In cooperation with EDGE Publishing, I hereby present for your enjoyment The Superhero Universe Interviews, a series of incisively unincisive interviews with many of the superpowered contributors to Superhero Universe, the nineteenth (Nineteen! Our little series is almost all grown up!) iteration of EDGE’s vastly acclaimed, Canadian fantastic fiction anthology series Tesseracts.
Please note that, unlike the rest of the Intertubes, the concept of “unbiased journalism” has no place on this website. I have a story in this anthology, “SÜPER,” which has already received a (slightly backhanded) rave in Publishers Weekly. I’m intensely proud of it, and if you’re disappointed in me, well … the machine has not yet been built that can measure how little I care.
Click here for copious amounts of vital information on how to purchase your very own copy of Superhero Universe.
And click here for a tantalizing, all-too-brief brief pdf sample of all the stories.
Today’s author: Jason Sharp
Jason Sharp is a bureaucrat during the day, hobby farmer on the weekends, and speculative fiction writer in-between. His works have previously appeared in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories, Altered America, and Vignettes from the End of the World. Jason and his wife Valerie have lived in Yellowknife and Iqaluit, and now reside in the sticks outside Ottawa.
Tell us about your story, “Black Sheep.”
Quebec’s Construction Holiday is underway, and that means Martine Rousseau-St. Arnaud, a dangerous offender incarcerated at the Joliette Institution for Women, needs to break out soon if she’s going to attend the annual family reunion.
How did the idea come about?
It arose as a response to a lot of super origin stories in which the hero/villain’s family is small and/or unaware of the hero/villain’s secret identity (at least until somebody abducts or kills them because of it). I thought I’d explore the opposite: The family’s large and they’re all in the know. Initially, I took the approach that it was a family who embraced and protected a hero, but it just wasn’t working for me and I went the other way, to a family who rejected and feared the villain … but still had to interact with her.
I think the most valuable superpower is courage. That might not seem “super” in a sense, because it’s something heroes have to develop on their own.Were there any superhero clichés that you struggled with?
I lost some time trying to find Martine’s secret identity. Super “branding” is a thing, but in a time when other authors have created literally thousands of superheroes and villains, it’s no simple task to find an original, awesome, yet unused nickname. I finally decided that it didn’t make sense for her to do this to herself – conventional aliases, disguises, and stealth would make more sense for somebody not wanting to be caught by police. I did, however, allude to the media trying and generally failing to brand her.
What do you think of the resurgence in superhero movies and television shows?
It gives me hope of becoming an executive producer one day.
More seriously, well, I haven’t really encountered a lot of it—for the last few years, I have watched virtually nothing of any kind, supers or otherwise. I enjoyed Watchmen. I’ve seen a few of the recent DC-themed flicks and didn’t care for them; The Dark Knight bored me. I’ve seen a few of the Marvel flicks and thought them to be reasonably pleasant but unchallenging popcorn fare—although coming in cold to Avengers meant I spent the first hour or so just understanding what was happening. I’ve read a lot of good things about the recent Marvel TV series—Daredevil, Jessica Jones—so might check them out eventually. Somehow. I’m out in the country with a bad Internet plan and no cable or satellite, so it ain’t a simple thing.
Let’s see more young or elderly supers, more supers who have to balance work/family/superheroics, more supers in the ‘burbs, more supers who aren’t physically fit or attractive, supers confronting problems that can’t be solved with violence.Which superhero could be your BFF?
Off the top of my head, I have no idea. What would we have in common? Supers fly, have super strength, and possess a strong drive to prevent injustice. I’m a bureaucrat with some sheep and I write a bit. Just connecting for lunch could be a challenge if some random villain decides that’s the day to rob the First National Bank.
What makes a good hero/villain?
Humanity, in the sense that they’re a person with human foibles and flaws…and also superpowers. It also helps if they have motivations based on their life experiences, while not being turned up to eleven in a TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY way.
Most/least valuable superpower?
I think the most valuable superpower is courage. That might not seem “super” in a sense, because it isn’t something a hero gets from a spider bite or alien DNA or whatever. It’s something they just have to develop on their own, because their other superpowers are of no use to anybody if they’re running the other way.
Least valuable. Hmm. I remember that bit in the one X-Men movie with the kid who changes TV channels by sight, yet a coach potato would find that pretty awesome. For all we know, that kid might now, as an adult, be blocking all sorts of awful mind-controlling/riot-triggering/seizure-inducing broadcasts from reaching our eyeballs and destroying humanity. So maybe the answer I’m looking for is that the least-valuable superpower is the one that isn’t used with imagination.
What’s the one superhero cliché you hate above all others?
I’m not sure there’s one specific cliché that I hate, but there’s a few that I think are ripe for demolition: The secret identity, antagonists/protagonists “making” each other, the custom vehicle, the recurring villain jail-break.
If you could have superpowers for a week, whose powers would you choose and what would you do?
I’d go with Superman’s expansive set of abilities. Don’t know that I’d zoom off to try and end a war or such, but I’d get a heck of a lot done around the farm if I had super-strength, super-stamina, and flight. Barn? Fixed. Pond? Dug. Steak dinner? Seared to perfection with my heat-ray vision.
Which do you prefer, “realistic and gritty,” or stories of a more fantastical bent?
I prefer a healthy balance of the two, rather than either end of the spectrum. If forced to pick, though, I’d lean towards the fantastic for escapist reasons. There’s enough realism in reality already.
Where do you hope future superhero stories will take us?
Away from formula, which sounds pretty vague, but let’s see more young or elderly supers, more supers who have to balance work/family/superheroics, more supers in the ‘burbs and the fly-over country, more supers with limitations on their powers, more supers who aren’t physically fit or attractive, supers confronting problems that can’t be solved with the simple application of righteous violence.
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