Secrets within secrets, betrayal, rise of super villains; “Later, Let’s Tear Up the Inner Sanctum” is through and through a superhero yarn. Can you tell us a little about how it came together? Were there any surprises writing this one?
The conflict between Ice and Sin-Master has wanted to be a story for ages in my head, but I kept hitting a wall when trying to write their story. “Traditional” formats and narrative style just didn’t click; I wanted them both to have a POV, but at the same time, I couldn’t make it work. I noodled around with telling the story from a secondary POV, initially Ava’s, and then it spiraled into a series of “ooh, what if I added this? Or this? I know! Let’s put in this bit . . .” and I wound up with a pile of snippets, different formats, POVs, and other material and began sorting it into a coherent story-form.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was figuring out how Amanda masterminds so much of the narrative from behind the scenes. Once I hit a spot in her interview, I was like, “Holy shit, she really did plot the downfall of the Excaliburs.” And that was pretty awesome.
The story comes at you in a bunch of different ways: blog posts, security footage, interviews, and so on. What inspired you to structure the story this way? Did you find yourself favoring one style over another? How difficult was it to go back and forth between these different ways of telling a story?
I’ve always wanted to write “found footage” (even though I am picky with the visual subgenre!). I remember reading “each thing i show you is a piece of my death” by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer and going “wow, you can do that in written form?!” So ever since, I have wanted to try my hand at found footage, and for this story, it was the only format that worked. Was it difficult? Heh. I think it went through ten different drafts before I figured out what I was doing. It was one of the most structurally difficult stories I’ve written, since I was juggling so many pieces. I had to figure out the puzzle before I could properly put into place. I didn’t necessarily favor one “form” over another—the blog posts were the easiest to write in terms of prose!—since I enjoyed playing with formats and seeing how I could balance the different ideas of visual medium with text (while all in a textual medium such as print).
We need to know: What superhero power do you think you’d manifest, should you be so blessed or cursed?
Hmmm. I think it’d be either invulnerability or laser eyes. Maybe both!
To what degree has writing “Later, Let’s Tear Up the Inner Sanctum” changed the way you interact with superhero media?
Writing about, and thinking about, superhero media has made me very sensitive to the underlying levels of hypocrisy in a lot of the Marvel/DC runs—like, take the Daredevil series on Netflix. Daredevil is all “but I don’t kill people zomg!” while, you know, throwing enemies into walls and off stairwells and generally inflicting massive head trauma on so. many. people. Physical violence leaves damages; when I see the “heroes” reacting hyperviolently and then claiming they are doing good, it bothers me. (As may be obvious, I love Deadpool—and one reason, specifically, is that he is honest about the violence he does. It isn’t wrapped in a sense of moral superiority; it’s very, very visible and acknowledged.)
What’s next for you, Merc Rustad?
I’m super pumped for May 2017, when Lethe Press will be publishing my debut short story collection, So You Want To Be A Robot. I’ve also sold Lightspeed two additional Principality Suns stories, set in the same ’verse as “Tomorrow When We See the Sun,” so am awesomely excited about seeing those published in the future!
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