An Interview with F Gardner

by Anonymous

The clock on my mobile phone read 06:00 exactly; I had been expecting this for over three weeks. Here it was. The voice told me my car would be outside in one hour. I was already dressed and ready to leave. I was collected by an older model Cadillac, the type that was wide and angular and old enough to have tailfins. They flared high against the wind as the driver smoked with his hand out the window and leaned into the pike that led us to the airport. I picked at a hole on the old seat. After surrendering my luggage and my dignity, my ticket was scanned and I was queued to fly. Once in the air I took the opportunity to order a double vodka neat and reread F Gardner’s selfpublished original masterpiece, Call of the Arcade, the third written in his Horror’s Call series. The flight from Vancouver to Chicago would give me more than enough time to recover from both.

I had read the mindbending work of literary fiction months earlier after giving into curiosity. His book series had gained notoriety on several underground Korean bondage forums across the deepweb and had quickly developed a reputation for being sophisticated, original, and highly idiosyncratic. Polarized readers contended over the style of prose, the plot twists, though nobody would have the last word. The discussion would always continue. And continue… And on it went as the avantgarde literary scene wrestled itself to the floor over what, if anything, this thing was. Perhaps it was the new standard of an old tradition against which all great works hence would be measured. Or perhaps its critics were right. Or perhaps yet nobody could make sense of it because to understand the book was a test of the reader’s ability to see through the veil the author had crafted.

When a pair of wisecracking highschoolers get between a psychopathic thrill seeker and a rare living cognitohazard, nothing turns out as expected. After discovering some stolen topsecret government defense technology, the boys are thrust into a race against (and through) time in order to break the fourth wall, rewrite history, and save the world. Gardner keeps the pages turning, blowing his readers through haunted realms, nuclear war, monster battles, and twists within twists within twists. Arcade is a nonstop action packed horror adventure charged with tearjerking moments of emotional aplomb as well as a constant cultural commentary and an uncommon sense of black humor. Just when you think it’s over, it flips. Just when you’re ready to rest, it’s time to run for your life. The fun never ends.

The book is dark. The author seems to have found his voice comfortably in the genre. He weaves his characters well with grief and pride, cunning and depth, bravery and anxiety, and his plotlines pulse and climb with every page alongside the reader’s heartrate before finally climaxing with a fantastic showdown between heroes and villains. But just which is which when nothing is as it seems? Gardner’s experimental style of writing through the filtered lens of an amateur writer is innovative if at least for its ability to confound readers as to his actual intent or talent. In this sense I would consider Arcade to be a work of postmodernist metafictional horror. He is either using his disadvantage to his advantage, or he’s just a good writer. It’s clear either way that he has made his mark.

Once I landed at O’Hare the weird would get weirder as the airport misplaced my luggage and I caught my ride. I was lucky to have brought my work gear as carryon so the only things I was now in need of were fresh clothes and dirty pictures. I was not exactly impressed but the airline attendant assured me that my signature blue designer Ikea canvas strap tote was safe, as were the unfolded briefs and toothbrushes in ziploc bags. I made myself out into the terminal and scanned the sea of drivers for my name. Bingo, but wait. It was the same driver. Which is of course weird, considering that I didn’t see him in the terminal at the Vancouver airport, nor did I see him at any point boarding or flying or disembarking, which I most probably would have had he travelled with me, yet here he was apparently ready to go, though as if that weren’t weird enough, the weirdness became something even weirder once I climbed into the car. I took my seat and as we left and I put my finger in the hole beside me. Impossible. An elaborate illusion. Impressive. I smiled at the driver through the rearview mirror and he donned his hat and smoked out the window. Wherever we were going we were making good time.

Before long we were pulling underneath a tower and I was being led into a glass atrium and presented with LaCroix and Wheat Thins. Somebody handed me a telephone and I spoke to Mr. Gardner’s assistant who confirmed my schedule and promised to email me my hotel receipt. I was whisked up some several dozen stories where I was sort of ignored and eventually abandoned before I found my way back down to ground level and into a bar. The Green Door. I drank a little and waited for my room details and by the time the email hadn’t shown up I had drank a lot. I paid and left and found my way to the streets of the windy city.

I walked between the buildings and imagined the world in Gardner’s mind. I imagined the towers crumbling and the clouds turning red. I imagined the air raid siren and the dead bodies and the skyscraper sized monster. What would come next in the series? I wanted to know. The books are designed to be read in any order but I had already decided to read Arcade, his most popular book, first. I would read Call of the Crocodile next, the first book he wrote in the series.

I wondered how much of that world he saw in this one. I wondered what happened to him that he might be compelled to create such a strange and fascinating tale of fear and strength. I wondered what he might do this beautiful city next. I walked and wandered and found myself lost in the bowels of Hell.

That night I slept in a park on the river and in the morning for breakfast I drank wine under a nearby bridge with some hospitable locals. My mobile phone had lost its charge by the time I’d quit the The Green Door so I struggled back to where I thought the teleporting chauffeur had taken me the day before and as drunk luck would have it I stumbled into the ever firm hands of plaza security who fed me a sandwich and helped me to the gutter where I enjoyed the city up close for a little bit before accidentally relieving myself and falling asleep.

When I awoke I was groomed and in a suit and being ushered through the winding corridors of a television studio before being led to the greenroom and asked to sit and sign a nondisclosure agreement while I waited for Mr. Gardner to finish his real interview. I looked in the mirror. Impressive, Gardner. Very impressive.

Anonymous:
How are you feeling? How are you dealing with the real life horror story that is life?


F Gardner:
I’m feeling great. I assume you’re referring to the whole Covid situation. That’s actually the reason I started writing. Once Covid happened, I decided to begin writing. I realized it meant I was likely going to be inside more often, and I thought it would be a good way to spend much of my time. Not unlike the circumstances in which Mary Shelley had written Frankenstein. Strangely enough, I started having vivid dreams around the time I began writing. Nightmares. That’s what I base all of my novels on. So in a way, it feels like I kind of lived out the stories from my novels. I wonder why my dreams coincided with the pandemic. At times, I wonder if it’s perhaps God giving me ideas for stories, so that I can make my books. In any regard, that’s how I’ve been dealing with it. I’m trying to make the best of the situation, by writing entertaining books.


Anonymous:
How is your livelihood? Are you hustling hard or taking it easy?


F Gardner:
I’m doing well for myself. I’m very blessed, and lucky to be able to have the opportunity to write my novels. Anonymous: Do you feel that your work is autobiographical? Do you find yourself in your own work? F Gardner: Every theme in my novels has its origin in some aspect of my life. My books are fiction, but I do find that certain parts and characters in them, are reflections of myself. I think that happens to a lot of writers. For example, in Call of the Kappa, some of the characters are martial artists. I’ve taken martial arts most of my life, so in a way that book gave me the chance to write about a subject I’m knowledgeable about. While the book is horror, martial arts happen to be central to that book’s narrative. I’ve never encountered a horror story that used martial arts like that. The only things I can think of, are mostly action stories. Movies that have martial arts scenes, that just happen to have some horror elements. That’s not what I strived to do, when writing that book. I tried to make sure that Call of the Kappa was horror, first and foremost.


Anonymous:
I like what Call of the Arcade says about the ultimate horror experience. Are you a thrill seeker or horror buff?


F Gardner:
Definitely. That’s another aspect that I pulled from my personal life. I’ve always loved horror books and movies. When I was younger, I worked at a couple of haunted houses. I’ve always loved scaring people, and writing these books has allowed me to do that, on a much larger scale. I find writing these books to be thrill seeking.

Anonymous:
I was very interested to see the allusions to Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, with the cursed images and the scene at the end with the television. Do you consider your work to be postmodern literary fiction or market genre fiction?

F Gardner:
Great question. While I certainly do write for a certain genre, I try to not limit myself. For instance, Call of the Arcade is horror/sci-fi. Call of the Kappa, has martial arts elements. Most of the books also have mystery and suspense aspects, as well. I try to explore different subgenres of horror, so that each book is as fresh and exciting as can be.

Anonymous:
Great writers often face sharp criticism. It seems your superiority has led to some controversy. How do you deal with critics who say you can’t write?

F Gardner:
There’s always going to be people out there like that. Especially if you strive to do something artistic, like writing novels. Thankfully, I find that everyone who finishes my books, ends up enjoying them.

Anonymous:
Since your self publishing career has been so successful, do you ever plan to pursue traditional publishing? Would you ever accept a publishing deal?

F Gardner:
I’ve had a couple of publishing houses contact me about it. I’d consider it, so we’ll see. As of right now, I’m content with selling my books through Amazon. Everyone on earth has an Amazon account, so it’s nice to be able to reach so many people like that.

Anonymous:
Do you have a favorite book in the series?

F Gardner:
That’s a tough question. I’m proud of all of my work, of course. Call of the Crocodile and Call of the Arcade have definitely brought me the most success. Those seem to be the fan favorites. But now that I think about it, Call of the Kappa definitely feels the most personal to me. So maybe that one. It was nice to utilize the experience and knowledge I have about martial arts in that particular book.

Anonymous:
Will you write anything new for the Horror’s Call series? Do you have any upcoming projects planned? F Gardner: Yes. I have one completed manuscript, and I’m in the middle of writing another one. I’m also going to begin making audiobooks of all of my work. Anonymous: Will you ever make Horror’s Call available in paperback? F Gardner: I am happy to announce that my books are now available in paperback on Amazon.

Anonymous:
Have you ever heard of 4chan? Are you aware that you’re somewhat of a cultural phenomenon over there?

F Gardner:
Yeah, I’m aware. I was surprised by all of the memes when it first happened. If you create quality art, the public will find and embrace you. That seems to be what’s happened on 4chan, and with horror readers, regarding my novels. I’m glad people like my work, because I’m only just getting started. There’s much more to come.

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