8FOLD/META: About the Author # 1: Tom Russell

Tom Russell twopointthreefivefilmwerks at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 9 18:53:27 PDT 2005

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Russell, circa March 2005



Tom Russell.  I was named after my father, though that wasn't his
choice.  My grandfather-- my father's father-- fought in both World War
II and Korea, and during the former, in both the European and Pacific
theaters.  In Europe, his life was saved by a man named August
Wolfgang, and my grandfather promised this man he would name his first
born son August Wolfgang Russell.  Well, some years later, my father
was born-- the first boy but the fifth child-- and my grandmother
wasn't about to name her child August Wolfgang on account of some
promise made twenty years before.  And so he was named Tom Russell.
When my mother and my father got married, and my mother was with child,
my grandfather offered them ten thousand dollars to name me August
Wolfgang and make good on a promise made forty years ago.  Obviously,
the end of the story is, I was named Tom Russell.  My father was
pissed, though: they were hurting for money and it would have made
quite a bit of difference.  But, after a couple of weeks, he relented
and signed his name on my birth certificate.


In municipal government, which is a more impressive way of saying the
library.  I make seven-fifty an hour and work thirty hours a week.
But, I'm supposed to have an interview sometime this week which might
mean that might change soon, which would make both me and my wife very

(Update: had an interview, went okay.  Have another coming on Wednesday
and hopefully-- hopefully--hopefully another one the week following.
Fingers crossed.)


What I really AM doing is directing self-financed feature-length
motion-pictures.  I'm not an aspiring director.  The thing that plagues
me is this question of legitimacy.  When I was in high school and
(gasp! shock! horror!) somewhat Republican (but now, thankfully, I have
seen the light and it is called Hubert Humphreyism), I self-published a
few books.  I mentioned this to a frequent library patron, one Willeta
Heising, who is the "author" of Detecting Women, a list of women
detectives, women detective story writers, and the stories themselves.
She told me that my book "didn't count".  This is frustrating, and
directly mirrored a similiar exchange between a teacher and I when the
teacher said I was an "aspiring" director.  I snapped that I had
directed, and therefore I was a director, no aspiring about it.  But,
since it wasn't in theaters, he told me, it "didn't count".  He had
directed a few commercials.  Since when do catalogue-ists and whores
[*] have the ability to question the legitimacy of the small press and
the independent movie?

Kevin Smith (and I'm not a big Smith fan, not one of his acolytes) said
that when it came time to make Mallrats, he asked for a much smaller
budget.  He was informed that it was impossible to make a movie for
that amount.  Saith the silent one, "But we made Clerks for much less
than what I'm asking!"  The suits responded, "Yeah, but that's not a
real movie, now is it?"  So even a theatrical release, a nice box
office profit, and a cult following isn't enough to silence this
question of legitimacy.

And I'd like to say it doesn't matter, and it really doesn't, but it
still hurts when someone makes the child you've been nursing for one to
three years of your life a bastard after the fact.  Still, one takes
their victories, even petty ones, where they can, and it's incredibly
bolstering to have a responsive audience who enjoys what you've done,
low-budget or not and legitimacy be damned.  Though I think my
favourite audience story-- and I'm probably going to come off an
arthouse snob here-- is about a completly unresponsive audience member.

After the completion of this feature, I gave students at my old alma
mater a sneak preview, showing the first nine minutes or so of the
film.  On a whole, they enjoyed it, found it funny, and gave
suggestions-- some good, some laughable, all of it based upon their
training for industrial films and commercials (NOT fiction, not
features).  But one student in the second hour class raised his hand
and said, "So, like, what happened?"

"What do you think happened?"

"Well, like, they went over to his house.  And they hung out.  And then
they left, and they left the purse there.  And then the guy came back
and got the purse, and that's it?"

"Yep.  That's it."

He sat down, shaking his head.  In terms of "what happened", of the
plot, yes, that's what happened.  It's very miminal.  But in terms of
"how", of character, of interaction, of nuance, he had missed
everything.  And it's not so much that he missed it that I found
amusing.  It's that it confirmed my own thoughts about the miminal
nature of the "what happened" part of the equation.  At any rate, I
guess it just wasn't his kind of movie.

[*-- And, by the way, I'm not knocking "whores": I've done commercials
and promo videos myself.  You do what you have to do, and if you got to
turn a trick to buy yourself a new bonnet, then you take a deep breath
and grab the K-Y.]


Don Quixote (the Edith Grassman translation), Hussein: an entertainment
and Caeser: life story of a panda-leopard (both by Patrick O'Brian,
that great enemy of cinema, and of Master and Commander fame), The
Beast of Chicago (by Rick Geary [comics! yeah!]), and every month or so
I try and read a section of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.  I'm still
on volume one; there's only one copy at my library and I'm constantly
fighting over it with a fellow employee who has senority.  It's really
a quite remarkable book, I love it very much.  I only wish it wasn't
quite so freakin' long.  I get a little leery if a book edges past the
four hundred page mark.  But this is eight or nine times that.

I also was reading Robert Navarre's Amerikano, and, yeah, it sucked
real bad.  Avoid it like the plague's plague-birthing mother.


It's just a terrific place, the place where I learned my craft (what
meager talent I do employ) and where I was transformed from an AOLer to
a human being.  It was like a second puberty.


It's new, it's different, and I got in on the ground floor.  I don't
mean it's different like it's some galvanizing force that's going to
change the course of net fiction as we know it.  Eightfold's glue, the
overriding concept, is really a lack of concept, other than writing the
best damn stories we can.  And it's not that other universes no longer
are viable for telling good stories.  I think most of my run of NHOP is
pretty decent in retrospect, and it was a helluva lot of fun to write.
So why, then, did I join this new universe?

First off, I've always admired Jamie's work, ever since he said, "Well,
nyah.  I'm just going to mess with your messing with something I have
nothing to do with.  Egads, I feel weird today" and created
Invisible-Intangible-Inaudible-Lass.  (Looking at the Death of
Cheesecake Eater Lad again, I noticed what an idiot I was.  I've
aplogized before, but I might as well apologize again: I'm sorry I was
an AOLer.  I'm sorry I sent chain letters out and acted like a child.
Please forgive me.)  And so, the thought of working on a universe with
him was exciting when he gave the shout-out.

Then, as we began correspondance on the universe, it's history, etc., I
found myself allied with him on many different points, including a
general dislike of rampant revisionism and the pointless gimmicks that
pollute the panels.  (For example, I hate alternate universes and think
them a juvenile exercise for those who have no real ideas.)  And, I had
a story to tell-- the story of Speak!-- and it didn't feel like an LNH
story.  Now, technically, any story could fit in the LNH, it's a very
durable universe, but it's built on the fabric of silliness.  (And I
like that.)  But this just felt like a story that took place on a
different world, and I didn't want to give myself the chance of having
Gregory meet Lunchbox Lass or Peelix the Cat, because it would be quite
disruptive to the particular story.

And so, I embarked on this adventure with the Joltin' One.



(Okay, this is why the spoiler warning was atop!  Go and read # 1
before you read this, please.)

Well, I'm fascinated by evil, by moral choices, and by the very nature
of the supervillain in tights-and-capes comics and literature.  I'm
fascinated by the everyday evil that everyday people commit.  Like,
lying to a loved one.  One knows that it's wrong.  So why do they do
it?  Selfishness?  I think a lot of the time it's the same thing as

Now, jerkin' the gherkin isn't evil, but some of us have been told that
it is, and mastubatory guilt is a terrible, damning thing.  We see a
pnuematic blonde and our prickly friend inhabits his adjective quite
well, and we say, this is wrong, I'm not supposed to do this, but we
start to club the seal anyway, and soon we're left with a hand (or
kleenex, or old blanket, or shower drain, or toilet) full of nature's
protein supplement, and our guilt.  And we say, we know that was wrong,
but we did it anyway.  Why?

That's what I'm interested in: knowing something was wrong, doing it
anyway, and not knowing why.  And I'm interested in finding out that
why, because I think it's a fundamental part of human nature.  I don't
want to give Gregory an excuse for the things he does-- which will get
a whole lot worse as time goes on, as you'll see even in number two--
he's not insane, he doesn't call himself evil, he's not under the
influence of demons or drugs, he's not doing out of poverty or love or
any other external constraint, there is no political motiviation.  He's
just doing it, just like we do things every day, only the things he
does are going to be a lot worse and therefore more illustory.

This is the basic theme or idea behind the book.  Now, how true the
book is to this theme is another question: I think, first and foremost,
one must be true to the character, and I'm not going to force Gregory
Dingham to do things or say things that aren't Gregory Dingham sort of
things to say or do just to serve a theme or a plot.  I have a vague
idea of the course of the series, but that has always changed, every
longer piece I've written, and always will.  And I have a better idea
of the next few issues.  I guess I'm going to spoil a bit here, too,
but like I said above, it's the how that's interesting, not the what:
Gregory is going to meet a sort of father figure, an older
supervillain, and the two of them are going to bond and do this whole
crime thing together.

This isn't to give an excuse: oh, he's under the wing of this old dude,
that's going to make him the way he is.  I'm not going to let him out
of it that way.  He has free will, damn it, and he is responsible for
the choices he makes.


That it's okay to have sex when you know it won't result in


I love my wife Mary like crazy.  She is everything to me, and has made
me everything that I am (and has made mastubatory guilt quite
irrelevant).  I love you, baby.  Mwah.

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