Tom Gerencer’s book Intergalactic refrigerator repairers rarely carry cash presents 19 pieces of humorous science fiction. Gerencer selected the stories from the hundreds he has written over the past two decades.
“If you go to Walmart and go to the section with the big Tupperware bins that you can put clothes and stuff in, I would write and write and write, and fill a notebook with short stories – or fragments. short stories – and then I put them in the bin, then I filled another notebook and put it in the bin, and filled another notebook, and now I have five or six bins in the basement, and there has several bins that I lost at some point ”, says Gerencer in episode 473 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “It’s certainly an avalanche of words.”
With titles like “Trailer Trash Savior” and “Apocalyptic Nastrils of the Moon,” you can expect the stories to be light, but Gerencer’s work also contains a dark streak of existential angst, frequently dealing with issues like que: How can we be happy? Why does the universe exist? Can an ordinary person save the world?
“When I deal with horrible things on paper, it just gets funny, which is good,” Gerencer says. “It allows me to take a step back from my real life and say to myself, ‘Come on, relax. As Bugs Bunny and someone else before him said, “Don’t take it too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.” “
Gerencer’s existential humor is heavily influenced by writers such as Robert sheckley and Douglas Adams. “The [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] The trilogy is one of my favorite works of fiction in the world, ”says Gerencer. “I went to find the radio drama and listened to it religiously over and over again. I have an autographed copy above my desk right now. I even did some sort of pilgrimage to the UK and met Douglas Adams, interviewed him and told him about his work.
Critics sometimes reject The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as just a fun episode sequence with no larger structure, but Gerencer says it’s neglecting the character arc that sees series protagonist Arthur Dent overcome his bewilderment at the pointlessness of the universe.
“Arthur finally learns that what he has to do – the inevitable conclusion, where he makes that big decision in the end – is to decide that he doesn’t have to know what’s going on,” Gerencer says. “He finally gets to a point where he realizes, ‘I’m just going to hook the meaning of it all and have fun. “And when he does that, he’s literally learning to fly. It’s fantastic. It’s so liberating.
Listen to the full interview with Tom Gerencer in episode 473 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Tom Gerencer on Mike Resnick:
“He called me ‘genius’ all the time. Whenever he spoke to me, instead of calling me “Tom”, he simply called me “genius”. Which was very flattering, but it was also very intimidating… It created this unrealistic expectation in my head, and it created a giant fear in me that I could never live up to what he thinks I am. am, because I am not. And I said to him, ‘I’m not a genius. I write so much, and 99% of what I write is absolute garbage, and then I go back and read it, and I pull out these gems, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s good. And he said to me, “Yeah, but 99% of writers don’t know the difference between garbage and good writing, and you know it.” I understand you write a lot of nonsense, but then you write these good things down, and you can go back and identify them as good things, and that’s what I believe is. Is make a genius out of you.
Tom Gerencer on his story “Electric Fettuccine Sample Case”:
“I was in this Thai restaurant and I was talking to the owner, who was this great guy, he was from Thailand and he was very funny. I asked him, “What’s wrong with that bitter melon?” How to cook it? What do you cook it with to make it less bitter? And he said, ‘No, no, no, no. If it’s not bitter, then not good. And I said, ‘I don’t understand.’ And he said, ‘Because we eat yang.’ He had a big smile on his face and I was like, “That’s so cool. They eat yang. He said,” You Americans, everything has to be sweet or salty or spicy with you. It’s like. in your life, you cannot stand any upheaval. Everything has to be perfect or it is not good. He said, “We don’t see it that way. We eat yang. You have to approach the food and the life where you also savor the bad things. And that really touched me. “
Tom Gerencer on the names of the characters:
“My last name is Gerencer, which means ‘blacksmith’ in Hungarian. I was like, ‘As an alter ego, I’m just going to pick Hungarian names.’ But when I started looking at Hungarian surnames, I thought to myself: “You can’t pronounce any of them”. I cannot pronounce my own last name correctly. When I went to Hungary to visit, they kept correcting my last name for me and I couldn’t understand it correctly. So instead of doing this, which no one could master, I thought to myself, “Well, Poland is next door. Everyone knows what a Polish surname is. I’m just going to make this my own, and whenever I need to find a character, rather than trying to think hard about it, I’m just going to put some sort of Polish last name on that person.
Tom Gerencer on his stories “The Third Story” and “Pizza Hell”:
“I was like, ‘These stories were so cool, and I took it for granted that I still had them, but I lost them, and it’s so sad for me.’ They had never been published, but I liked them very much. I finally found this 3.5 inch floppy disk, and I was like, “I wonder if they could be in there?” looked on Amazon and saw that I could buy a floppy drive, so I bought one. I actually had about eight floppy disks, and I went through all of them, and most of them. they didn’t even work. One of them worked and I couldn’t find anything, but I copied everything to a normal hard drive. I thought to myself, “I can’t believe this is is a 30 year old floppy disk and it works. “I had done a file search and [the stories] didn’t show up, then I just started manually browsing and scrolling through all the folders, and found them both. I was stunned.