Interview with Hugh McGrath / Page 1 of 9
Boston. March 29, 2003
Hugh McGrath is a doctoral candidate in literature at Boston University and was one of Tom Trainor's students when he taught at BU. This interview was conducted on March 29, 2003 in Boston and is transcribed here uncut and without gloss.
McGrath: "Would you say that Rocker Heaven is experimental fiction?"
Trainor: "When I hear the word experimental, I get nervous, I think eleventh grade chemistry."
McGrath: "How so?"
Trainor: "Some lab experiment that's about ready to blow up in my face -- rats in a cage injected with something not terribly wholesome."
McGrath: "OK then, how would you describe Rocker Heaven?"
Trainor: "A book rep I met, interesting guy, described it as edgy."
McGrath: "Cutting edge?"
Trainor: "That would give it a nicer spin, but I'm not sure that's what he meant -- edgy, just edgy -- and I've come to accept that."
McGrath: "Can you define edgy as a genre?"
Trainor: "Not really. But sometimes a word fits and you leave it at that. Certainly when I began writing the book, I thought satire, literary satire -- though American bookstores don't have a section for satire. They have one for humor, joke books, cartoons and such, but satire takes on more serious themes than general humor. Anyway, initially Rocker Heaven was shelved in fiction, then when the book went on sale in stores around Massachusetts, it sold best when it was moved to science fiction. Trainor was filed next to Tolkien, which I very much appreciated because the book is futuristic and because it appeals to sci-fi readers who are often looking for something out of the ordinary."
McGrath: "Tolkien would be more fantasy than sci-fi, yes?"
Trainor: "Fantasy is often associated with the early teens, Dungeons and Dragons stuff, whereas Rocker Heaven is more realistic -- the corporate takeover of the planet by QuotLinks, who while fantastic creatures, are similar enough to real life executives at Enron, say, or globe-trotting investment bankers that..."
McGrath: "Did you have Enron in mind when you concocted the QuotLinks?"
Trainor: "No. The manuscript was completed long before the bubble broke."
McGrath: "I found the QuotLinks to be the edgiest characters in the book."
Trainor: "See, edgy."
McGrath: "Borderline. Frightening yet funny."
Trainor: "The evil characters are always the most fun to write."
McGrath: "These creatures are out to own the world -- and Queezac, their creator, what an amazing character. He's Golum and worse."
Trainor: "Queezac -- I'd giggle with glee when I wrote him up, and I do think there is a parallel between him and Golum, who is my favorite Tolkien character, cruel while almost lovable. And to get back to your question about defining a genre, I would call Lord of the Rings a fable, and in that sense I would call Rocker Heaven a fable, an adult fable."
McGrath: "You see your audience as adult, exclusively?"
Trainor: "No, not exclusively. The feedback I've received indicates folks from the 60s are buying it, those who lived through that era, but I've been surprised that younger readers, mainly younger guys have been buying it as well -- but then that explains its fit in the science fiction section."
McGrath: "The 60s appeal to lots of young people today. Why I'm not sure."
Trainor: "Truth. Young people do not like being lied to, particularly today's kids from broken homes, limited incomes and opportunities. They do not appreciate being deceived nor betrayed. Young people are idealistic, future minded, and that's what the 60s represents historically."
McGrath: "The reason I ask about genre is because Rocker Heaven is like nothing I have ever read. I can think of no writer I would compare you with. None, not Tolkien, not anyone in science fiction. And I have given copies to two of my closest associates here at BU, and they agree. The work is utterly unique."
Trainor: "How so? What's your take, what's their take on it?"
McGrath: "Hey. This is my interview."
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