Excerpt from the WHPL interview of J. Sturgis Tarboski on August 17, 1985.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about your latest book, The Othering of Deerton, out this month from Giraudoux & Strauss of New York. It’s the story of strange object infiltrating a fictional small town with unpredictable and often horrifying effects.

TARBOSKI: Horror is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Perhaps from another perspective it’s not horrifying at all.

INTERVIEWER: How do you mean?

TARBOSKI: Imagine some of your better ant poisons. It tastes delicious, so the worker ants carry it back to the nest to share. And it poisons them all, poking holes in their exoskeletons so they die of dehydration or causing them to leak hemolymph–their blood–from their joints. To the ants, that is a catastrophe, a horror. To us, it’s cause for celebration. No more ants.

INTERVIEWER: Are you saying that’s he central thrust of The Othering of Deerton? Something trying to eliminate people in the same way that one would eliminate ants?

TARBOSKI: Not at all. The ants could be carrying food contaminated by a nuclear test back to their nest. They die in the same way but there’s no agency there–we don’t care that they die, but we weren’t trying to kill them. My point was only that in The Othering of Deerton we are the ants, and that–to me–is the real horror of the piece. We’re not used to being the ants.

INTERVIEWER: Could you talk a little bit about your influences in this latest work?

TARBOSKI: Of course. A lot of my peers are cagey about influences; I think they like to seem themselves as fonts of universal genius. Me, I think that it’s disingenuous. If nothing else, influences serve as a nice reading list for people that liked the book.

INTERVIEWER: So what’s your reading list for The Othering of Deerton?

TARBOSKI: Well, anyone can probably see the influence of the Strugatskys, whose Roadside Picnic came out from MacMillan about a year before I started writing, and which I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s to them I owe the central conceit, the effect of the utterly alien on the familiar, though they dwell much more on the aftermath while I am much more in the moment.

INTERVIEWER: They are Soviet authors?

TARBOSKI: That’s right. There’s something wonderful about Soviet science fiction. Ants working for a different queen, if you will. I count a lot of foreign influences on this latest book…lots of different queens, if you will.

INTERVIEWER: What are some others?

TARBOSKI: Well, Borges of course, but he’s in everything I write. I’m trying to learn Spanish so that I can read his works in the original Spanish and perhaps send him a letter. But I think the biggest influence on The Othering of Deerton is probably the late French filmmaker Auguste Des Jardins. I met him in 1975 in New York at a press junket, and I had the opportunity to speak with him at length about his masterpiece, Les trois Juliets. Are you familiar with it?

INTERVIEWER: I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never seen it.

TARBOSKI: You’re missing out. It’s a brilliant, brilliant movie. A French woman finds that there are two other women with the same name, same family, same history, and same face living near her in Montmartre. You might have heard about how Des Jardins supposedly found triplets to play the Juliets; some people still think he did the whole thing with trick photography. In any case, like any fan I asked Des Jardins point-blank what the truth was: why were there three Juliets? Were any of the theories about the film true?

INTERVIEWER: What did he say?

TARBOSKI: He said that he didn’t know.

INTERVIEWER: How could he not know if it was his own film?

TARBOSKI: I asked the same question, and he said that it was the most liberating part of creativity. In the real world, there is cause and effect. But in fiction, in fantasy, you can have effect without cause. Your audience will always find a cause, and their cause will be better than any you could ever dream up; by making your effects compelling, you incite them to find ever more beautiful causes.

INTERVIEWER: Interesting. So if I were to ask you where all the strange items in The Othering of Deerton come from, and what their purpose is, what would you say?

TARBOSKI: I don’t know, I’m just a humble ant.

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