kafka, I can't deny that of Jason Van Hollander's wonderfully twisted and surreal artwork. I would describe the setting as a Mitteleuropan town out of a Jason Van Hollander illustration.