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Clifford Meth interview (MAR 2009)

 height=Clifford Meth is the author of such books as One Small Voice, Crawling From the Wreckage, and the comic Snaked. His new book, Billboards, is on the way from IDW. Westfield's Roger Ash contacted Meth to learn more about this book.

Westfield: What was your inspiration for Billboards?

Clifford Meth: Before I began writing fiction, I was a journalist covering electronics where I spent several years following breakthroughs in integrated circuitry. As far back as ten years ago, I began to see technology designed for "marketing" purposes that would completely violate peoples' civil rights. Billboards takes place in a world where companies can track the products people use based on electronic tattoos that are wired into the skin network. Most of the technology that I represent in the story is extrapolated from developments in IC and database technology.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story?

Meth: Billboards sets out as a cynical love story but it takes place in a dystopia in the not-too-distant future where Americans are eager to sell real estate on their bodies to the corporations eager to advertise their products; as the Asian marketplace is fully opened, Americans essentially become walking advertisements for billions of Chinese. Thus the name Billboards. My story examines the exploits of a man who tries to buck that system.

Westfield: Dave Gutierrez is doing art for the book. What makes him a good fit for this project?

Meth: Gene Colan introduced me to Dave, who has done a fair amount of inking for Gene, and we hit it off. I first asked him to do some covers for New Classics of the Fantastic, a series of science fiction reprints I'm editing for IDW. Dave has a stylized look that is very cool. It's sort of gothic and has great atmospherics.

Westfield: Robert Silverberg is doing the introduction for the book. How did that come about?

Meth: I recently edited a new edition of Bob's classic, Hugo-winning novel Nightwings and we began trading calls. I must say, one of the most gratifying parts of writing something is having someone like Bob Silverberg or Harlan Ellison or Kurt Vonnegut say something nice about the project. That thrill never goes away.

Westfield: You're also becoming involved in films; both having some works of your optioned and doing some writing. What can you say about that?

Meth: I prefer great books to great films because great books are works of singular genius and great films are often great accidents. A camel is a horse made by a committee. But there's no money in books anymore - certainly not for mid-list writers and less so for cult writers, which is where I suspect I fall, if you can call a few dozen fans a cult. Manson had six women and a trailer house and that qualified. But anyway, my point is that there's just so little money in writing that film options become the brass ring; getting optioned allows you to take time to write stories without worrying about how you're going to pay the bills for a few more months. The days of royal patrons are gone. Now it's Hollywood patrons, as decadent and dishonest a crowd as you'll get. Worthy of royalty, I'd say.

Westfield: You're also editing the Invincible Gene Colan book for Marvel. What can you tell us about that?

Meth: The book is a celebration of Gene, Marvel's Iron Horse, and it's just about done. I turned in my editorial to a wonderful designer friend named Richard Sheinus and he's working with Marvel to complete the book. There's some sensational input from Neil Gaiman, Walter Simonson, Stan Lee, John Romita Sr. and many others... and the breathtaking artwork of Gene Colan. I hope to see it out by the end of the year.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Meth: Yes. These are tough times, but not so tough that we shouldn't be reading good books and supporting worthwhile projects. So I'm making an offer I made earlier in my career: If anyone buys Billboards and is dissatisfied for any reason, I will personally buy back their copy. You heard it here first... I've been writing for several decades now. The first and best advice I received was from Gene Colan who said, "If you're willing to do it for free, you'll make it." In this economy, I'm back to practically doing it for free again. But it's still worth it.

To link to this interview, use this link (right click and copy)

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