American Carnage: An interview with contributing author Mike Burr

Welcome to Day 2 of interviews with the American Carnage crew! My review is here. The first interview, with contributor, editor, and anthology mastermind Paul Brian McCoy, is here. Our first interview today is with Mike Burr, author of the story “Where Eagles Dare.” Again, please note: discussion is welcomed, but keep it respectful. I know that the anthology’s theme has the potential for controversy, so comments will be monitored.
Note: This interview, like the others, is fairly long.
Also note: answers are unedited/uncensored/unwhathaveyou. All answers, thoughts, and opinions are from the authors.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Any fun and interesting factoids?
I seem to have the incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time. This has helped me meet my lovely and intelligent wife, attain both of my dream jobs (teaching high school and working at a comic book store), and seize the opportunity to do everything from hunt alligators and walk the Appalachian trail. On two separate occasions in two separate states, Mariachi bands I have encountered on runs played the Rocky theme for me. I also recently saw a raccoon crawl into a sewer grate and then stare at me like the clown from It. I was a little shaken up.
Tell us a bit about your writing. Are you usually a fiction writer, or did you make an exception for this anthology?
I started out writing fiction, but I got really tired of being rejected. I answered an ad on Craig’s List for music writing and ended up doing nearly a hundred interviews over the span of a few years. I scaled that back when my first child was born, but I always have the itch to write. Thankfully, venues like Psycho Drive-In and Tropics of Meta have given me the opportunity to put together some pieces.
Speaking of the anthology, what drew you to it? Why did you decide to submit a story?
I am always drawn to McCoy’s projects. We went to college together, and he was the older, cooler guy in the program. I have always admired his taste in literature and his work, so I want to try an knock his socks off.
Tell us about your story. What inspired you to write it?
I have oscillated between angry and depressed since the election. Trump’s election revolted me on every level, from the votes of my own family to the racism and religious hypocrisy that was has been activated and enabled by the his administration. On another level, I have been disappointed by the quality of discourse from liberals. It seems that hating Trump is enough right now; there seems to be little mention of actually doing something productive on a community level or coming up with a political agenda that actually offers help to those people who need it most. This country used to talk about ending poverty; now men like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are empowered to enforce poverty on future generations.
The anthology is about a Dystopian world (with or without aliens). Do you think that we’re closer to an apocalypse or a Dystopian society now than we have been in the past? Or are we already on our way there, without even realizing it?
There is always a chance of slipping into an apocalypse type situation; think about what happened in Puerto Rico this year. Even more insidious, however, is the slow creep of technology in our society. We are constantly connected to a screen. I think this leads to a lack of empathy and cooperation that is needed to maintain a society. On the other hand, a little box that plays movies, games and music while also revealing your pinpoint location at all times is a pretty genius way to keep people in line.
Things have gotten a little…heated in recent times, especially when it comes to politics. Have you gotten any pushback or criticism because of the anthology’s theme?
I started out writing my story in hopes of making people on both sides of the aisle angry, so I will gladly accept any criticism. The goal is to be hated enough to incite a mass book burning.
When you think about the future, is Future Earth a scary or an optimistic place? Or have we, perhaps, already wiped ourselves out and this is a moot point?
I am an eternal optimist. For all the awful things we have done to the Earth, there are still beautiful places. No matter how corrupt and petty our leaders can be, there is a basic human impulse to help other people. I thought we were headed in the right direction when we elected Obama. Hopefully we’ll get back to that place again.
Since ICoS is all about survival, do you think you’d be more likely to survive an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse?
Always go with the zombies. There is a limited range of what they are going to be able to do, given their status as formerly living organisms. The technology required for interstellar travel is generations more advanced than we can even comprehend at this point. Imagine the weaponry.
What’s your favorite apocalyptic scenario?
Charlton Heston in Omega Man.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
The most important thing about writing is to write and then put it out there. I am always terrified to send in a piece, but in it’s better than leaving it in a desk drawer.

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