Interview with Ira Nayman

Ira Nayman

Interview Date: 4/8/2012

What are your current projects?

I write primarily comedy, largely of a satiric nature, although I often combine it with other genres, most recently science fiction.

In 2002, I started a Web page called Les Pages aux Folles (http://www.lespagesauxfolles); it will be 10 years old in the first week of September (positively Paleolithic in Internet terms!). The site is updated weekly, with new topical material, two new cartoons (yeah, I do those, too) and at least one new Alternate Reality News Service article every week. (The Alternate Reality News Service sends reporters into other dimensions and has them write news articles about what they find there. It has been described by one reader as “a science fiction version of The Onion.”) Three collections of Alternate Reality News Service stories have been collected in print: Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be,What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys and the just released Luna for the Lunies! Interested readers can check in every week and watch the fourth and fifth Alternate Reality News Service books take shape in front of their very eyes!

A couple of summers ago, I wrote a novel called Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience). It is about an investigation by members of the Transdimensional Authority, the organization that monitors and polices traffic between dimensions. Although the TA was mentioned in a couple of Alternate Reality News Service articles (and new Alternate Reality News Service are incorporated into the novel), Welcome to the Multiverse stands on its own. I am currently looking for a publisher for it. I have also written two novelettes which, although they stand alone, will eventually be melded with other work into a second TA novel; I am currently looking for a publisher for them.

Finally, I have written a series of stories that take place in a universe where matter at all levels of organization has become conscious. They feature a character named Antonio Van der Whall, who is an object psychologist. To date, four of these stories have been sold. “A Really Useful Engine” has been published in Even Birds Are Chained To The Sky and Other Tales: The Fine Line Short Story Collectionand “Escalation is Academic” has appeared in the anthology UnCONventional. “If the Mountain Won’t Come to Mohammed” was recently published in Here Be Monsters.“Thinking is the Worst Way to Travel” has been accepted into Explorers: Beyond the Horizon; it will be published in the next month or two. Several other stories in the series are currently awaiting editorial decisions at various publications.

Yeah, I’m profilic – proflic – prolicf – I write a lot.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

When I was eight years old, I had a conversion experience (you’ve probably heard a story similar to mine: a kid was given a camera when he was 10, and all he ever wanted to do with his life was make movies): in the parking lot of my grade school, I decided that I wanted to devote my life to writing comedy.

Kev's response:  So ... what went wrong?  >:P  (Sorry, there's a reason I'm not a comedian when I'm sober....)   But, please continue....


And, that is, more or less, what I have done.


Soon after I had my conversion experience, I wrote three parodies of Sherlock Holmes stories (I was a precocious child, and that was what I was reading at the time). I used the backs of my father’s legal sized accounting pads (the fronts had too many lines). Each of the stories was a handwritten page long.

When I was done, I remember thinking: “How do writers get enough material to fill whole stories?” Since then, I have written 18 books of prose, five books of cartoons and over 100 scripts for film, radio and television. Last year alone, the first full year I could devote to writing after I finished teaching part-time at a University, I estimate I wrote between 220,000 and 250,000 words. Perhaps as much as a quarter of a million words in a single year. I guess I figured out how writers do it…


If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful.")

I get asked this question a lot. I assume it is because I look like a pear with limbs, and people assume I cannot function properly in the world without a superpower. I hope they mean well…

Kev's response:  Pears need powers too!

Seriously? I would love to have the power of switching the points of view of two people, making them live for five minutes in each other’s consciousness. This may not seem like much, since we’re conditioned to think of superpowers as physical, but, used well, it could change the world.

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

I’m partial to strange characters like the Flaming Carrot, but, since few people know who he is (he was briefly a member of the Mystery Men, if that helps…naah, I didn’t think it would), I suppose I should just stick with somebody like Batman. Aww, screw it: the Flaming Carrot.

Kev's response:  I recall Mystery Men.  However, I eat cooked carrots too often to look up to one as a superhero, myself.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

QUESTION: As a satire writer, do you not fear that you are building your career on the suffering of others? ANSWER: I didn’t create human greed and stupidity. Can I help it if they give me job security? Or, put another way, I write satire to bring to people’s attention things that I think are wrong in the world.

Of course, if all I wanted to do was point out the failings of the rich, famous and/or powerful, I could have become an editorial writer. And, it is also true that I write a lot of humour that is not meant satirically. So, this is, at best, a partial answer.

I used to write for a magazine called Creative Screenwriting. After 9/11, the editor sent out an email asking for articles for a special edition that would deal with the issue of the role of the writer in times of national crisis. My response was a piece called “Laughter is Always Appropriate,” in which I extolled the healing virtues of laughter. I have come to understand that making people laugh is (almost) always a virtuous thing to do. If I can make them think after the laughter has died down, I have achieved all that I could have hoped for. (This article, along with other examples of my non-fiction writing on film, can be found in the archive on my Web site.)

Kev's response:  If you were a super(villain?), perhaps you could be called the Mad Laughter.  Speaking of, that switching power you wanted, did it switch their clothes?  That could be downright mean.  Mean and vicious.


Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

It depends on what I’m writing. For longer pieces (short stories, novels and scripts), I need to know the beginning, the end and all of the major plot points in between. This does not mean that everything is planned out; within this skeleton, there is always room for improvisation. (This is especially true for my writing because I try to build humour into my stories at every level, from the macro of the plot to the micro of individual sentences. You cannot plan every joke in every sentence – you have to find a lot of them in the process of writing.)

Since much of what I currently write is shorter (under 1,000 words), I am more comfortable starting with an initial premise and perhaps one or two ideas about how it could be developed and seeing what arises out of that in the process of writing the piece itself.

Writing and rewriting is a very controlled process, but you want to make it appear spontaneous to the reader. Having room to improvise in everything I write gives me an opportunity to be spontaneous that, I think, is conveyed to the reader.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

Like many writers, I have difficulty sleeping, which means I am often physically and intellectually sluggish; when this is true, I cannot write on demand. Therefore, I do not have a set schedule – I write when I can.

This does not mean, however, that this is down time. Because I update my Web site weekly with a lot of topical humour, I need to constantly read the news and generate ideas. Obviously, I do this when I am not in a condition to write. In addition, there are a lot of behind the scenes jobs that need to be done to maintain a writing career (for instance, requesting reviews or…or, oh, I don’t know…doing interviews?), which I also tend to do (tend to put off until, actually) I do not have the energy to write.

Do you have a favorite genre to read?

My favourites tend to defy simple genre definitions. My favourite writer is Thomas Pynchon, who is both literary and silly. Existential seems a rather small box in which to put my favourite playwright, Samuel Beckett. There is so much more to my favourite film comedian, Buster Keaton, than can be contained in the term “slapstick.” I think what defines these and other artists whom I admire is their singularity: I look for art that can give me a unique experience.


What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Making myself laugh. Although this comes mostly at the idea formation stage, I sometimes make myself laugh while improvising a scene during writing. I also enjoy reading my own work when I have set it aside for a year or two and laughing at things I hadn’t remembered writing.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

I have a particularly introverted personality, so I’m not comfortable doing self-promotion. (If only people would recognize my brilliance without my having to bring it to their attention!) However, I am coming to enjoy meeting people at science fiction conventions and networking with people over the Internet, so I am learning to like this part of the writer’s life more.

Kev's response:  Ugh.  Marketing and promotion.  Not my favorites either.  Stick me in a dark room to type away any day.  Especially if my clothes got switched with the wrong person's.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

Yes, I can. But I won’t. Isn’t being a writer odd enough?


Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I have a Masters in Media Studies and a PhD in Communications, so this question is right in my wheelhouse! (Good to know that those advanced degrees are useful for something!)

Old media doesn’t usually wither away completely in the face of competition from new media, although they usually have to adapt. Film, for instance, wasn’t killed by television (even though at the time people wondered why anybody would go out for an evening’s entertainment when they could get it in their homes for “free”). It did change, though: partially by appealing more to a younger audience (since they are highly motivated to get out of the house), partially by emphasizing the things film could do that television could not (for example: the widescreen experience or, more recently, 3-D). So, I doubt books will vanish completely.

Often, old objects (including media) will morph into art objects. This is a plausible future for print books: fewer titles and copies will be published in print, and those that are will become collector’s items that are too expensive for the general public but will appeal to wealthy collectors.

Despite the fact that I love holding books with my name on the cover in my hand, I cannot say I will mourn their passing. Do you know what happens to 90 per cent of books that are printed? They are returned to the publisher after 60 or 90 days sitting on a shelf in a store; the publisher then mulches them and sends the remains to a landfill. This is an incredibly ecologically wasteful way of distributing information. (I hope print-on-demand will take off, since it eliminates most of this waste, but public attitudes towards it would have to change, and I’m not optimistic about that.)


Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Don’t be caught by surprise by how much work you will have to put into marketing your book. Plan on contacting reviewers/setting up social media/etc. while you are writing your book; pursuing publicity after the book is out will put you behind.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

Les Pages aux Folles:


Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be (paperback):

Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be (Kindle):


What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys (paperback):


Luna for the Lunies! (paperback):

Luna for the Lunies! (various ebook versions):


“The Weight of Information, Part One:”

“The Weight of Information, Part Two:”

“A Book Trailer Called ‘Book Trailer:’”




Kev's response:  Ira, thank you for joining me.  I wish you the best, and that you not gain your desire super-switching superpower of confusion! (Primarily because it just sounds confusing!
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