Like many of my Featured Authors, I met Karl Fischer at BizarroCon 11. He was kind enough to chat with a wall-flowering newcomer like myself. But my clearest memory of Karl was at the Bizarro Showdown. His act? A sales pitch about teaching horses to ski, stopping here and there to moon the audience who in turn pelted him with oranges.
Along with his wife Whitney, he runs Excession Press, publishing speculative fiction that “resonates with our strongest, strangest emotions, and takes us to perilous places we never knew.” Levels is his second book. (Check out my review here.)
Here’s our interview. I hope you enjoy!
ZÉ BURNS: When did you start writing?
KARL FISCHER: I probably started writing for recreation when I was in 5th grade. I remember the day my parents told me I should become a writer. In retrospect, it was a pretty sick joke to play on their child, but the damage is done.
ZB: How would you describe your writing style?
KF: Whimsical and sarcastic. I think of myself as a comedic writer. I seem to be most interested in crime, horror, and science fiction, but my favorite stuff usually defies genre. One of my earliest influences was Philip K Dick, who had a way of blurting out crazy shit without making any attempt to explain it, which taught me that a writer can get away with anything if their audience trusts them.
ZB: How did you discover bizarro fiction?
KF: I was in college and looking for open submissions when I came across the now-defunct Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, which Bradley Sands was editing. He was attending Naropa and I was at CU Boulder, so I emailed him and took him out for coffee. I spent a little time reading the slush pile for the magazine. Brad and I watched movies together, and he told me to give BizarroCon a try. That’s how it all started.
ZB: Your novel Levels is like no book I’ve read. How did this story come together?
KF: I appreciate the compliment! It’s funny you should ask how the story came together because Levels is a case study in how NOT to write a novel. It took me the better part of a decade, and I wrote six or seven versions without any blueprint. For a long time, the manuscript was just a repository for these vague ideas that gnawed at me, but when I became more practiced as a writer (and as a human being) real characters and real conflicts started to emerge. The story takes influences from all over the place; D&D, Kafka, World of Warcraft, time-travel narratives, Futurama, theories about quantum mechanics as understood by an English major; but it’s really just another love story (although it took me a long time to realize that). It’s about romantic love, platonic love, and self-love. And being a writer with OCD, it’s also a book about patterns. How to change patterns for the better, or accept the ones that you can’t change.
ZB: The Multiverse in Levels is incredibly complex. What is your worldbuilding process?
KF: I wanted to combine the fantastical logic of an MMORPG with the depressing reality of living in a capitalist society where massive corporations reap every conceivable benefit at the expense of workers. I didn’t want to think too hard about worldbuilding because the concept of the Multiverse is already so familiar to science fiction and gaming and comics, so most elements fell into place organically. I like to figure out what kind of story I’m writing while I’m in the middle of writing it, which is probably why it took me so long to finish the damn thing.
ZB: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
KF: I co-manage Excession Press with my wife, Whitney, and we would like the operation to pick up some speed. Beyond that, I’m writing a follow-up to my kaiju love story novella, Towers, which will include a rewrite of the original story and two new novellas bookending it. I love giant monsters and religious overtones and thinly-veiled treatises on mental illness, so expect more of that.
Thank you, Karl, for your time!
You can find Excession Press on Twitter.