Tom Gauld on biblical battles and meaningfully nameless characters
Tom Gauld's new comic hero is a cop who encounters no criminals and solves no crimes, tasked with policing a human lunar colony that his slowly emptying. Mooncop, however, doesn't get too mired in loneliness or isolation, and is instead uplifting in its humour and brief moments of optimism.
Below, Tom Gauld answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Gail Bowen asks, "If you could live in the world created by another writer, what fictional world would you choose, and why?"
I would very happily live in P.G.Wodehouse's world. I'd love to hang out with Bertie Wooster in 1930s London or go for a weekend at Blandings Castle. It feels like nothing bad could ever happen there. If I ever got tired of that I'd go into the word (universe!) of Iain M Banks' science fiction 'Culture' novels.
2. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"
I'm slightly happier doing the drawing part of making comics than the writing part, so it would be nice to be asked a question that could be answered with images rather than words.
3. Richard Van Camp asks, "What's the story you'll never write about that haunts you? It could be delicious. Yes, that's the one we want to know. What is your delicious that you'll never write about? What. is. it?"
I'm not sure that I'll never write it, but I spent quite a lot of time researching a comic book about Napoleon. It was going to be set at the end of his life on St. Helena, but I put it aside and I've never got started again. I think I over-researched a bit and it killed off my original, fictional idea.
4. Marina Endicott asks, "What is the line of prose or poetry that comes to you in the dark night of your soul?"
I often think of the scene in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five where the protagonist (for complex, time-travel reasons) sees a film backwards. It's a war film, but reversed it becomes quite different: the guns suck bullets out of people, and bring them back to life and the armament factories dismantle tanks and bombs. It's classic Vonnegut, a bit crazy but very thoughtful and humane.
5. CC Humphreys asks, "If you wrote erotica, what would be your pen name?"
The idea of me writing erotica is so far-fetched that I might as well go the whole hog and publish it under my own name.
6. Will Ferguson asks, "How much thought/meaning do you put into the naming of your characters?"
The first thought is whether a character should have a name at all. In my new book (Mooncop) the reader never finds out the names of the two main characters, and as I write this I realize that I have no idea what their names are and have never given it any thought. I think the namelessness has some meaning, perhaps underlining their isolation. Most of the minor characters do have names and they were chosen because they just seemed to fit the character, I didn't agonise over them.
7. Samuel Archibald asks, "Cormac McCarthy once said: 'I felt early on I wasn't going to be a respectable citizen.' When did that realization come to you?"
It hasn't come to me yet. Perhaps Cormac and I have different definitions of 'respectable citizen' but I'd say that I was one. I don't like the idea an artist has to be a difficult, troubled outsider.
8. Yann Martel asks, "What's the favourite sentence (or scene) that you've written?"
I'm proud of the scene at the end of my book Goliath where (spoiler alert!) Goliath gets killed by David. I knew it had to be a serious scene with some emotional power, which was a challenge because I'm much more at home with comedy. I also had to convey that Goliath was confused without making it confusing for the reader. I think in the end it turned out quite well.