Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Carnival of Cryptids Day 2: The Jungles Are Not a Place For the Arrogant: Introducing Jeff Provine

The Kindle All-Stars Carnival of Cryptids interview week continues! I originally said it would be out on the 1st yesterday, but I've heard it may be available for sale as soon as later today. Again, a reminder:

The Kindle All-Stars are a select group of authors from around the world who donate their work in the name of charity. All profits from Kindle All-Stars anthology are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I'm only interviewing four of the authors, so there's even more cool experiments in style and cryptids from a variety of authors in anthology (which, I'll be reviewing this weekend).

Today, I'mm talking with Jeff Provine, who contributed the story "Where is Captain Rook?" to the anthology, a slightly subversive take on the great jungle adventurer genre of old.

Jeff Provine was born May 2, 1984 (thus sharing a birthday with Catherine the Great and The Red Baron), in the wide, open plains of Oklahoma. He grew up a Country Boy on the old family farm, running barefoot through creeks and climbing trees. All the while he seemed to like best making up stories, writing them down as soon as he learned to hold a pencil. Carefree childhood days gave way to education, and Jeff graduated high school with two diplomas: one from the Oklahoma Bible Academy and the other from Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. In his senior year, he began writing Celestial Voyages: The Moon, which would be published as his first novel at the tender age of 18. Jeff attended the University of Oklahoma, getting a Professional Writing degree (He was going to write anyway, so he might as well study it). Jeff spent a year abroad at the University of Hertfordshire, just north of London, England, and spent several months traveling and writing. He is currently a lecturer in Composition and Mythology and works remodeling his home and writing in every spare moment.

1) Please give a brief blurb for your story.

River-guide Joao Paulo Nativo recalls the story of famed Amazon explorer Captain Rook's final adventure, hunting the elusive giant ground sloth, believed to have been extinct for thousands of years but known to tribes as Mapinguari, the fetid beast.

2) While far from an expert on all legendary beasts, I am genuinely surprised when I run into one I'd never heard anything about before, such as the creature in your story. Why did you decide to feature this creature, and how did you come across the legends concerning it?

I've been fascinated by the mylodon, and its bigger brother the megatherium, ever since first seeing them in the back of one of my dinosaur atlases as a kid. Then I heard a little blurb on the History Channel about a band of conquistadors supposedly fighting one (the natives said arrows just bounce off it; the Spaniards laughed until their own musketballs bounced, too), which pretty much sealed the "awesome cryptid" deal for me. When I heard of a cryptid anthology for charity, I knew exactly which cryptid to feature. Most of my research was online, digging through various cryptid websites, an old Brazilian newspaper article about a rash of Mapinguari attacks on cattle in 1937 (coinciding with a drought), and an online copy of the 1896 Orchid Review that gave descriptions of real-life adventurer and orchid-hunter Charles Fosterman to provide a feel of exploring the Amazon.

3) You've gone for a very classic jungle horror/mystery approach to your creature here. What attracted you about that particular style of engaging with your creature?

What interested me most about the pulpy classic jungle story was that there were actual explorers like Fosterman and Percy Fawcett who saw strange things no one has been able to prove. I was expecting to set my story earlier in the '20s, but once the legend popped up about Mapinguari hating water alongside the drought and the attacks in the 1930s, I had to make it closer to WWII. Why I wanted this time period overall was to give a hint of historical while fairly modern (we still use many of the same handguns developed even before then). The arrows of the natives and the musketballs of the Spaniards supposedly bounced off the creature's hide, which fits the "dermal ossicles" of the mylodon, bits of protective bone grown like armor plates inside the skin. The question I wanted to ask was, what if someone shot it with a .45?

4) Should we parse any of this story with a socio-political subtext, or is that just reaching on my part?

My story's definitely got its share of socio-politics. Originally, I was just going to have leather-jacketed Indiana-Jones types shoot the mylodon and then find out it had magic powers. As the story was rewritten, though, it became clear that it wasn't interesting enough. Instead, I wanted to look at the socio-political situation of Brazil and changed the protagonist to the mixed-race guide who saw the best and worst of living on the edge of civilization. It discussed a good deal of imperialism with the Great White Hunter getting in over his head and then losing it. Perhaps my favorite line in the story is about Mapinguari's powers over the rain to end the drought as well as potentially reaching to Europe to cause a war to bring back the Rubber Boom. Who's really controlling the world then?

5) Please give us a brief overview of some of your other works.

My first major project was Celestial Voyages, a trilogy of steampunk about interplanetary expeditions in 1900 with ant-men dwelling in caverns in the Moon, treelike Venusians who take "knowledge is power" literally, and Martian greys living on a world that has long past its prime. Currently, I'm at work on my webcomic about a magnet school, The Academy, and This Day in Alternate History, a blog taking events of a particular date and twisting them, such as "What if Will Rogers had survived his plane crash?" I've also released an ebook, Dawn on the Infinity, about a fourteen-year-old girl kidnapped by inter-reality pirates with zombies, hackers, vampires, robots, fairies, spaceship battles, and trolls, oh my!


Thanks, Jeff.

If you would like to learn more about Jeff, please check him out

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