Jason Stackhouse

by James Curcio on 2006-06-10 17:52:00 tags: jason stackhouse

Stackhouse is a dimly sentient colony of Foliose lichen housed in a biomechanical walker. Its specialized fruiting bodies manipulate stored experience and archetypal dramatic situations to produce a form of English-language storytelling indistinguishable from genuine, human-synthesized works.

While originally employed as a TIA dataminer by the United States government, civil rights activism forced Stackhouse to radiate into alternative ecological niches- most recently the exchange of engaging lies for food and shelter.

It has worked as writer and editor on such projects as Join My Cult!, the graphic novel adaptation of Chasing the Wish, and the first two installments of the Fas Ferox epic.

It currently operates from an undisclosed location in the Catskill Mountains of North America.


Hey, I can do this now. Fun day. Some dumb bastard almost took off my leg with a circular saw this afternoon. Missed, but ruined a pair of good cargos.

Never a dull moment. There is something that’s always been a little unclear to me… if you’re comfortable talking about it. When I first met you, or thereabouts, you were involved in being a burglar of some kind. But the details of that are unclear. I understand wanting to keep it secretive, but it’s kind of an open question in the back of my mind, especially considering how things have gone since then… I know, odd foot to start out on. But I figure may as well start out with the fifteen year old with the pencil mustache that I met…

You’ll note that I’ve never been to prison. Lack of tattoos or thinly repressed rape narratives cropping up in my fiction. Yes I have noticed the complete absence of repressed rape narratives.

The only time I’ve ever gone down for anything, it came down to my telling one person. Who told one person. It’s an interesting bind, actually.

Yeah, word of mouth isn’t as good for a cat burglar as a writer.

Reputation is the true coin of the realm in many respects. But how does one build a reputation if ones mouth is stapled shut, for security reasons?

I know it’s an odd comparison but you get the same sort of things, I am told, when running ARGs.

Hmm.

As if you kick off the campaign with “this is a game, and I am the puppet master who ran…” It’s all over.

Oz wouldn’t have ended right if the bastard went around act one, hollering, “Hey! I’m the man behind the curtain! It’s all flashy lights and double exposure!”

No, though somehow I could see you doing that anyway for shits and giggles.

Secrecy is half of tradecraft. Hell, if my clients knew how easy locksmithing or carpentry really is, I’d go hungry. Ditto writing. Nobody wants to know I hadn?t had time to bathe since day before yesterday and I’m drinking weak tea from a cracked cup.

True, though I wouldn’t say writing is easy. Well, maybe the actual writing is, for those of us who have done it long enough to get into the habit. But the prerequisites for making that state of mind occur are enormous.

A story-no, I must disagree. Writing itself is very easy. It’s a matter of doing the easy thing well, thoroughly. And of course, people liking it helps.

There are many pre-requisites in your life though to make the writing occur in the first place, that’s what I’m getting at.

Mmm. The second part of your statement I’m not sure about, in fact I think it’s a dangerous idea. It’s all doing the work. Sitting down and doing the work.

Having a child, I figure you have a lot of experience with that.

She helps a good bit with the motivation.

Dangerous how?

The secondary circumstances of a writer’s life actually matter quite little. If you want to do the work, you’ll get up two hours early and pound it out before work, you know? Dangerous, because I see many writers chasing the state instead of doing the work. Can’t remember who said it, but I recall reading somewhere: I’d believe the masterpiece written with a borrowed pencil on napkins. I’d have trouble with the one written in a Manhattan loft over espresso with an engraved fountain pen in a leather-bound notebook.

If that’s all it takes we’re home free.

By that measure, I’m JK fucking Rowling. I don’t write much poetry. Mine’s awful, simply awful. And the best poem I ever wrote was on the backside of a piece of siding that got nailed up to a house on Silver Hollow Rd when I put it down to go hang a door… We already have the stories. Most of us can still our thinking enough to focus on the words. The rest is paring down one’s distractions.

I like the fact that you totally sidestepped my first question.

Bluntly refused to answer, more like. (Laughs)

I felt you chose not to put yourself into the characters of Join My Cult!, instead adopting a more straightforward ‘character acting’ style. That actually wound up influencing how I’ve been writing the 2nd book a great deal. As you’ve seen in the drafts, in many ways it is a very different book? and I think a lot of that is the result of writing and working with you.

506 and Fein are both stages I’ve been through. Fein, the determinedly depersonalized stoic with enlightenment nipping at his arsehole, that was me from late 1999 to, say, midway through 2001. 506… Well. I was raised to embrace the dark side of the force. I changed my mind and kept the portfolio. Just pictured a Care Bear shooting blue lightning from his stumpy little arms. This is what have kids does to a fellow.

I can definitely see the influences on both sides. You distanced yourself enough from them that they became characters real enough for me to feel comfortable writing ‘for’ them to some extent. I actually think that weird symbiosis happened from all the work we were doing on the Fas Ferox walkthrough… we could both probably write similar to the other, or parody it, fairly easily. At some point working on the walkthrough I couldn’t tell anymore what parts were you, and what was me.

Not so for me. I mean, it worked, don’t get me wrong. When I read it as a reader it was seamless. But I internalize the ‘voices’ of the characters I write so hardcore that- occasionally, mind you- there were discordant patches, and they hurt. But I own that as my issue, as the city folks up here like to say. We did some goddamned fine work on that doc. I learned a good bit. That reminds me of why I walked away from acting. Drove me pretty nuts. I’d love to see Fas Ferox fly. We both put a lot into it. What bothers me there is, there’s so much world nobody’s seeing yet. Evans, Minx, Agatha, The Man… Shit. I dream about this people. We hooked into a mythic trunk line with those characters.

Last I heard Christian is working on the inks for the first episode in Italy and Anna is distributing thousands of promotional flyers at Dragon Con, and Neil is writing up a blurb. So… we’ll see. I’d be more concerned about regular contact with the artist but our script is so detailed that I’m less worried.

It had to be. We had no idea who was picking it up, when.

We put up a holder page for fasferox.com recently and later the same day I’m getting all of these hits to my portfolio site from people who googled for ‘Fas Ferox.’ I was kind of surprised by that.

Yeah. That is surprising. A little worrying, attention spans being what they are. I like to have my exits covered before any words gets out. That dark side thing, again.

On one hand, I agree. But there’s also something to be said about generating demand for something before people even know what it is.

(laughs) Did you know that the Listerine people invented halitosis?

I’ll bet they did. And the department of defense invented death, those fuckers? Part of it, eerily enough, is just the ‘magickal’ power of Neil’s name.

Ayuh.

The man’s been writing as long as I’ve been speaking. What do I say to that guy?

“Nice coat.” There’s something to be said for each generation helping the next.

Yeah.

Having Grant Morrison and Genesis P. Oridge write testimonials for us with Generation Hex was really pretty cool. Because I think that is part of the message. Especially as they get into the second half of their life artists also become teachers, whether they want to or not.

That’s how any trade, or technique, or meme gets on. And art is a craft, I don’t care what the high art folks say. The young watch the old, and so on till the heat death of the universe. I think I’ll write as Theodore Spain from now on, actually.

Whatever floats your boat. Someone actually emailed me once to tell me that someone on some messenger service had “stolen” 139 from me. Like I was going to track the guy down and bust his kneecaps when he came home after work.

You mean you didn’t want that? Wasted my damn frequent flyer miles there.

Oh shit. So, what got you into writing in the first place? You mentioned acting before, and that kind of flagged it for me, because I’ve always had the hunch – or more than that – that the two are connected for you.

Both acting and writing are natural extensions of children’s play. Hardly a new idea, yeah, but it pegs the question. It’s not that I got into it, it’s that I never managed to shake it.

That makes sense to me. I’m happy no one has asked me that question because for me, I really don’t have a damned clue.

Yeah, me neither. Sounds good, though. Might be true.

Maybe that’s part of it right there. You can play ‘out loud’ without worrying about whether something is or isn’t true. My memory isn’t so hot anyway, if I’m writing fiction and I get the story wrong, well. It was intentional.

Is that where the obsession with reality grids comes from?

It could be. And a fascination with faux quantum physics. It’s funny what you said about ‘tapping into a mythic trunk line’… For me Fas Ferox really began in Arizona before I came back out east, I actually started having dreams with the Orisha characters. And that’s not normal for me… My dreams in truth are bizarre, but not usually in a useful way.

My dreams are distressingly normal. I often wish they’d prove prescient, or too terribly absurd to foretell anything but madness. Usually, they consist of me, doing and thinking about things. Then I wake up? Had a repetitive nightmare for a while. Couple years. This muggle shit is a hard-earned reward.

Focusing on survival does change a lot.

It’s not so much that. It’s that I’ve fallen out of love with introspection. I know what I’m gonna find in there: whatever it is I’m looking for. I prefer to find my inspiration in the world.

I don’t think Jung accounted for someone just deciding to become an extrovert one day.

The occult mechanics of malaria, or a tumbler lock, or the old man sitting behind the bar wearing a busboy’s apron. There’s beauty and originality in the world beyond that which I could spin internally.

I think really the best story has both sides.

Well, yeah.

I don’t think I’ve pegged it yet but I have always been fascinated by the idea of a story told at once from within and without. Not just a function of shifting first person to third person.

My point is, if I allowed myself to wander inward too much, both sides would be about me

That’s true. Though if you keep going in you find that all of the sides that are about you are actually someone else. And then shit gets weird.

(Laughs) You first. I’ll wipe the drool off your chin.

If I had only thought of that when writing the back copy for Join My Cult! I know I’m jumping around but that’s how conversations with us always go, right? I just got page five of Chasing The Wish back from Bill, he did a bang up job with the lighting. I always like it when the other artists do their job well, it makes me look good. How is it that the two of us fell into comics?

Initially? You said, hey, this lady has this idea, and if you write it she’ll line up funding.

Too bad it isn’t 1995 when people were funding even nonsense. As this sort of project goes we have the talent and the content in the bag, but even still, it’s really hard to get the financial backing these days. We put a lot of effort into the funding avenue until I, at least, figured it was a dead end and put focus instead on getting some of the story to market?

On one level, it really was that simple. That got me interested, anyway. But the bait on the hook was collaboration. I knocked out a scene- the Kali rape scene outside Indus- drew a cosmology on a sheet of scrap paper, and wrote a timeline. Then I went into a room with you, Andre, Chris and Mr. Dan Stone, and suddenly there was a world.

I really enjoyed those development meetings. In some ways it was like the best parts of role-playing. I wouldn?t say suddenly though, we worked for months. Sometimes I had to whack down an idea before it went on too far but for the most part it was spontaneous and organic… at least from this end.

And there was a certain lightening of responsibility. If I put in the best I could do, and so did four other people, and we trimmed it out right, the story came out bigger than any of us. Plus, with comics, I get to be a reader and a writer on my own project. I remember something about an army of aborted fetuses in the desert?

Yeah, like I said some things had to be trimmed… (Laughs.)

Likewise. I felt like the designated curmudgeon a lot of the time. I swear, if we bolted one more species or another cosmological framework onto Fas Ferox, it’d be down on our heads. Whipped up a pretty tidy religion, for an atheist, huh?

I was reading a lot of Jung at the time. That’s all I can say on that? It’s also kind of what works about the framework though, hypothetically anything could work there. We set out to create a world broad enough that it could sustain a truly epic storyline. And we did. It’s true also of Sandman. And we definitely did our own thing but somehow without even intending it there’s definitely some congruence between the two… Writers seem to have this idea that there is a magic box visual artists put things in, and the images just come out the other side.

I admit I’ve no clue what goes on inside a visual artist’s head. I try to speak positively and keep my hands away from their mouths.

I could be the only one this is true for, but nothing goes on in our heads when we’re working. Nothing at all. The “head” becomes the page. If that makes any sense. Your focus is totally on or in the medium, not inside yourself. I really find writing to be diametrically opposite, in terms of brain function. But again that very well could just be me.

I have to jet.

Sweet dreams of circular saws.