Sharkpunk - edited by Jonathan Green

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Sharkpunk Interview - C L Werner

I have known Clint Werner since we both wrote for Inferno! magazine back in the early days of the Black Library. So I was delighted when he agreed to write a brand new short story for SHARKPUNK...

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks?
Clint Werner: I think the appeal of sharks is two-fold. First there is, of course, the fact that your bigger sharks are quite capable of eating a person. As a species we have a vested interest in keeping tabs on the creatures that can kill us and most especially the ones who sometimes add us to the menu. Most of your ‘man-eaters’ are heavily represented in folklore, heraldry and language, as though by invoking these creatures we might also draw on their power and in some way control their ferocity.

The second point when it comes to sharks is that they are largely an enigma. We still can’t say for certain how old or how large some of these animals can get. Their social lives, limited as they might be, are an utter mystery. We aren’t even sure what can drive some species to explode into the gruesome spectacle of a feeding frenzy. These are creatures that defy many of the rules laid down by science. They haven’t changed in any substantial manner in millions of years. It reminds me of Nestor Pavia in the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon: ‘I tell you what I think, this thing is stronger than what you call evolution.’

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story ‘Feast of the Shark God’?
CW: I suppose the germ of the idea began with an episode of In Search Of…, a paranormal/speculative series that aired in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was growing up. Hosted by the late Leonard Nimoy, the show always presented interesting topics, some more based in reality than others. 

One of these episodes was devoted to Dakuwanga, a shark god worshipped in the Fiji Islands. While presenting this tradition, the show also explored anecdotal accounts that the islanders who dutifully worshipped Dakuwanga were never menaced by sharks, even swimming about in waters infested with known man-eaters. Of course, the catch there is that when they did mention a local who was eaten by sharks, he was of course somebody who’d fallen out of his faith.

So, the idea of doing a story revolving around Dakuwanga was there. Over time, it metamorphosed into a fantasy tale removed from our own world and set in the sword-and-sorcery landscape of Shintaro Oba. I conceived a story pitting the demon-hunting samurai against a fearsome shark god and the community who worships it.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story?
CW: One of the biggest challenges with my Shintaro Oba stories is trying to maintain a Japanese mindset within them. Prior to the Meiji Restoration which saw the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japanese society was broken into a very strict caste system and the majority of the Japanese people abided by the traditions and obligations of that system. The concept of self, of the individual, was trivial compared to being a part of something bigger, whether that be a farming community or the retinue of a great samurai clan.

I think the big surprise for me when writing the story was realising that, well, let's just say the end turned out a bit different than I’d envisioned it in my outline!

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
CW: I’m sure it is as stereotypical as possible, but the Great White. Ever since I was a kid, these immense monsters have been a source of awe. Going to the beach in California, it was always at the back of your mind that these sharks were out there, somewhere under the very water you were looking at. To drive the point home, there’d be news stories when a Great White would hit a surfer or maybe swim up to a pier and nab somebody’s catch.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)?
CW: Again, I’ll be stereotypical and say Jaws. When I was growing up, the spectre of the first Jaws film and of course Peter Benchley’s novel, still loomed large over the landscape. There were Jaws shirts and toys and such and when the movie played on broadcast TV it was a major event that they’d hype for weeks beforehand and take full-page ads in TV Guide.

And then there was the Jaws attraction at Universal City Studios, the highlight of their tram tour. I’m not sure how old I was, certainly not more than six, when my parents took me to Universal for the tour. Now, I wasn’t so terribly interested in the Bates Motel or the I Love Lucy bungalow, and there was only passing interest in seeing the Munsters mansion. I wanted to see Jaws, and I kept letting everybody on the tram know it. Well, when the time came and the tram approached the lagoon where the mechanical shark lurked, my father took hold of me and held me over the side so I’d get a real good look as Jaws came lunging up from the water. Being a snot-nosed punk I screamed and cried out that, ‘Why doesn’t somebody shoot that thing?’

All these years later, I still like Jaws.

SP: Apart from Sharkpunk, what's coming next from C L Werner?

Thanks, Clint!

C. L. Werner was a diseased servant of the Horned Rat long before his first story in Inferno! magazine. His Black Library credits include the Warhammer Hero books Wulfrik and The Red DukeMathias Thulmann: Witch Hunter, the Grey Seer Thanquol and Brunner the Bounty Hunter trilogies. In the Time of Legends series he has penned the Black Plague trilogy and Curse of the Phoenix Crown, the final volume in the War of Vengeance series. Deathblade is his contribution to the Warhammer ‘End Times’ event, featuring the dark elf tyrant Malus Darkblade.  His first full-fledged foray into the gothic sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40k occurred in 2012 with The Siege of Castellax. He is the author of Moving Targets, a novella set in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms featuring the iconic heroes Taryn and Rutger. In the sci-fi Old West of Wild West Exodus, he contributed An Outlaw’s Wrath in the Jesse James trilogy as well as some short fiction for an upcoming anthology. Samurai warrior Shintaro Oba has previously appeared in several anthologies published by Rogue Blades’ Entertainment. More recently, his short fiction has been featured in anthologies like Kaiju RisingFantastic Futures 13Marching TimeA Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests and Sharkpunk.

An inveterate bibliophile, he squanders the proceeds from his writing on hoary old volumes – or at least reasonably affordable reprints of same – to further his library of fantasy fiction, horror stories and occult tomes.

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