Praised as “A true American original by Joe Hill, Joe R. Lansdale is a prolific voice in the world of literature. After an interview with his daughter – rising star Kasey Lansdale – and reviewing Cold in July, Nashville Arts Magazine correspondent Justin Stokes set out to understand what just what makes Lansdale such a presence in prose. Justin reached out to another author of repute, the legendary George R.R. Martin, to discuss the Cold in July June 7th which will see the film’s director Jim Mickle and Lansdale at Martin‘s own Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a question and answer session after the screening.
by Justin Stokes
JS: You have the Jean Cocteau Cinema. I understand you brought Jon Bowman, founder of the Santa Fe Film Festival is helping with the operations of the theater?
GRRM: Yes, Jon is my manager. We’ve re-opened in August. The Cocteau is an old theater, comparatively. It was originally opened in 1977 under the name “Collective Fantasy.” In 1984, they revised it to “The Jean Cocteau.” It operated for 22 years under a variety of ownerships, finally closing in 2006 when the Trans-Lux chain went under. I acquired it in April of last year, just about a year ago. We’ve spent some time refurbishing it, and we re-opened on August 9th. Since that time, we’ve been pretty much trying a lot of different things. Trying to see what would draw people. We show new movies, which are a combination of kind of art-house movies, independent films, small films, stuff by local New Mexico filmmakers. Occasional, big national movie when we can get it. We also show older movies. The classics from the 30’s, the 40’s, and the 50’s. We have midnight shows on Friday and Saturday nights. A lot of cult movies and horror movies, things that get people out at midnight. We have kids matinees on Saturdays, with shows for kids. Kids are free. So we have a very wide range of movies, and we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. What puts people in the seats and what people want to see. And also showing some of our own favorite movies. Movies that we want to see. Fortunately, we have a very eclectic stance that we can show all kinds of things. Now, movies are already apart of what we do though.
One of the things that I wanted to do with this was make it a community center and have other events besides movies.
So we’re doing things that nobody else in Santa Fe is doing. We have live music every Monday night in the main hall. We’ve had magicians in. We just had one – David Kwong – and we have a couple more scheduled. Every three or four months live magic show which those have been very popular…We’re probably going to do more stand-up comedy. And one of the big things for us is the beginning of our author events. Where we bring in a writer and I interview them. We do a dialog together or they give a speech or reading – it depends on the interviewed author and what they want to do. And the question and answer thing and then a book signing.
So we’re a bookstore as well as a cinema, and we’ve had an amazing array of authors in here since we’ve opened, including Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Anne Perry and Junot Diaz, and Pat Conroy. Peter S. Beagle did a book signing and showed his The Last Unicorn, classic movie. And of course we’re really looking forward to having Joe Lansdale. Joe’s an amazing writer and he writes many different things. He writes screenplays, but he also writes books in many different genres. Horror, historical, science fiction, you name it and Joe has probably written it. He’s a great writer with whatever he sets his pen to.
JS: So, Joe’s sort of a “jack-of-all-trades” in terms of crossing literary genres?
GRRM: Well, maybe not all, but many trades. He moves freely from genre to genre. I think he’s probably best known for his horror work and his historicals, you know. The “Hap & Leonard” series that he’s written is one of my favorites as well. Of course, what we’re having him in for is the release of his new movie Cold in July which is based on his novel Cold in July. That’s the big event, and we’re going to be showing that all week. We’ll be the only ones in Santa Fe showing that, and Joe will come in and talk about the movie. And we’re also gonna do a midnight show of Bubba Ho-Tep, his kind of cult-horror movie from a few years ago when Elvis Presley fights monsters (laughs).
On June 9, his daughter Kasey Lansdale who is a rising star in country music is going to be performing in our “Music on Monday” series. She’s an editor and writer as well, so we also have her book and we’ll be doing a book signing. On June 6th, Joe will be here and he’ll be doing some of the presentations about Cold in July. June 6th and 7th, which is Friday and Saturday nights, we’ll be having the Bubba Ho-tep screening as apart of our midnight show. On Saturday the 7th we’ll have the book signing, and then we’ll have Kasey’s concert.
JS: On the subject of Joe, how did you get to meet Mr. Lansdale?
GRRM: Boy, you know, that’s a good question. I’ve known Joe for around twenty, thirty years. I have a lot of friends in Texas, especially twenty or thirty years ago. I suspect I met Joe on one of my many visits to Texas back in the 70s or the 80s, but I don’t precisely recall which one. It was a very large community of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers living in various parts of Texas at the time. They would get together for conventions and parties and so forth.
JS: Now, you’ve worked with Joe on a few occasions, having both contributed content to various works. I wanted to ask you about a couple of anthologies scheduled on your website. Rogues and Old Venus?
GRRM: Old Venus is a science fiction anthology. An original anthology which of course means that the stories have never been published before, but were written specifically for the book. My co-editor Gardner Dozois of Philadelphia and I have been doing a number of these anthologies in different genres and sub-genres. You know, we grew up in the 50s and the 60s. We’re very fond of the science fiction of that day that we read as kids and the science fiction of early years in which there was a picture of a solar system that almost became real to us; because all the writers were using it. Mars was this dusty planet with canals and a dying race of Martians and so forth. And Venus was this watery, swampy planet with dinosaurs. Of course, in the mid-60s, the Mariner probes pretty much disproved the science fiction’s picture of Mars and Venus, and you know, we’ve had the picture ever since of these… that “Venus is just this Hellhole” of sulfuric acid and incredibly hot temperatures and terrible storms. And Mars is a dead world. But those aren’t nearly as interesting as the old Mars and the old Venus. So Gardner and I set out to do books about them. Old Mars came out last year, and was quite successful. That was a whole bunch of original stories set on… not the Mars that actually exists but on the Mars as the science fiction writers of the 50’s, the 40’s, and the 30’s thought it existed. The Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Ray Bradbury. Old Venus is the companion piece coming out next year. It’s all stories set on Venus. Joe is contributing one that is very much in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
GRRM: That’s right. That’s a very different proposition. Again, I do these with Gardner Dozois. And, you know, one of the things is that I read pretty widely. I’m best know for my fantasy. I read science fiction. I read horror. I read historical fiction. I read mystery novels. I read classics of literature. I read all sorts of different things. I think that’s a healthy way to read. I meet too many people who only have a certain genre that’s their favorite, and that’s the only way that they read. So, Gardner and I set out to sort of shake things up a little with these cross-genre anthologies that we’re doing. It’s not a science fiction anthology. It’s not a fantasy anthology. It’s not a mystery anthology. It’s all of the above. We go out and we find good writers and give them a very broad theme. The first one we did years ago was called Warriors. The whole idea was that you had to write about a warrior. Could be any time in history – in the future, in the past. In another word. It could be a contemporary story. It could be a mystery novel, or historical fiction, or science fiction. Mix up everything. A whole book starring a “warrior,” and it was quite successful. So we followed that up last year with Dangerous Women and Rogues is another one of the same type. And Joe’s been a great part of these. He had a wonderful story in Warriors, and he’s got a great story in Rogues. I hope people pick it up. Not only for Joe’s stories, but some of the other amazing writers we have in there.
JS: You appear to have filled a pretty diverse pool of talent. You’ve got Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, a lot of people selected for that. In terms of using that as a theme, what appealed to you for using a character archetype such as a “rogue” for an anthology theme?
GRRM: Oh, rogues are always fun. We all love the rogues. Everybody likes Han Solo better than Luke Skywalker, don’t they (laughs)?
Everybody likes a guy whose got a little edge to ’em, who, you know “He’s good, but he’s not so good,” and maybe he’s out for himself. You don’t know whether to trust him or not. He’s got cunning plans. I love that kind of character and fiction is full of characters like that. Long John Silver and Cugel the Clever in the stories of Jack Vance, Harry Flashman in George MacDonald Fraser’s historical classics. Rogues are just a delight to read about, so we want to do a whole book of it.
JS: So the concept of a “rogue” isn’t limited to any sort of genre or trope?
GRRM: Right, that’s the cross-genre nature of the anthology, yeah.
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