Sharkpunk - edited by Jonathan Green

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Sharkpunk Interview - Robert Spalding

Rob Spalding is a short fiction writer with an eye for the pulp homage. In fact, his story is the one in SHARKPUNK that probably celebrates the original Sharkpunk movie JAWS most directly. Here's what he had to say about the experience of writing the piece...

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks?
Robert Spalding: I think it's the silence of them that continually terrifies people. If you think about all the other monsters and fearsome creatures we are scared of, they roar and hiss and yowl. Sharks don't do any of that.  They just appear and start eating you without a kindly forewarning sound. Couple that with the fact that they patrol an area that is physically off limits to humans, in that we cannot survive where they live without specialist equipment, and you've got a creature that it would take an awful lot of effort to encounter in the wild. They are mysterious and I think that's what keeps them alive in our minds.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story Rise of the Übershark?
RS: To anyone who reads it, the most obvious inspiration for this story will be anime.  Specifically Mecha anime.  I've always enjoyed seeing big robots smash the hell out of each other and all of their fancy weaponry. What I first pitched to Jon when he told me about the anthology my suggestions (Sharks in Spaaaaaace!) were met with “Someone's already doing that.” So I thought about the type of stories I wanted to tell.  Post-Apocalyptic Waste World is my favourite phrase in the English language.  I love the sound of it (the phrase, not the reality). So it had to be a post-apocalyptic shark story. 

Where do I go from there? Well, very quickly I had my world and the weaponry and the big idea behind it all. The one thing I didn't actually have was a story to tell. I actually started this story four times in different ways with different characters because I couldn't find an “in” that was going to be just a short story. Finally I landed on the “last survivor of an elite squad discovers a terrible revelation.” And then I had it. The hero of the story in all its variations was always a woman because I hadn't tried to write a story with one before.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story?
RS: Finding a story that I could tell in the word limit. I completely fell for the world I created for this story.  Then I created a character that I thought would be unique or at least less obvious than the norm for the type of Mecha-Monster-Military mash up I was planning. But then I realised they needed a novel length story to fit in everything I wanted to say about them. As such I had to set them aside and start again, new protagonist, new conflict for the story.  New everything except the world.

I have to say I have never had more trouble getting something started that I was excited about than I have with this story. I was constantly having to revise my central ideas until I ground it down enough to fill just the one story. Even then I opened up a whole new level to the world with the ending. I think I might have found a place I want to spend my writing time in future – which isn't something I ever expected when I started to think about a submission to this anthology.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
RS: I think I'd have to say Hammerhead. I know the Great Whites are the Daddy of shark fiction, but just look at a Hammerhead.  The description of them is right in the name! They have such a distinctive look.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)?
RS: I've got a soft spot for the smart sharks in Deep Blue Sea, especially for their sense of dramatic timing in saying Samuel L Jackson's part has served its purpose. But my favourite shark in all of fiction is Sharky, from Sharky and George. He was one half of a crime-busting aquatic duo and they had the best theme tune. I'll be honest and say I haven't watched an episode in years because I'm worried it will taint my memory of the show.  But yeah, Sharky.

SP: Apart from SHARKPUNK, what's coming next from Robert Spalding?
RS: I am currently writing a quirky novel called Lost on the Traveller's Road. Its based on several ideas I've had over the years all being amalgamated into one crazy road trip story. I've only just started it but I like where its heading so far. Then I plan to try my hand at some serial fiction. I've got a few worlds to work in and one of them will be the world Rise of the Ubershark is set in. I'm planning them out like an anime series (the influence strikes again!) and hope to be releasing them for free on the web with collected editions sold as ebooks with added extras when they are done. At the moment this will probably end up being a self-published idea, but if I can find a publisher then I'm going to go for it.

Thanks, Rob!

Robert Spalding lives in Sussex, quite near the seaside but he never goes for a paddle. He had stories published by Whispers of Wickedness near the turn of the Millennium but then went radio silent for a few years due to what he describes as “Purely mundane reasons.” His recently had Men with False Faces published in Terror Tales of the SeasideRise of the Übershark marks the beginning of what he hopes will be a series all set in the same world. He occasionally blogs and posts short fiction at and Tweets at @robspalding.

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