First, I want to think Ginger Nuts of Horror for including me on their website; I appreciate the opportunity to contribute something that might be semi-worthwhile to folks who might be interested in all the great features the website has to offer.
There’s a reason why I started this article with a thank-you, because the rest of it is going to be a sort of apology. You see, this is the second article I’ve written for Ginger Nuts; the first one is sitting in my hard drive somewhere. That article was mostly about the connection between music and art, and I drew all sorts of inferences and connections between Sergio Leone, Martin Scorsese, and others. The article was certainly pompous, because I realized that most of the information was obvious; you could have Googled everything, and I would have offered nothing insightful other than the fact that I was attempting to justify why I used specific structural concepts in my new novel, Vampire Strippers from Saturn.
Instead, I think the writing/reading community needs something of value, something you/they/us can use. I have long stayed away from the “what inspires you” question for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s important to understand why that’s actually a good question for any artist.
I can write about the influence of the subconscious on an artistic creation, but that, too, is obvious. This is where I connect my original article to the idea that artists do have one responsibility to those who would choose to enjoy the art. Yes. We all have responsibilities when it comes to art.
Now I will stop. I will stop because writers “don’t owe readers anything” and readers don’t “owe” writers anything. Nor does a film-watching audience owe anything to the actors/studio, etc. However, I think that all art has one thing in common: it breeds.
Let’s suggest, for a moment, that music is art. Let me return for a moment to the article I originally wrote. How many people do something while listening to music? I can tell you that right now, I am watching several people work on a task that involves creation, and some of them are listening to music. Is music art? Does it matter what kind of music it is? How many “artists” listen to music, or have some other stimuli around them, while they are “creating?” How many artists go into Starbucks to influence a bout of creativity/productivity?
“What inspires you?” is not a generic question at all, because it is extremely complicated. I overanalyze the question and decide it’s best just to leave it alone.
Now I have to turn to my “expertise” as a master of literacy education (I am not calling myself that; I have a degree in that category, and the only reason why I mention it at all is to establish some measure of credibility here). When a child (or really anybody) discovers a musician or actor they like, they often spend a lot of time listening to all of their music; they learn about the artist, spending time on independent research to make a final connection to that art: a personal connection between the artist and the observer. A personal connection between the art itself and the observer has already been established by this point.
Now, let’s go deeper into the dream, further into the subconscious; let’s suggest that I really enjoyed Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot. It turns out that a particular painting of Jesus Christ had a major role in the novel’s process. Dostoevsky also experienced a pivotal moment in his life that involved him standing in line waiting for his execution, only to be taken out of the line. You and I can share several stories about famous artists and how they were discovered or the conflicts they endured; the point is that you know. You studied the artists.
When someone asks me, “what inspired you/the novel?” I have to take the question seriously. The person asking the question wants to see if they can make that personal connection to you, and sometimes that connection is more relevant to any connection the observer would make with the art itself.
Students are often asked to conduct research on an artist or important historical figure. Understanding who the artist often plays a major understanding in a student’s understanding of the art they are about to study. Learning about the author is often considered a “pre-reading” activity, although it can really occur at any moment during the reading process, depending on the student’s individual desire to learn.
Some artists don’t care if they inspire someone else to create or think. That is easily the most important part of the transaction that occurs between artist and observer. It is more important than selling ten million copies of a bestselling book. Tupac Shakur once said (and I paraphrase) that he might not inspire a revolution, but he might plant the seed that could inspire a revolution.
If one reader picks up a copy of Vampire Strippers from Saturn and it inspires them to do something amazing that changes the world, then I have achieved anything I could possibly hope to achieve. Ten thousand people might trash my novel; I might get a terrible review on a website and my publisher might make my book unavailable—the most important thing is that one person is somehow changed by it, whether that person realizes it or not might not matter.
Now, back to the first article I began to write, and its connection to the question that often troubles me: entire scenes from Vampire Strippers to Saturn were written with a specific musical piece in mind, as if the music were playing in the background in a movie version of the book. As much as I like to say that I wrote the book, I think the musicians who wrote particular songs wrote this book more than I did. The next time someone asks me “where do you get your ideas from?” I am going to ask myself whether or not they want to know about me, or if they want some kind of hidden trick that will tell them how to be a successful artist. It’s a question that causes me to reflect upon the process, hence the reason why it is never a simple question.
Vincenzo Bilof is the editor-in-chief of Bizarro Pulp Press, the weird fiction imprint of JournalStone. His newest novel, Vampire Strippers from Saturn, will be released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing on March 30, 2015. You can (and should) pre-order it now, though.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke meets Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood meets an episode of HBO’s old, late night series Real Sex meets the movie Death Becomes Her meets Condoleeza Rice’s collection of unflushed tampons.
Time is infinite, and so are strippers.
The beautiful and sultry Rene leads her trio of vampire strippers from (around) Saturn to destroy Earth. Their demonic foes—the plots—have hunted them across time; Earth is the last remaining planet with sentient life in this version of the universe. Rene’s love affair with a man who is half-horse, half-boy in a future version of Earth threatens her desire to inspire the apocalypse; if the vampire strippers fail to destroy the world now, men will be nearly extinct, and women will be hunted for sport by the surviving males.
True love, time travel, bad music, shapeshifting plots, and a brooding supernatural detective named Will decide the fate of Earth in more than two realities. Can Rene prevent an apathetic future while allowing Earth to survive?
Time travel, it turns out, really isn’t all that complicated, and neither are women.
“Vampire Strippers From Saturn is a fun spin on what feels like an ’80′s creature paperback, tossed with a little science fiction, a heap of bizarro, and has a soundtrack oozing with fangs, headbangs, and bloody dollar bills tucked in G-strings! A great night out, if you ask me.”
—John Palisano, author of Nerves and Dust of the Dead
”Philosophical and self-aware, Vincenzo Bilof is the Pablo Neruda of horror-genre fiction writing—a bonafide master of prose and versification, He probes familiar tropes in a way that, to my mind, NO one has done before—or could hope to emulate. Bilof shows zombies and werewolves in the same respect Wordsworth showed wandering clouds. His books are always well-researched (without ever being turgid), violent (while still being intuitive of nature’s austere beauty) and maintain a healthy vein of satire and humour throughout. One of my favorites . . .”
—Chris Kelso, author of The Black Dog Eats the City and Scahdenfreude