John Wisniewski: When did you begin writing, Joshua?
Joshua Chaplinsky: Writing interested me from a young age, because I loved reading so much, but I was a lazy child, and most story ideas didn’t get further than the inside of my skull. A few escaped to the page during high school and college, but I can’t really vouch for their quality at this point. Then in my twenties I became obsessed with film, so of course I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter. That’s the first time in my life I was ever serious about writing. Eventually I realized I wanted people to actually read what I had written, no matter how few, so I gave up screenwriting for the short story. That was about five years ago. Working at LitReactor was a big part of facilitating that.
John Wisniewski: When did you become an editor at LitReactor?
Joshua Chaplinsky: I’ve been the Managing Editor of LitReactor since its inception in 2011. I’ve known webmaster Dennis Widmyer for over twenty years, and always got first crack at aiding him in his crazy schemes. By this point he had a proven track record, what with the Cult (Chuckpalahniuk.net), so LitReactor wasn’t really a scheme as much as an opportunity.
John Wisniewski: could you tell us about making your documentary on Chuck Palahniuk?
How did you meet him?
Joshua Chaplinsky: ChuckPalahniuk.net/LitReactor webmaster Dennis Widmyer and I were working at a B. Dalton bookstore when Fight Club came out. Chuck instantly became one of our favorite authors. We went to see him read in NYC and there was hardly anyone there, so our group glommed onto him and chatted him up. Dennis pretty much told him we were gonna make a website devoted to him, and he gave us his blessing (although I don’t think he realized what he was getting into at the time.) That’s where that relationship started.
These were early days, for the internet, and I wasn’t as besotted with web design as Dennis was, so I bailed on the project. Through the years I went on to be involved to a lesser degree, but I kind of always regretted it. Which is why, in reference to question #2, I jumped at the chance to be a part of LitReactor.
The documentary… again, that was probably all Dennis. He and his filmmaking partner, Kevin Kolsch, were developing the project and as soon as I heard about it, I wanted in. Lucky for me, they needed the help. And lucky for us, Chuck was gracious to a fault, as usual. He really is generous with his time and status as a writer. He gave us so many opportunities over the years.
John Wisniewski: Could you tell us about writing your latest book “Whispers In the Ear Of A dreaming ape”? What inspired this collection of fiction?
Joshua Chaplinsky: It’s not a themed collection, so I would say the inspiration came in the form of building the table of contents and choosing a title and cover art. I sent CLASH Books about twenty stories to start, and they helped me whittle it down to a lucky thirteen. There were one or two we really disagreed over, so we just arm wrestled for it. Christoph Paul is a pickleball semi-pro, so he stays in pretty good shape.
The stories themselves were written over the last five years or so, and are pretty representative of my predilections and obsessions as a writer. It’s the perfect introductory point, especially since it’s the only one (not counting Kanye West—Reanimator.)
About Joshua Chaplinsky
Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He is the author of ‘Kanye West: Reanimator’ and the story collection ‘Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape.’ His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Clash Books, Pantheon Magazine and Broken River Books. Follow him on Twitter at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com.
About “Kanye West: Reanimator
Of Kanye West, who was my friend in college and after he dropped out, I can speak only with extreme sadness… So begins this epic cautionary tale of ambition and hubris. A bizarre mix of Lovecraft and hip-hop history, Kanye West—Reanimator reimagines the classic story “Herbert West—Reanimator” with everyone’s favorite petulant genius cast in the titular role. In it, Kanye West attempts to reanimate a moribund hip-hop scene, only to come to the conclusion that his music is so powerful, it should be used to reanimate the dead. And who better to reanimate than those two legendary titans gone before their time—Biggie and Tupac? Hilarity and carnage ensue.
John Wisniewski: could you tell us about writing “Kanye West: Reanimator”?
Joshua Chaplinsky: I go into a lot of detail about the origin of “Kanye West: Reanimator” in the foreword to the Re-Reanimated Edition of the book, but basically, it started as a joke. The short story “Herbert West—Reanimator” with every instance of the name “Herbert” replaced with “Kanye.” The idea just popped into my head during a Lovecraft re-read.
It was a joke that stuck with me, because soon I was changing more than just the main character’s name. The further I got, the more I realized how similar the two Wests were, in their manic pursuit of greatness at any cost. I was previously a detractor, but writing that book allowed me to appreciate Kanye as a creative. Of course, he’s since said and done things that have tarnished that appreciation, but still… He is not so easily written off as an artist.