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Interview: Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe is an NFL punter who played eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He made national headlines last year for a colorful, profanity-laden letter he wrote to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns taking him to task for his opposition to gay marriage. Kluwe is also a hardcore geek who enjoys science fiction novels, video games, and pen-and-paper role-playing games. His new book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, is a collection of highly opinionated essays on subjects ranging from football to humanity’s future in space.

This interview first appeared on Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley. Visit geeksguideshow.com to listen to the entire interview and the rest of the show, in which the hosts discuss various geeky topics.

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First of all, for our listeners, I wanted to run through what some of your geeky interests are. You belonged to a top-ranked World of Warcraft guild, and your Twitter handle is @chriswarcraft. You also write video game reviews, and you own your own tabletop gaming store. You claim to have read basically every fantasy and science fiction book in existence, and you’re working on your own science fiction trilogy. Am I missing anything there? Is that most of the big stuff?

That should about cover it, I think.

The first question I have is, would you say that you’re the geekiest pro athlete that you know of?

I’d definitely say I am a geek first and pro athlete second. It’s a great way to fund all my hobbies. It’s really fantastic.

Do you know of any other pro athletes that even come close? Who would be in second place or anything like that?

I don’t know anyone that comes close. I’ve met guys who’ve played World of Warcraft. I know one guy who plays Final Fantasy XI, it’s like, “Wow, hats off to you, sir.” I haven’t met anyone who’s into tabletop gaming and pen-and-paper gaming, or just the variety of interests that I have.

You said that you were always a huge nerd, but you were also good at sports, so who did you mostly hang out with growing up? Was it jocks, or nerds, or what?

I hung out mainly with my friends. I had one really good friend growing up from kindergarten, and then two other friends I met at high school: Jeff, Ki, and Austin. Pretty much just hung out with them, and I don’t know that I would really classify us as either jocks or geeks. Ki ran track, and Jeff and Austin just did normal P.E. Then I played football, soccer, and baseball. We’d talk about video games, books, and whatever. We just hung out.

You were telling us before we started recording that you still are playing tabletop games with Austin. So, your friends had some serious geeky interests back then, I would guess, right?

We all played video games, and we were all huge into online games, and that was when Ultima Online first came out, and Counter-Strike was just coming out. We were definitely into playing those. We tried to run some D&D campaigns and some Shadowrun campaigns, but we never really had the attention span for it then, so it inevitably fizzled out after a couple of play sessions. Now that we’re older, Austin’s starting up another Shadowrun campaign, and I’m very excited to begin playing, and I’m making my mage right now.

I did hear you say in an interview that as a kid you would kind of give people a bad time sometimes, and that actually reading science fiction helped you grow out of that. Could you talk about that?

It was more just the social influences around me. It was like, “Okay, that person’s different, let’s make fun of them.” I say reading SF probably helped with that just in terms of presenting a universe where many different things are happening, and generally science fiction has very utopian ideals in it. As I grew older and matured, I realized, “Hey, why am I making fun of these people? If I want to have the freedom to live my life, then everyone else has to have the freedom to live their life.” That’s the only way the equation makes sense. It was more a growing and maturing process, but, yes, science fiction definitely helped with that.

You’re probably best known these days for speaking out in favor of marriage equality. For people who don’t know, do you want to explain the story behind that?

The whole process started when a player for the Baltimore Ravens, Brendon Ayanbadejo, recorded a YouTube video essentially promoting same-sex marriage in Maryland, and they had a ballot initiative coming up to legalize same-sex marriage. A state delegate from there, Emmett C. Burns, Jr., he wrote a letter to the Ravens saying, “You need to stifle Brendon speaking out on this. Football players are only meant to be seen and not heard,” etc., etc. He was kind of a jerk about it. I saw his letter on a website, I think it was called Football Talk, and it made me upset because, first off, when you write a letter like that on official Maryland state stationery, and you reference yourself and your constituents, that’s a violation of the First Amendment, you can’t do that as an elected official. Secondly, why did he care? Why did he want to try to ruin other people’s lives when it would never affect his? If you don’t want to get married to someone who’s gay, then don’t marry someone who’s gay. It’s very simple. I wrote a letter in response that had some choice vulgarity that people seemed to enjoy, and it went somewhat viral. After that, I started having a larger and larger platform because I’d been trying to help defeat a ballot amendment in Minnesota that would have banned same-sex marriage. It was really cool because then in Maryland, the ballot initiative passed, same-sex marriage is legal, and then in Minnesota we were able to defeat the amendment there, and then, I think it was eight months later, pass a ballot initiative to make same-sex marriage legal in Minnesota as well.

It’s interesting what you were saying about that, how when you’re young you just pick up these not-always-very-nice ideas from the people around you, and I can definitely remember when I was a young teenager that I had sort of anti-gay attitudes, and it doesn’t even make sense thinking back on it now, but I remember one thing that happened that really made me think was when I read Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War. One of the futures he presents is this world where the whole population is engineered where everyone’s gay, so the heterosexual protagonist, when he arrives in that future, he’s a deviant and outcast. Even just a very simple thought experiment like that was enough to make me go, “Hey, is it just that I think what’s familiar is normal and what’s unfamiliar is wrong? Is that just an arbitrary thing?”

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that children don’t necessarily have a lot of empathy. As a child you’re a very selfish being because you want what you want. You’re not really that aware of people around you. You take your social cues from the environment around you, and if those social cues don’t include empathy, thinking about other people, and about placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, then odds are you’re probably not going to develop it until you get an example like The Forever War, or seeing someone get bullied, or something like that. I think our responsibility as a society is to be aware of that, and understand that the more we can nurture, the more we can promote empathy, especially at a young age when children are still learning, then the better off we’re going to be, because we’ll have kids that grow up and understand that people are different, people live different ways, and that’s okay.

I would say another thing that happened with me is I just got interested in political philosophy, and I was reading stuff like that. Just the rational arguments against prejudice against gay people I found compelling. I know that you studied history and political science in college. I was wondering how that informed your ideas about marriage equality and getting involved in activism.

That was one of the things I really noticed, especially from studying history, is the fact that civilization as a whole has a one–hundred-percent failure rate if you look back throughout the years. There’s never been a civilization that has withstood the test of time. I mean we’ve gotten a couple that have gone maybe a thousand, maybe fifteen hundred years, so they’re passing the individual human lifespan, but if you look at things on a geologic time frame, that is less than an eye blink. We might as well still not even be existing. Really, to me, it boils down to, why do we keep ending up in the same place over and over and over again? For me, it really is mutual lack of empathy. You look at all of these societies, and every single time it’s conflict that brings them down. Rather, it’s conflict promoted from within by oppressing members of their own society, or conflict from without when they seek to take something from someone else, and eventually get into a fight they can’t win. If we want to change that endpoint, then we need to figure out, “Okay, how do we stop making the same mistakes over and over and over again?” If we learn about treating other people the way you’d like to be treated, really, that kind of balances things out, because if you wouldn’t do something to someone else that you wouldn’t want done to you, well, a lot of nastiness goes away in the world.

You mentioned that your letter to delegate Burns contained all these colorful insults, and I heard you say that you sort of honed your skills at that on the World of Warcraft message boards. I was wondering, do you have any memorable arguments that you’ve had with people on the World of Warcraft message boards?

[Laughter] I’ve had quite a few. Most of the time I would wait for someone to do the whole, “Oh, all WoW players are sweaty nerds who live in their parents’ basement.” Then be like, “Wait a minute, I’m a professional football player.” Just start messing with them. There was another one that was pretty funny: Some guy was obviously trolling, and he was talking about the 9/11 truther stuff, and I was just going back and forth with him like, “Your arguments are clearly irrational. They’re not logical. They don’t make any sense.” It was very entertaining. It was a good way to pass the time.

Your colorful insults, like the fromunda stain, and stuff like that, are those things you picked up on those boards, or did those just pop into your head?

Those particular ones I didn’t pick up. It’s more a stylistic thing that I developed because I realized very quickly that in a message board forum, especially one like the WoW realm forums where there’s a ton of people posting every day, that if you want your message to be heard, you have to develop a way so people pay attention. The way that I found worked was to make rational, logical arguments, and then also include highly creative swearing along with them, because what happened is people would remember the insults, and they would laugh, but then when they thought back on the insult, it would trigger the argument that I was trying to make. It’s sort of an association thing. If you can get people’s minds to latch on to something, you’ll have a much better chance of them remembering the other parts that you’re trying to put forth.

Recently you’ve been playing around with Google Glass on the football field. Can you tell us about that?

I was fortunate enough to get a pair of Glass from the kind people at Google. It’s really cool. Primarily I’ve been using it to get a first-person view of what it’s like to actually be on the football field. Up to this point, people didn’t know what that’s like. They’ve never been able to see it because there’s never been a camera that’s fit underneath the helmet, so people are really excited about it. They want to see it on players other than a punter because, with all due respect to punting, it’s not exactly the most glamorous position, right? If it was on a running back, quarterback, or a linebacker, then that’s really what people want to see. I think that’s where we’re going to end up heading, that when you watch a football, baseball, or hockey game, not only are you watching the action from the traditional camera view, from above and to the sides so you can get the sense of the entire play, you’ll also be able to click down to individual players. If Adrian Peterson breaks off a big run, on the replay you can tap on his icon and all of a sudden you see that run from his perspective. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

They let you actually wear that on the field?

I’ve gotten to wear it during practice off to the side. I still haven’t convinced my coaches to let me wear it during an actual drill period. My goal is to wear it during a preseason game, but I don’t know how I’m going to be able to swing that. The NFL is remarkably hidebound in many respects, so we’ll see if I’m able to make it happen.

Is there anywhere that people can go to see any of the footage that you shot while wearing it and punting or anything like that?

Google or YouTube “Kluwe Glass videos.” That should bring up all of them. I have a YouTube channel—it’s “Chris Kluwe.” Just Google “Kluwe Glass videos” or something like that. It’ll be on there. Use your Google-fu, you should be developing that.

Speaking of Google Glass on the field, if you were going to imagine a science fiction story about the NFL of the future, what sort of changes do you think we might expect to see?

For the most part, it will be pretty much the same game that we’ve seen from the past hundred years extending up to the next hundred years. What you’re going to see is a difference in technology with how plays are related and how fans experience the game, because the first step is what I just described where you have the cameras in the helmet, and people are actually able to get that first-person view of whoever their favorite player is. The next step is that every player has a clear plastic facemask, and now you can display information inside the helmet. Now you’re moving towards more actual augmented reality. If you’re a quarterback looking down the field, say your receiver’s open, maybe he blinks green really quick. Or if you’re a linebacker, the hole blinks red, and you’ve got to go fill it. Or if you’re running back to the huddle after the play is over the next play is flashing up on your visor, so now you don’t have to worry about missing your assignment, you can just focus on, “Okay, here’s what I have to do.” Really, the possibilities are almost endless, in that you now have another layer of information that you can display on top of what’s already there, and once players get used to it, it will allow them to do quite a bit more, and quicker, because the NFL is based on who can get that edge, who can get that percentage point more than the other guy, because that’s what wins games.

In science fiction there’s this tendency to depict future sports as increasingly violent, just because that’s more dramatic, but it seems that in real life there’s been this tendency to have more and more awareness of the toll that contact sports take on the players. I wondered if in the future there will be increasing pressure to make the sports safer and less damaging to the players.

That really depends on society as a whole. Right now as a society, we’ve shown that we value the entertainment value of football more than we value the guys that play it having useful lives once they’re done playing, because the NFL can say they’re promoting safety all they want, they can fine guys for helmet-to-helmet hits or whatever, but the reality of football is that it’s a violent game. You can’t take that out of the game because it’s about large men running into each other. There’s no way to pad the inside of someone’s head. You’d never be able to prevent concussions from happening. Granted, unless you develop robot bodies or something like that, but that’s probably a couple years off. [Laughter] So, really, it’s up to us as a society to say, “What do we value? Do we value the entertainment aspect of this, or do we value the potential long-term harm that comes to the guys who play it?” That’s not for me to answer as an individual. That’s for all of us to answer collectively. If enough people say that, “No, we don’t want to value that anymore,” then revenues for football will go down.

I thought it was interesting that even though you’re a football player, just in interviews I get the sense that you have mixed feelings about the sport. You said you never really watched it growing up, and that you think that players are really overpaid, and that other professions are a lot more important. I had this experience, I went to USC for grad school, and they had an event on campus where one of the women who had been on the cover of Time Magazine for being one of the Enron whistleblowers was speaking on campus. There were only like twenty people in the audience in this huge auditorium, and I was really disappointed. The next day I’m walking by there and thousands and thousands and thousands of people are streaming out of the football stadium, and it just seems like there’s this huge disproportion to how much attention people pay to football as opposed to how much they pay to things like the Enron scandal.

Again, that gets down to what does society value. Do we value entertainment, or do we value actual things that are happening in the real world? Right now, it’s not great to say, but we value entertainment more than we value actual things happening in the world. Just look at the numbers. You can’t argue the fact. Until we as a society decide that we are going to value long-term consequences more than short-term benefits, because football is entertainment, it’s a short-term benefit, it’s a way to forget about your life for a couple moments. When you look at stuff like whistleblowers, scandals, corrupt government officials, and things like that, those are long-term consequences. That is telling you that the system is not stable. That something is going wrong within our system of society. If we don’t fix that, if we completely focus on the bread and circuses, well, we know where that ends up.

In an event, I saw you say that your favorite novel is Ender’s Game, and as you know, Orson Scott Card has been an outspoken opponent of marriage equality. What are your feelings about loving that book, but objecting to the author’s politics?

For me, that’s what really sucks, is that I don’t understand how you can write such a great book on the meaning of empathy, on understanding and loving another species, and yet at the same time not carry those lessons over to your actual life. It really baffles me that Card wrote this really great novel, and then just ignored everything he was writing about. I don’t get the cognitive dissonance that it requires to have that worldview. I’m not going to go see the new Ender’s Game movie, as much as it will probably be a cool science fiction movie, because I don’t feel that I should be supporting a person who is actively working to harm our society. He is promoting conflict within our society. He uses the money from the books and the movie to promote organizations like NOM (National Organization for Marriage), and say, “No, we need to keep people down.” So, whenever I talk to people about Ender’s Game I say, “Yes, it’s my favorite book. I love the message within it. Find a way to read it that doesn’t require you paying Orson Scott Card. Either borrow it from a friend, go look at it at your library, look at the message it contains, but don’t support what Card is supporting because that is ultimately self-destructive.

What are some of your other all-time favorite science fiction and fantasy books?

I really like pretty much everything by Iain Banks. He was an amazing writer, and I’m really sad that he passed away because I would have loved to see more Culture novels from him. L.E. Modesitt, Jr.—I still have no idea how to pronounce his name—he writes really good books, a lot of them dealing with the idea that the duality of fanaticism in either form is bad. The world is a complex place. I really like Brandon Sanderson. He writes excellent fantasy. Jim Butcher is very good. David Weber is great for space opera; he does the Honor Harrington series. Robert Jordan, obviously. George R.R. Martin is good, although books four and five were not that great. I have a very full bookshelf of pretty much almost every science fiction and fantasy book that’s come out.

What would be some of your favorite Culture novels?

I really like Use of Weapons and The Player of Games. Those are the two that I recommend to people that are first starting out with Culture. The cool thing is that they’re all set in the same universe, but you can read them individually because they’re all their own separate stories. I started with Matter, which took me a little bit to get into at first. I was like, “Wait, what is going on in this book? The people sword battle, and wait, there’s a drone. Wait, what?” I’m really glad I persisted with it, because it was definitely worth the read. Then I read the rest of his stuff, and I’m like, “This guy is amazing.” So, definitely The Player of Games and Use of Weapons.

Totally agree. Do you generally finish everything you read, or do you abandon books like that they’re just not doing it for you?

I generally finish everything I read, because before I buy a book I’ll read the first couple chapters in the bookstore, and that will tell me right away whether it’s worth pursuing the book. The only book that I really had to force myself to read and finish, and I did not enjoy it at all, was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. That one’s awful.

You’ve actually described it as sociopathic, I believe.

Really, the tragic part is that she had some pretty good ideas, except she forgot that key little ingredient called empathy, which if you have an entire world of people who are only looking out for themselves, you have a world of sociopaths, and that doesn’t work because they’re all looking out for themselves, and there’s certain things that we have to have other people help us with. That’s the definition of a society, a group of people working together. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t take that next step, and hopefully people that read Atlas Shrugged and think it’s the greatest thing ever grow out of that phase at some point in their lives, because it’s really not. It’s a terrible way to live.

How do you find new fantasy and science fiction books to read? Do you follow websites or podcasts, or do you just browse the bookstores?

Pretty much just go to Barnes & Noble once a month and see what’s in the new releases section.

Speaking of new releases, do you want to tell us about your new book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies?

It’s a collection of short stories and essays mainly dealing with the idea of rational empathy. It’s the idea that I talked about before, that societies that don’t practice empathy inevitably collapse, and as a species we need to understand that if we want to survive as a species we need to figure out how to make that happen because species-ending extinction events happen pretty regularly on the geologic time frame. Until we get off the planet Earth, we are at the mercy of whatever happens to come our way. Again, if we want to survive long-term, if we want to actually explore our galaxy and find out all the things out there, then we need to be thinking of more than just what’s on this planet. We need to be thinking about how we get off this planet. How do we sustainably spread out into the rest of our solar system, and then from there into the rest of our galaxy? There’s also funny stuff in there. There’s entertaining things. I write my own eulogy and include the drinking game. I tried to have it be a mix of various topics.

It’s really interesting because there’s autobiographical sketches, there’s speculations about the future, there’s little pieces of fiction, and there’s political essays. Did you know the format when you sat down to write it, or did that evolve organically as you started writing?

I knew that I wanted it to be short-form pieces because that was what I felt comfortable writing at the time, around 1,500 to 2,500 words. That was where I felt that I could really deliver a message. It also let me explore a bunch of different stuff. The other thing I wanted to do was, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the standard football autobiography. That’s what everyone does. For me, I was like, “That’s not what I want to do, because first off, I haven’t finished playing football, and second off, that’s what everyone does.” When I talked to the publisher I was like, “Look, I want this to be almost a snapshot into my mind. This is all the stuff that I think about on a daily basis. These are the things I’ve noticed in the world. It’s going to be a lot of different stuff. It’s going to cover a lot of ground. I’m not going to do the ‘yes, I was born here, and then I played high school football here, and I played the NFL here, and hooray.’” It’s not your standard football book.

Some of the political essays are very hot-button issues like gun control, and they don’t pull any punches at all. What sort of reactions have you gotten to the gun control piece or some of the other ones?

It’s been really good. Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people who need to read the gun control piece probably will read the gun control piece. Mainly it’s the people that agree with it. Really, my main point with that one is the fact that we have to be able to have a discussion about gun control in this country, and we can’t. We have fanatics so dug in on both sides of the argument that we can’t even talk about the fact that, yes, guns are useful in certain circumstances, and in other certain circumstances they kill a lot of people very, very quickly. It’s something that, as a society, we need to be able to have that discussion, and we can’t have that discussion because there’s just too much money entrenched on the side of gun manufacturers. I say it in the essay, you can look at the NRA’s webpage. They tell you who sponsors them, and it’s the gun manufacturers. They have a vested interest in selling guns.

I thought it was interesting because you say that you’re a big fan of first-person shooter games, and that you love them, but that you have mixed feelings about playing games where you’re just shooting people all the time, and that you think that maybe there should be more consequences for dying in first-person shooters. Could you talk about that?

I played Counter-Strike growing up. I played Halo, Call of Duty, and really enjoyed Borderlands. I enjoy playing first-person shooters, but as time has gone on, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t a consequence to dying in a first-person shooter. It could be a great teaching opportunity if there was a consequence to dying in first-person shooters. I’m not saying that people that play first-person shooters are going to go out and shoot a bunch of people. From all the studies I’ve seen, there isn’t that link between video games and violence, but at the same time, what we can say is that if you have one of these weapons, if you use one of these weapons, there are consequences, because there are consequences in real life when that happens. My fear is that we have a lot of kids playing these games, and they see guns as toys as opposed to dangerous tools, and that’s something that we need to be aware of. If we have enough people that see weapons as toys, well, eventually someone’s going to use them.

You said just there should be some more consequences to dying in the game. Maybe it would charge you twenty-five cents or something every time you died. That gave me the idea, I thought it might be interesting if in a game like Call of Duty or something, that there was the ultra-hardcore mode where you get charged a little bit of money every time you die, and that that money might go to veteran’s organizations or something.

Right, exactly, like with the Wounded Warriors Project, or a POW/MIA program, or something like that because, again, that would make people aware of the fact that there are consequences out there to using weapons.

I saw you on book tour to promote Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. You did this appearance at the Loft Literary Center, and you walked out on stage flanked by a stormtrooper escort. How did that come about?

That was pretty awesome. I did a local radio show in Minnesota, the 93X Half-Assed Morning Show, and I guess they had gotten an email from someone who was kind of the local stormtrooper representative. He was like, “Hey, if Chris wants an escort for his book appearance, then we’d love to give him one.” I’m pretty good friends with the host there, and they passed it along to me, and I’m like, “Yeah, that sounds great. Let’s see if we can make it happen.” We got all the logistics figured out, and I got to be Darth Vader for a day.

Who were the stormtroopers? Were they part of a local club or something?

They’re part of a local club. I think they were the 501st Legion. They’ve done a lot of cons and appeared at a lot of places. They were really cool. I posed for a couple pictures with the storm trooper helmet on, and I understand now why the storm troopers couldn’t shoot. It’s because they can’t see.

We mentioned that you own your own tabletop gaming store called Mercenary Market. Do you want to tell us about that?

It’s located in Costa Mesa, and it’s primarily for tabletop games like Warmachine or Warhammer. We have Malifaux nights. We also do D&D nights. Whatever board games you want to play. We have Friday night Magic: The Gathering. Really, it’s just a place for people to come down, play games, hopefully buy some miniatures so that the store stays afloat, and be the local gaming store. It’s hard to find those in certain areas. In Southern California where I’m at, there really isn’t one very close by to Orange County, so my brother’s friend and I and my brother said, “Hey, let’s see if we can make this happen.” We’re trying to have the local gaming store there, and hopefully it’s something I can do after football.

If we have listeners in the area, can they just stop by anytime and pick up a game, or should they go to a website and sign up, or how does that work?

Google “Mercenary Market.” That should probably bring it up. I’m generally not there because I’m in the football season, but during the offseason I’ll pop in occasionally, although I have to do stuff with my wife and children as well, otherwise they get upset. Any time, except we’re closed on Mondays, because generally that’s kind of the slow business day for gaming stores. We run Friday night Magic. I think Thursday is Warmachine night. Wednesdays I want to say is D&D and board game night. Then Saturdays and Sundays get whatever you want to play. We have pretty big Warmachine crowds there on Thursdays as well. Just swing on by on any day except for Monday, and generally my brother is running the store, and he will be happy to help you.

In other gaming news, I heard that there’s a character in XCOM who’s named after you.

Yes, it’s actually me. I’m a hidden character in XCOM. I think you enter my name, and then you get my character. I got into the game by defeating the games developer Garth DeAngelis in a best-of-three match. It was a lot of fun.

Actually, you were just saying as we were chatting before the show that there’s a character named after you in the new Shadowrun game too, right?

I’m trying to spread myself across all sorts of video games. When they were doing their Kickstarter, I backed it at the MVP level, and Harebrained Schemes, they were great about it. They sent me an email, they were like, “Hey, what do you want your character to look like?” I sent a photo. Like, “What were your ideas?” It was really cool to download the game the night it came out, and all of a sudden it’s like, “Whoa, that’s me right there. That’s pretty awesome.”

I lost several years of my life to Rock Band and Guitar Hero, so it amused me to learn that playing Guitar Hero actually inspired you to start a real band.

I got really good at Guitar Hero. I played against the Guinness World Record holder. At the time he lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and there was this charity event that Activision had put on. We were both there, so we played a best of five. I won two, which I figured, okay, that’s pretty good. I think it was right around Guitar Hero World Tour, I want to say that I unlocked an achievement that said “Buy a real guitar already.” I was like, “Well, I should probably buy a real guitar already.” I took some lessons and formed a band with my good friend in Minnesota, Andy Reiner, who’s the executive editor of Game Informer, so we both really love video games. Tripping Icarus was born and we’ve been playing as a band for the past five years or so.

What kind of music do you play?

Alternative rock. We’re all big fans of the ’90s grunge-era-type music, so like Soundgarden, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, and Audioslave. That genre of rock. I think what appeals to me the most about that is that it’s music that also has a message. It’s talking about stuff. It’s talking about problems in the world. Songs can be great just for their musical value, but they can also say something if you want them to. I think that’s something that we try to do with our music.

Could you maybe give some examples of some of your songs and what sorts of issues they deal with?

A lot of them deal with economic inequity. The fact that there are people who are making literally millions of dollars while children are starving and people can’t find jobs, really, how much more money do you need to enjoy your life when all these other people are suffering? With our current president, President Obama, the fact that he ran on a platform of changing the excesses of the Bush regime, and now we’re responsible for what, hundreds of casualties from drone strikes and there’s more going on every day. We have this nebulous “war on terror” that doesn’t really have a defined end. It’s trying to bring attention to issues that are a lot of the same issues I talk about in my book, and, really, issues that I would hope a lot of people understand fray the fabric of society. They promote conflict. They cause us to fight either against each other or against other people, and historically, like I said, that doesn’t end in any way other than the downfall of the civilization involved.

I also heard that you’re working on your own science fiction trilogy. Is there anything you want to tell us about that?

We’re shopping it to publishers right now to see if anyone wants to pick it up. It’s me and Andy, the guitarist in my band. We’ve written the first book, we’re currently working on the second one, and we know where the story arc goes through the second and third ones. I like to describe it as—it kind of starts off as Jurassic Park and then ends as Iain Banks’ Culture. It’s really funny how the science fiction trilogy started, because we’re both huge fans of those terrible Syfy movies like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Crocigator, and Mega Python, or Piranhaconda. All the awful ones. About a year ago we were sitting around, and I saw one of the first previews for Sharknado, back when they were first announcing it, so we were talking to each other, and we were like, “How hard can it be to write the plot to a movie like that? It can’t be that hard.” It’s got to just be three or four guys getting absolutely hammered and then throwing something down in like two and a half hours. We started brainstorming ideas back and forth. We’re like, “We should write a terrible shark movie. This will be amazing. It’ll be great.” We started throwing ideas back and forth, and about fifteen or twenty minutes later we had the structure of this really cool universe. This neat economic, societal, and government system. We’re like, “Why are we wasting this on a terrible shark movie? We should write an actual science fiction book.” Then after that we started brainstorming, and we’re like, “Yep, we have something here. We could definitely write this.” Then we just started writing.

Do you have an awesome title in mind, like Sharknado, or Mansquito, or something?

The working title for the book, and it caused my literary agent some consternation when I originally sent it to him, was Sharkbird. Needless to say, it won’t be called Sharkbird, but that was the genesis of the idea.

Finally, are there any other projects or activities that you’re up to that you want to mention?

Not really. I think that covered just about all of it. I’m sure if anything else comes along though, I’ll probably tweet about it.

I think we’ll wrap things up there. We’ve been speaking with Chris Kluwe. The book is called Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. Chris, thanks for joining us.

No problem. Thank you for having me.

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The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy

The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction/fantasy talk show podcast. It is produced by John Joseph Adams and hosted by: David Barr Kirtley, who is the author of thirty short stories, which have appeared in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and Lightspeed, in books such as Armored, The Living Dead, Other Worlds Than These, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, and on podcasts such as Escape Pod and Pseudopod. He lives in New York.