Matt Probes Gavin Gardiner with the Darkmatters 10 Q's of Fate
It's launch day for the soon-to-be horror phenomenon FOR RYE (read Matt's review here) so let's explore the mind of the author with some left-field Darkmatters questions...
Matt: If scientists ever managed to create a giant mecha version of you – who or what would be your nemesis?
Gavin: It’s a little-known fact not only that Mecha-Gav does actually exist, but also that he runs on a very particular kind of fuel: chilled cheese and jam sandwiches. Now, suffice it to say that with a full tank of fuel, Mecha-Gav doesn’t really need to worry about any enemies. He is truly unstoppable. However, should his fridge break down and rob his galvanising cheese and jam sandwiches of their coldness, his powers deplete. So to answer your question in the most sensible, realistic way possible, I’m going to have to say a broken fridge.
Matt: What is the most disturbing fictional scene you’ve ever read or watched in a book/film of any genre?
Gavin: As I get older, I’m actually finding myself more disturbed by fiction involving less extreme modes of destruction. So I’ll find someone being stabbed or shot far more disturbing than, say, the various creative tortures of the Saw franchise, or sequences from truly extreme horrors such as the August Underground trilogy, or any number New French Extremity flicks. My favourite horror movie is The Blair Witch Project. I’m aware of its divisiveness, and how for so many people the film doesn’t seem to do anything, but for me the entire thing is absolutely traumatising. I’ve written extensively about the film on my website, particularly how it prompts viewers to project their own fear into those masses of amorphous trees. The thing plays out like a cinematic Rorschach test, giving audiences not a single glimmer of the witch, yet contorting and distorting continuously by way of its grainy handheld camera footage until we can’t help but fill in the blanks ourselves. I could say a lot more on the topic of this movie, but in short, the horror of The Blair Witch Project transcends the genre for me, and so there’s yer answer. As for which scene, well, it’s hard to pick. There’s something about Mike marching around the trees screaming the Star- Spangled Banner that absolutely chills my blood. Also the baby noises… “There ain’t no baby out there, man.”
Matt: If you were hired to throw a parade of any scale or theme through the centre of London what type of parade would it be?
Gavin: I’m a pretty solitary guy of simple pleasures. I’m quite happy just touring a few pubs with small group of friends, keeping to ourselves, revelling in conversation. So my parade would be me and a few friends, seeing how many pubs we could sample in one evening. But that ain’t a parade, and that ain’t the answer you were looking for. So gimmie a fifty-foot animatronic Lovecraftian god, three hundred robed and cloaked bowed figures marching slowly behind the beast, each carrying a single candle, and hire a few thousand actors to run screaming naked and covered head to foot in blood from the surrounding alleyways, dropping to their knees before the robotic deity to beg for mercy before scrambling away back into the shadows. Or just a few pubs. Either works.
Matt: You’re in a strange town with £100,000 that you have to spend in a single evening – talk me through what you get up to…
Gavin: Let me tell you about one thing I love, and one thing I hate. As I know is the case with you, I love movies, especially the cinema. I hate, loathe, and detest inconsiderate behaviour in the cinema. Yes, I’m a little more noise sensitive than most people, but I’ve had many a film experience ruined by…well, let’s not turn this into too much of a rant or you’ll never get me to stop. Anyway, the ‘strangeness’ of your proposed town doesn’t bother me. I’m a strange guy, so I’ll just roll with that. What I want to know is whether they have a cinema. If they do, I’ll book every seat and sit right in the middle, just me and the movie. The only downfall to this plan would be if the movie’s crap. I’ll have plenty of change left over, so maybe I can bribe them into sticking on some dusty old horror reels they have stuffed in the back of a cupboard. Not much of a big spender, am I?
Matt: Who inspires you most (can be living or dead)?
Gavin: Until I stumbled into the writing game, my pursuit of choice was music. I obsessed over the craft of songwriting, production, composition, performance…every facet of music, and many genres within. From my teenage years right through my twenties I was dogged in my perseverance to make something of my passion, every life choice guided by this objective. I gave up a lot, took on even more, and poured all my energy into becoming the best guitarist to ever live. That goal was never realised, and I can look back now and see where I went wrong: it’s blindingly obvious to see that I didn’t ‘put myself’ out there enough, spending too many years hunched over the instrument in my dingy little bedroom; I took on the entirety of music, and didn’t zero in on a specific genre or area of expertise; I recorded hundreds of hours of music, but didn’t pick the best material and hone it to perfection. There are countless lessons I’ve been able to draw from my years in music and apply to my writing endeavours, and so the honest answer to your question would be that this old version of Gavin is my greatest inspiration. Every day I think about where he went wrong, and how I can do better now that I have a second chance. It’s important not to feel too embittered by our past failures, and use them as stepping stones to future victories. However, it’s also important not to paint our pasts completely in defeat, and recognise what we did achieve. I’m proud that he worked so hard at his craft and sacrificed so much in the pursuit of his goal. The most important thing I learnt through all those years was how to pour your every being into an objective, and don’t take your eyes off the target until the arrow’s hit home. Although he never attained what he was after, past-Gavin serves as inspiration to me every day, both in his failures and successes. I hope anyone reading this can do the same for themselves.
Matt: There’s a masked assailant with a gun to your head, who is most likely to be under the mask?
Gavin: I’d like to think I’m a pretty friendly guy with no real enemies, so hopefully this ain’t something I have to worry about too much. You never mentioned the height, fur-to-flesh ratio, or species, so I’m inclined to suspect my cat Nellie would the one behind the mask. The shop didn’t have her favourite treats the other day and she’s still pretty pissed at me.
Matt: What is the meaning of life?
Gavin: Finally, a nice light question. The usual response to this one is that we project only our own meaning onto life, and I’m inclined to agree. But to answer this question properly we must first define our terms. If we’re talking about an objective meaning – that is, a sort of cosmic meaning that exists outwith and in spite of our own personal experiences – then I’m not sure there’s any way for me to know that there isn’t one of those, just as there’s no way for anyone else to prove the assertion that there is one. As for a subjective meaning – ‘reasons’ for our lives on an individual basis – then of course those exist, although not for everyone. I think in practice subjective meanings tends to arise almost arbitrarily; we fall into careers, families, artistic endeavours, religion, charitable pursuits, politics, plumbing, whatever. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” and whatever ‘life’ consists of will hopefully become our meaning. My personal opinion is that there is no objective meaning to life. The universe is indifferent to our existence, although if you’ll indulge me in another quote, Alan Watts said, “You are the universe experiencing itself.” We are a grain of sand on the cosmic beach that has, against all odds, come to experience itself, and as a result demand a reason for its doing so. Although I think this was a natural process occurring outside of intelligent intervention, I think the term ‘accidental’ is misleading, and that it happened simply because it could happen. Existence breeds complexity; complexity eventually breeds life; life breeds meaning. To me, there’s no overarching meaning inherent in the universe, and the term itself is reductive in the context of cosmic reality and how time and space came to be. As for subjective meaning, or at least my understanding of the idea of personal meaning, I believe it is whatever we ourselves assign. Sometimes personal meaning arises as the result of a deliberate effort; someone develops a passion for brain surgery and consciously decides this will be the focus of their life, working hard to make this a reality. Other times (and I suspect most times) it happens almost outwith our control: we happen to miss our bus and end up standing in the rain with a colleague after work, we happen to go for a drink, we happen to get married, we happen to decide they are worthy of our every waking effort. What is the meaning of life? There is no meaning of life, only the meaning of a life.
Matt: What was the best gift you’ve ever been given?
Gavin: Probably you asking me what the meaning of life is. That was fun.
Matt: If you could have a sidekick robot – what would it be able to do for you?
Gavin: I expect most writers will have a similar answer. The bane of my existence are the mundanities of life, and every moment I’m not writing I feel this heavy weight on my chest, this pressure that I’m wasting my time. Anything like chores, shopping, work, taking out the bins…throughout it all there’s a voice in my head screaming at me to get back to the real work. So yeah, my sidekick robot is welcome to deal with all that stuff. I’m forever aware of the fleeting nature of life, of how lucky we all are to have found our conscious selves steering these fleshy lumps of meat around the world. I guess it comes back to the idea of finding meaning, or it finding you, and that meaning becoming your reason for existing. I’ve come to somewhat feel that way about my writing, and being a guy that’s quite obsessed with mortality and the ticking clock to which we are all enslaved, anything other than bleeding for that meaning feels kind of traitorous to me. Having said that, I love nothing more than cuddling up with my girlfriend and my cat on the sofa for a horror/chocolate marathon, so the robot sidekick ain’t getting his greasy hands-on that action.
Matt: What would you like written on your tombstone?
Gavin: “Here lies Gavin Gardiner, kind of annoying but a loving cat-dad, cause of death unknown. However, it’s pretty strange that he died the day after Matt Adcock asked him what he’d like written on his tombstone. Adcock has been taken in for questioning, just as Gavin would have wanted.”