How did you come to write Rage Anthem?
I was in a bad place. I’d had some personally reversals and I was watching way too much news. That was right around the time of the Florida Riots and I knew people who had gotten caught up in them. I hated the human race. So, I sat down to write a story about the planet from an alien point of view. The whole thing just poured out of me.
I tend to process a lot of my writing internally before I start typing, so that part wasn’t too strange. The anger and pain and darkness was NOT what I usually write. I have a fiber blog. I usually write about how to set up your loom or match dye lots. Writing the story actually wasn’t all that much fun, but I couldn’t stop.
Your relationship to the story is almost as famous as the story itself. Was the anonymity intentional?
That was a by-product.
Rage was not on point for my blog. It didn’t seem fair to spring that kind of tirade on a reader who was stopping by to read up on the latest fiber products.
So I created a secondary blog and posted the story. I disabled the comments because at that point I really didn’t give a shit what other people had to say. I didn’t put my own name on it because it was posted as coming from Xerf. Putting an IRL name with it would have spoiled the illusion.
Then I forgot about it.
I occasionally thought about taking it down, but I’m enough of a pack rat that I wanted it to be stored somewhere. That was as good a place as any. Plus, it was a time in my life that I didn’t really want to revisit. I left it there the way you leave old chargers in a desk drawer. You know you should do something about them but you never get around to it.
Now, I’d say that’s it’s more of a willful anonymity. I’m no one’s image of Xerf’s amanuensis. No teenager wants to be reminded that an author who speaks their pain actually looks like their grandmother. Editors want a more marketable attitude, you know, more piercings, less knitting.
I don’t hide who I am but neither do I go to conventions. When the limited edition print volume came out, I didn’t do any in-person book signings. You quickly get tired of people looking at you with various degrees of shock and horror.
Are you surprised that so many young people read it?
I’m surprised that anyone reads it. Or at least reads it a second time. That is not a happy story.
I am surprised young people seems so drawn to it. I touch on modern events, but I also talk about the Cold War and First Wave Feminism. Those things were over before these kids were born. If you are fifteen, the 1970s are ancient history.
When did you realize Rage was popular?
When Xerf started showing up on memes, I honestly didn’t make the connection. I know it sounds disingenuous, but it’s true. I figured I’d seen the name somewhere and unconsciously copied it.
Did you know that XERF was the Mexican radio station where Wolfman Jack got his start? Xerf-the-alien would be pleased by that.
Even when it started to go viral, the original page never got that many hits. People would repost it. Readers would come over to my page, see that there was no more information, no way to comment, no way to contact the author. So they’d go back to the repost and argue about it there.
Every so often, I’d get a visitor spike on the fiber blog. I think someone would hack the server, do a backtrace, look around, assume it was a mistake, and leave.
Then I started getting comments. Mostly asking if I was related to the author. That’s when I put up a second About page saying, Yes, I was the author of Rage Anthem. No, there ‘s nothing on this blog that related to that fictional world. Thanks for visiting.
I had one … um … zealous fan who took it upon themselves to argue with me over the fact that I had written the story. They kept present proofs of why it was not possible for me to have done so. That’s when I started sorting Xerf-related emails into their own folder.
And then not looking at the folder.
It was a hairball.
Are you surprised that there is so much argument surrounding it?
Not really. It’s an angry story. The thing is, I’m not. I hate arguing. I hate people not getting along. I guess I unloaded decades of repressed anger into that one story and then went back to bottling it up.
Does the lack of day-to-day recognition bother you?
Depends which day you ask me.
Would you say you are proud of writing it?
I am a great admirer of snarky writing. I don’t do it very well. Rage Anthem was the one time I got in touch with my inner snark maven.
As for the message. It’s negative. That doesn’t make it wrong.
Have you thought of writing more, perhaps expanding it into a novel?
I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to start.
That’s all the time we have. Thank you for stopping my to speak with us.
Thank you for having me.