Saturday, August 31, 2013
the guys who starred in “the cornetto trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) are on the cover. my article begins on page 66. (click to enlarge any of the photos.)
this is my first piece for GEEK magazine — and thankfully not my last as i already have new assignments to complete. but i don’t doubt that this one will always be the most special for me, not only because it’s the first, but because it’s so damn long: eight pages to be exact (roughly 2,500 words), which makes it as long as the cover story.
the opening spread. that first photo is pretty badass.
granted, plenty of that space is occupied by photos, taken by the immensely talented Josh Fogel, who is a cherished friend in addition to being a kickass photographer. i recommend him without reservation if you need professional photography done in the LA area. he accompanied me on my visit to interview Nancy Smith, owner of Necromance, a natural history and oddities store on LA’s famed Melrose Blvd. i had been in the store a handful of times before so i jumped at the assignment when the geek-in-chief mentioned he wanted to profile it.
second spread. the photo on the left is a 30-week-old human fetus skeleton that was for sale for $4,000 at the time of the interview. it was ultimately purchased by guitarist Dave Navarro.
the editor, Dave Williams, had been asking me to write for the magazine since its launch (i serve as the copy editor) and i had always wanted to but felt woefully intimidated by the subject matter. because even though i’ve attended two Comic-Cons and am in my second year of helping put together this incredible magazine full of fascinatingly geeky content, i’m still geek-lite. maybe even extra lite.
third spread with interior shots of the store and some of the items for sale. i bought one of their pretty pendants made from butterfly wings.
i knew i could never pull off a cover story on Star Trek or Star Wars (each has graced the cover already) or even Futurama, which i’ve only seen a handful of times, so i had trouble pitching anything that might be a good fit as my oddball obsessions of watching Big Brother or writing haikus likely wouldn’t capture the interest of GEEK’s readers. so i asked him to assign me something that wasn’t too sacred, didn’t require knowledge of some lengthy backstory and wouldn’t get me in trouble with rabid fanboys on the internet if i disagreed with their viewpoints. interviewing a shop owner seemed like a safe bet.
final spread. the page on the right is a sidebar that explains plastination (also written by me after some serious googling), which Nancy had discussed during our interview, noting that her prized possession from her personal collection of oddities is a plastinated dog head.
and man, was she ever a great interview: easy as hell to relate to, full of interesting stories, and incredibly sassy and smart. i liked her right away and the hours-long interview couldn’t have gone any smoother. and i’m not just saying that to be diplomatic; she really was a pleasure. she even allowed me to return a few weeks later to take additional photos with a larger crew provided by the magazine’s publisher, Source Interlink. if you catch the article on the iPad, there are several photos of the store’s products that can be seen in 360 degrees.
from the 360 degree photo shoot. a motorized plate would slowly rotate while a mounted camera took a photo every 15 degrees. Nancy’s plastinated dog head was one of the items captured, in addition to taxidermy, an antique prosthetic limb, a gilded pirahna and animal skulls.
unfortunately, the story is not (yet) online, despite my repeated attempts to put it there, so i cannot link to it. the magazine, however, is on newsstands now and can be bought for just $7. it’s a great read full of geeky goodness. you should totally buy it. get a few issues for your friends while you’re at it. hell, why don’t you just subscribe and save yourself future trips to the newsstand? i’ll have a little something in the next two issues for you to read.
making friends with a taxidermy deer at Necromance
the best thing about doing this story (beyond seeing my byline in print, which is always a thrill) is that it reunited me with my long-lost love of journalism. sure, i’ve written plenty here and elsewhere about myself, as personal essays have come to define my career as a writer over the years, but that was a surprise outgrowth of keeping this blog, never a career goal. this time, it was nice to write about someone other than myself. it’s what i always thought i would be doing as my masters is in journalism and i’ve worked for news agencies before, NPR and VOA among them — work i have missed tremendously since taking a full-time job in finance more than eight years ago.
doing this piece reminded me of how much i loved the process: the initial research of a subject followed by interviews where i need to build rapport and gain trust, keep them talking while i ask the right questions; the reviewing of the transcript when i note the strongest quotes and begin to see the themes emerge; the building of the outline and the piecing everything together like a jigsaw puzzle until it’s done and i can stand back and look at the story, hoping that it flows and informs and entertains, that i’ve done my subject justice by covering everything ethically and accurately.
i loved every part of it (save the transcription) and wore a giant grin on my face the day i spent writing the story. i was also happy to see that the edits were minimal and i received another assignment (interviewing a horror historian) right away.
i’m still wearing that grin today. many thanks to my beloved GEEK, Nancy at Necromance and Josh Fogel for making it happen.