Ask the Author: Alan Stewart Carl

Alan Stewart Carl’s Cast Out is featured in the February issue. He talks with us about the apocalypse, a mixtape for the end of the world and what he does when he steps away from his writing.

1. This section of “Cast Out” is where I think you go for our throats and don’t let go:

In the years before the fires, she’d seen plenty of movies — apocalypse stories — where there was always a safe zone, a walled city, an outpost where the last stragglers had regrouped and started again. “There has to be that place,” Hester said.And Dad said, “Maybe we’re that place.”

How were you able to capture the emotional apocalypse in “Cast Out” without falling into the standard physical apocalypse cliches?

I’d like to say I valiantly avoided cliche from the very first word. But I didn’t go into the story with any sense of where I was going or how things would progress. The story began as a thematic study for a novel I’m writing. I wanted to explore how real people might react to being cut off from the world after a cataclysmic event. So the story flowed from the characters and their isolation. Maintaining that isolation seemed very important to the progression of the characters. If this was more than a short story, maybe Hester would find Thunderdome. But the short format meant I didn’t have to get into questions about what a post-civilization world might look like. I could just write about one family — really, one young woman — coming to terms with her isolation.

2. What is your all time favorite apocalypse film?

I’ve seen a fair share, that’s for sure. I actually paid money to see Waterworld. And Judge Dredd, too. Wiki tells me they both came out in ’95. Bad year for post-apocalyptic movies. And, apparently, a bad year for my decision-making abilities, too.

I’m not sure I have an absolute favorite, as there are so many. But Children of Men is excellent because the apocalypse is so sad. You really realize how empty the world would be without children.

Of course, I’ll always be partial to Logan’s Run which was on TV constantly when I was growing up. Most apocalyptic movies/books/whatever are the product of some serious global issue (disease, war, environmental ruin, etc), but Logan’s Run was mostly about the baby boomers’ fear of turning 30. Good stuff.

3. What are your non-writing hobbies and leisurely activities?

I have a six year-old and a three year-old. Most of my hobbies involve finding ways to tire them out. We go on a lot of hikes in the Texas Hill Country. My kids are like mountain goats now. Really, it’s impressive. I’m thinking about moving them into rock climbing.

Other than that, I enjoy a good dinner. And a good glass of whatever you’re serving. If you have some cards and poker chips, too, I’d call that a great night.

4. Make us an end-of-the-world mixtape. What should we hear? Why?

This question has proven an excellent source of procrastination. I used to spend entire weekends assembling what I thought were perfect mixtapes. I imagine this one to be the tape the world would give us shortly before shaking us off like a bad case of fleas. I gave the world full access to my iPod.

Mad World — Gary Jules’s version
In the Waiting Line — Zero 7
The Fear — Pulp
Something I Can Never Have — Nine Inch Nails
Undone — Pearl Jam
Get Gone — Fiona Apple
Paint it Black — Rolling Stones
Close Your Eyes — Dot Allison
Hurt — Johnny Cash’s version
Exit Music for a Film — Radiohead
Adagio for Strings — Samuel Barber

5. If you could switch your middle name to something else, what would it be? Why?

It’d be a bad idea to change my middle name. Clan Stewart would come after me. You know the Scots. An unforgiving lot. Can we just lop off my last name and call it a day?

6. If Captain Planet actually existed in the “Cast Out” universe, do you think he could have prevented the events in the story that occurred?

Heh. I only had the dimmest idea of who Captain Planet was. But now that I’ve spent far too long learning about the Planeteers, I think we might be able to blame the apocalypse on Captain Planet himself. Maybe he finally got super pissed off at all the pollution and decided to cut it off at its source. I don’t trust that guy. He probably made that mixtape.

  • ilovestringtheory

    Great mixtape question! Love the selections too.

  • I want a poker tournament. You, me, Roxane Gay … Who else? Let’s make this happen …

    • I’m ALL IN.

    • ASC

      Sounds like a plan. If this writing thing doesn’t pan out, my backup plan is to become a professional poker player. I hear that’s a more stable career.

  • I’ll SEE YOU.

  • ilovestringtheory

    I’m, erm, sort of continents away, so all best faces on the poker. My mahjong groupies used to meet regularly, would’ve been nice to play poker (not any good at it unfortunately). Todelooooo!