Interview - Flounder, October 28, 2011

MC: Howdy again, everyone. And welcome back to FMMB's on-going interview series. This time, I’m out here in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest talking to my FMMB tag team partner for moderating the Futurama Stuff section of the board, Flounder, a.k.a, Tim. Tim, I’ve got to warn you, I get sea sick pretty easily.

F: Don’t worry about it, Ted. We’re not really going anywhere. We are still on the dock, after all.

MC: Yeah, but I don’t like to take any chances. Well, let’s get this rolling so I can get back onto really solid ground. Ugh, looking at that water, I really shouldn't have said 'rolling.' Anyway, what first got you interested in writing?

F: In 1969, back when dinosaurs still walked the earth and I was in 3rd grade, my class was told one day to write a short story on any subject. I wrote one about a spaceship trip to Betelgeuse and promptly forgot about it. A few months later, lo and behold, my story was published in the school district's annual newsletter. (I attribute this to the fact that the nation was still head-over-heels crazy about the success of Apollo 11.) This made my teachers push me toward creative writing and advanced reading, and also made me realize that I have a much more florid imagination than most of my peers.

Since then I've written stories and snippets of stories, none of which I've shown to anyone else until becoming interested in Futurama and realizing that this is a realm full of people with whom I have plenty in common. Nerd power!!

MC: What types of stories do you like to read? Authors?

F: I like to read science fiction based in hard science, comedy (of course), historical fiction that is weaved in and out of real history, true historical stories, and allegorical fiction based in reality.

My favorite authors (in no particular order) are James Clavell, Ayn Rand, Stephen Ambrose, P.J. O'Rourke, Erma Bombeck, Jean-Marie Arouet a/k/a Voltaire, Barbara Tuchman, Robert Heinlein, and Victor Hugo. Hard-core readers can probably tell that I have a strong small-l libertarian streak.

MC: How did you get into Futurama?

F: I'm part of the Adult Swim generation of Futu-fans. I'd heard about Futurama when it first appeared on Fox and was a fan of Matt Groening when he was writing Life In Hell for alternative newspapers. My opportunities to watch the show before syndication were very limited. Hey, I was going to sea a lot! *pauses to get Dramamine patches for MC* But once I started watching on CN I was hooked by the obscure nerdly references and well-done plots of all the episodes.

MC: What got you interesting in writing fan fiction?

F: Another obsession of mine is the old cartoon series Daria, which used to appear on MTV. I wrote a couple of fan fictions for that series but never posted them. In retrospect, they sucked. But writing them was good practice.

When Corvus wrote the start of his fan fiction A Red Letter Day, I saw an opportunity. I wrote a continuation of it, then sent it to him and asked for his permission to post; he gave it; and that was the start.

MC: Do you write any other types of fan fiction?

F: Currently, I'm not overly interested in anything on TV aside from Futurama and Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact I don't even own a TV.

MC: You…what? That’s sacrilege! It’s, it’s, it’s…it’s un-American, that’s what it is. If you weren’t a veteran, I’d…well, probably not, but still, it ain’t natural. Anyway, back to writing. What type of stories do you like to write?

F: For the most part, I like to write stories that involve love and romance. My girlfriend has suggested that I ought to try my hand at writing bodice-rippers. (She has been published in a couple of small poetry journals.) The technical aspects of the Futuramaverse are intensely interesting to me. I try to pepper my stories with science and technology that seems plausible for the 31st century.

MC: Concerning your own stories, what do you think of your material? How has it changed from when you started? Do you have any favorites? Has that opinion changed over time? Anything, looking back, that’s particularly cringe-worthy?

F: I think the humor in my stories is perhaps too subtle for most people to spot. I'm not too good at overt belly-laugh material. I try to get the science and technology right, such as it can be extrapolated from the present day. All of the practice and suggestions/encouragement from better writers has made it easier for me to put together complicated plots and put emphasis on the parts of stories that need it.

My favorite among the fan fiction I've written is my first, the continuation of A Red Letter Day. It came together quickly and it was enjoyably mind-bending trying to fit my story to Corvus' beginning. It could always use more polishing, but IMHO its essential elements remain good.

My least favorite is the sequel to A Red Letter Day, That Lovin' Feeling. Urrrgh...the end just kind of hangs out in space and there's not enough Futurama in it. I've been writing a third Rana story, but am reticent to start posting it.

MC: Any particular reason, or just not feeling the whole story anymore?

F: The story is still interesting to me. Other more accomplished fanfic authors here have urged me to complete the series. I like the character of Rana as established by Corvus. The only problem is, that dreaded Real Life thing - I'm busy at work and on vacation.

MC: Old stuff aside, have you got anything new in the hopper?

F: Oh yes! Bobby Jo (my GF) and I are slowly writing a story concerning Nibbler. I have written snippets of potential stories, some of which I'm thinking of posting in order to perhaps inspire other writers. Also, I'm in the process of finding suitable people to collaborate with me on a very special project that is Futurama-related, but not exactly writing...all will be revealed in due time.

MC: Do you have any advice for prospective writers?

F: Don't worry too much about what others think of your stories. There will always be critics; separate their wheat from the chaff, take their constructive criticism and don't let them stop you. Conversely, don't let your own fears stop you either. Turn off the TV and read as much as you can, particularly high-quality fiction written by talented authors, and learn from it. Never pass up an opportunity to improve yourself and/or your writing. Expand your vocabulary and knowledge of grammar in order to aid getting your point understood. Keep practicing. Don't be afraid to ask for help from other fan fiction authors whose work you admire. Most important of all, have fun!

MC: Well, Tim, I’ve taken about as much of this moving sea junk as I can take. Do you have any last words of wisdom for the readers?

F: My advice is, stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless logic and experience prove you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, he is naked. The truth and a lie are not 'sort of the same thing.' And there's no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can't be improved with pizza.