A positive spin on dark fiction, the artist life, apocalypse writing? Just what is the creative process of Brooklyn NY author John Waterfall? His story "Levi's Song" appears in Flying Ketchup Press's newest anthology releasing October 18th, 2022. "Tales From the Deep" illustrated by Kansas City muralist, Alex Eickhoff, (interview below) shares Waterfall's story as one of twelve deep dives into hybrid dark fiction. Waterfall's story details the haunting journey of a cyborg whale in a post-apocalyptic world.
Tales from the Deep has risen. Softcover and ebook release this week on Amazon! Soon followed by a library and book store edition.
From an apocalyptic ocean to the empty void of space, from the ghosts in the human psyche to the center of the Earth. In “Tales from the Deep” asks questions answered best in the dark. Artist Alex Eickhoff brings these short hybrid fictions to life. Don't dip your toes in these waters unless you have the courage to face what's waiting underneath where you’ll dive deep into dystopian futures, water worlds, and alien planets. Twelve international authors reveal evocative awakenings and acts of courage. You'll visit a doctor in the high mountains of Persia, dive into the microbiology of alien moons, then foray into the dark recesses of the lives of warriors deep underground. Meet fantastical deep space travelers, cyborg creatures, and adventurers of all kinds. Featuring John Waterfall, Samantha Bolf, Natasha Reeves, Harrison Blackman, Judith Ets-Hokin, Ali Azar, Victoria Shannon, Mathilde Rybka, Martin Rothaemel, Thomas Winningham, and Brian Burt
softcover ISBN 13: 978-1-970151-27-5
MSRP: $17.99 USD
epub ISBN 13: 978-1-970151-28-2
Interview with John Waterfall
At one point in my childhood, whales had a mythic quality. I went to the Museum of Natural History in New York a lot. There's something there called the whale room. At the top, there's a life-size replica of a big whale that's suspended from the ceiling. As a kid, I was just amazed at how big it was. Later in life, I learned that a blue whale is the largest animal to ever exist on Earth. That amazed me. In a way, it's a beautiful accident—supersized animals just don't make it in nature. It's an element of real fantasy that an animal this large, as well as ethereal and beautiful, can exist. Long story short, they captured my imagination.
I went to Iceland as an adult and saw the same thing: suspended, life-size whales that you can freely walk amongst. Even if it's not the real thing, it's amazing to be next to these animals and see their scale. I was reading a book at the time called Leviathan, or The Whale, by a British writer named Philip Hoare. It's a brilliant book. It explores the intertwined relationship between mankind and whales. There was a time in the post-industrial era when all the industry was fueled by whales. Basically, everything was made from whales at a certain point in human history. The bottoms of your shoes, toothpaste, cat food—it was all whales! In terms of butchery, a whale is the single most valuable creature on planet Earth. These amazing creatures helped bring us forward at their own expense.
These amazing creatures helped bring us forward at their own expense.
We know at this point that a lot of animals live very emotional lives. Whales have language; they have intense relationships. There's this fringy belief that certain types of whales have a religion or are capable of complex emotional thought. The whale in Levi's Song is based on a sperm whale, in part because I wanted to invoke some of the Moby Dick mythos. Sperm whales have a lot of spindle cells in their brain. Spindle cells are generally considered to be a key factor in consciousness. Aside from humans, the animals that have the most are ones like chimpanzees—and even they are dwarfed by the amount of spindle cells that a sperm whale has. So there's a lot going on inside their heads.
There's also the idea that sperm whales are capable of killing each other. They hunt squid by blasting them with sonar, immobilizing them, and then eating them. But they could do that to each other as well. That capability for self-harm also necessitates a level of restraint. All of this together implies that sperm whales may recognize a sort of morality in their relationships between each other.
So when I wrote Levi's Song in 2017 or 2018, I was fascinated with these animals and how much we had taken from them. You're close to the things you take advantage of; that's the only way you can take advantage of them. The relationship between mankind and whales is eventful and deep.
I was also interested in what I perceived to be the moral failings of apocalyptic fiction. I think there's far too much cynicism. I was interested in whether you could write a story from a perspective that wasn't human. I don't think you can, really. One of the main criticisms of the story was that the whale sounds too human. I addressed that by making it a point of the whale's own conflict, the fact that his "whaleness" was being taken from him through interaction with mankind. I was trying to find a sort of interspecies empathy. The story shows what mankind is incapable of not doing, but at the same time has something life-affirming. I think apocalyptic fiction forgets that, when looking at the end of things, there should be a measure of appreciation for having a chance at all. There's something to cherish in thanking the world for giving you the opportunity to be alive. I also think the world will be fine without people, should that come. I hope it doesn't—I hope my children can inherit a world that has a future. But if we die, there will be animals left, and the world will be theirs.
There's something to cherish in thanking the world for giving you the opportunity to be alive.
reposted blog from spring 2021
John Waterfall is a writer living in Brooklyn and a graduate of the New School's creative writing MFA program. His work can be found in Jersey Devil Press, Unnerving Magazine, Pseudopod, and others. Look out for his debut story collection, "Try Not to Get Discouraged." Twitter @JohnCWaterfall.
This Saturday, Oct 22nd, at 1 pm Central (Chicago Time). Want to hear more? Join the online launch party with readings from the authors. It's time to celebrate. See readings and interviews with the creators of this epic anthology. Saturday, October 22, 1 pm CDT. We will stream it to our FB page as well. Save your reservation here.
Interview with Alex Eickhoff by Amy Buster
How did you get connected to Flying Ketchup Press. Have you always been an illustrator?
I did basically manual labor jobs through college. After college, I worked for six months as a photographer, did many physical fixer-upper works on houses, and volunteered for HALO. Then I worked for three years at Dimensional Interactions. I worked full-time in manufacturing, working as much overtime as possible in order to eventually quit and do my artwork full-time. I knew I had an entrepreneurial soul. I worked for good people and companies but needed to be my own boss. I said that I would take a year as my “sabbatical” to work on my art, but honestly, I had no intentions of ever returning to working for someone else. I wanted to be able to express myself more and to be able to travel.
Murals were always on my list to do. I had seen the mural work in London by the artist Face 47. It really got to me. I saw myself painting large-scale things. It was a mission in the back of my mind. More significant pieces meant bigger budgets and bigger commissions to complete them. Doing artwork and showing it in galleries and museums is ok, but it isn't as exciting as seeing it out in the city streets, transforming the area with street art.
I met Polly McCann three months into my sabbatical. In addition to working on murals, I'd been painting hybrid animal paintings with a Sci-Fi feel. A friend, Clarissa Knighton, a jewelry maker, introduced me to Polly at the InterUrban Arthouse. My style fits Polly's needs well, and illustrating a book was on my bucket list, so I said yes to her anthology idea.
Meanwhile, I worked on panels in my backyard for a year until I perfected my technique. I found out that spray paint was much better than latex paint for murals, and it was easier to apply it to the surfaces I'd be painting on, and it was quicker to do the artwork.
My first mural was in 2019 in North Kansas City. It was one of the biggest I've ever done, 600 square feet, and it was a big wave and the Kansas City Skyline. It took me nine straight days of painting up on a ladder to complete it. It was an authentic learning experience and taught me a lot. It helped me adapt my mural approach to projects. I knew I had to go in with a plan and couldn't fake it. I encountered problems while working on it, and I had to be able to solve them. It gave me a ton of confidence. By the time I was halfway through it, I knew I could complete it successfully. I had been anxious in the beginning; it was scary. But the farther I went into the project, it became exciting. The reward outweighed the risk. I was very fortunate to have that project.
From the end of 2020 until now, I've been more consistently busy with painting murals. From the time I started working with Polly on the anthology book until now, I've done 30 murals.
What is your concept of how to illustrate an idea or a story?
A lot of my art in illustrating books is keeping it simple. I focus on one thing, an organism or an object, and I choose to focus on one story element. For me, it's character versus the setting, and I go with the character. Like the dolphin in Dolphin Baby, the texture is a big thing. In that, I focused on how certain features of a human being could be morphed with a dolphin, like the chubby rolls of a baby's arms and legs.
It's the form, texture, and lighting of an object. I keep it simple so that it can be done in a very detailed format. I tried to show that in the alien worm-like creature, and the Dashboard Jesus. It's about creating a moment in the story to share with the reader.
What do you think of the details that make a picture into a story versus a static image?
Many illustrators make it more about the setting and try to create a detailed scene taking in both the setting and the character. I prefer to focus solely on the character, the main focal point of the story. It allows me to use the texture and the lighting and honestly geek out about it when it comes to detail. That makes it seem more life-like and real, tangible for the reader. It makes the key element of the story come to life. I like to finesse and hone in on the physical details of the main character.
What are your plans for the future?
In January, my girlfriend and I will finally be able to do some traveling. One of her college professors and his wife own a hotel in Ecuador. They've invited us to come and stay with them, and I'll do some mural work at the hotel while we're there. After working so hard, now, I can honestly take a sabbatical and recharge my creative batteries. When we return to the states, I want to be inspired to do more murals. I'm writing my own path as I explore it.
For more information about Alex Eickhoff and to continue to follow his career, go to Instagram@eye_cough and coming soon www.eyecough.com
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New Contests now open on Submittable for short fiction and short cozy mystery
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