Interview with Jeremiah Tolbert

Jeremiah Tolbert’s story, Captain Blood’s B00ty, appears in the Summer 2007 issue of Shimmer. To learn more about Jeremiah, check out his website or drop him a note.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STORY:

Where did the idea come from?
I wanted to do the electronic piracy thing for the special issue, rather than the traditional Caribbean thing, and I had been reading a lot of BoingBoing lately. I wondered suddenly what it would be like if magic was real, and just information like music or television shows are. Of course there would be people who wanted to pirate it, and thus people who wanted to control it. From there, the story wrote itself. With hours and hours of work on my part. So strike that last part, I guess. It wouldn’t be much fun if they wrote themselves anyway.

How did the story change as you developed it?
It ended up being goofier than I expected. And nerdier. But I should have expected that.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?

I had to cut some of the roommate banter that I loved. It saddens me. I could write roommate banter all day. College was awesome.

How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
It is similar to my other work, in the sense that it involves lovable geeks getting into trouble. It is different in that it involves no giant monsters terrorizing the Midwest. Maybe next time.

QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING:

How did you celebrate your first sale?
I don’t remember. I woke up a week later in a Tijuana jail cell, naked, and covered in gold body paint. If anyone saw me the week of February 18th, 2002, please shoot me an email.

Does your work tend to explore any particular themes?
It tends to be positive about technology and science, rather than negative, and it tends to celebrate geeks and nerds. Often, it’s about the American Midwest, where I’m from. And sometimes, it’s about biology and sex, which are the same thing.

What people have helped you the most with your writing?
Everyone in the Online Writing Workshop for F&SF has been great. Editor John Joseph Adams was one of the earliest supporters of my work. My wife reads everything I write and rarely complains. My coffee shop barista who keeps filling my pots of tea and never asks me why I don’t go home.

Favorite book you’ve read recently?
I’m mostly reading comic books these days. American Born Chinese was fantastic. I highly recommend it.

RANDOM QUESTIONS:

If you have a day job, what is it? What do you like about it?
I am a web designer. I like that I basically get paid to draw stuff in Photoshop all day. I like that I don’t have to use words very often, and that I get to read a lot of web pages, ostensibly for “inspiration.”

Favourite food?
Meat. I’m not picky within that category..

What are some of your hobbies?
Primarily, I take photographs and build websites. I play video games, role-playing games, and board games a few times a week. I watch a lot of SF television, especially British stuff. I go on late night walks in the fog. Is that a hobby? I’m not sure what constitutes a hobby anymore. I don’t really collect anything… guess that’s about it then.

All-time favourite movie?
Donnie Darko is what I am saying today. Ask me again tomorrow.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Buckaroo Bonzai. Only cooler.

Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Please explain your answer:
None. One spouse, because the writer has been on the computer for eight hours and has been asked about six million times and just keeps saying “yes dear” and never stops typing, oh god, why didn’t I listen to my mother and marry an accountant?

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