Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Scotto Moore?
I’ve been a playwright in Seattle for the past fifteen years, focused on bringing ambitious science fiction and science fantasy stories to the stage. Sometimes they’re comedic, like H.P. Lovecraft: Stand-Up Comedian! which envisions Howie Lovecraft as a modern day comic expressing his vision of the mythos through increasingly dangerous stand-up routines. And sometimes they’re dark, like my recent musical, Silhouette, about a genocidal war fleet hunting down immortal mutineers in hiding. I’ve written shows about a genetics lab where experiments produce sentient, intelligent (and singing) mice; scientists who weaponize linguistic techniques; inventors who capture and transmit digital emotions; and an infinitely tall building at the center of the multiverse where demiurges and interdimensional travelers mingle.
I’ve also been a music blogger for more than a decade, and over the past year and half or so, I’ve become a progressive house DJ. Not for a living — just in my living room and at the occasional party. And I write a deeply absurd Lovecraft-themed meme generator on Tumblr called Things That Cannot Save You.
Your new novella, Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You, will be published by Tor.com next year. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is a horror novella about a music blogger who comes across the most beautiful piece of music they’ve ever heard, by a band they’ve never heard of. This band intends to release one very powerful track a day over the course of ten days. The blogger decides to follow this band on tour, and quickly realizes the band’s music is infused with a dark supernatural element that affects the world in a dangerous, steadily escalating fashion as each track is circulated on the internet and then played live in concert. So it’s a story that provides a weird, horrific twist on the trope of the rock and roll messiah.
What inspired you to write the novella?
When my show H.P. Lovecraft: Stand-Up Comedian! had its premiere in Seattle, I got to play Howie, which was an enormous amount of fun. So when my friend Brady Forrest invited me to do an Ignite talk at South By Southwest a few years ago, I decided to do the talk as Howie Lovecraft, only this time the joke was that he was a crackpot technology blogger whose site was called Things That Cannot Save You. And so I dreamed up a Tumblr by that name and populated it for the talk so that I could have a URL to link to, and then the Tumblr got kind of absurdly popular. Of all the work I’ve produced in my life, this silly Tumblr probably has the most reach.
But then once I had this captive audience on Tumblr, I thought, hey I should write some actual fiction and publish it there. Meanwhile, in a separate partition in my life, I’ve been music blogging for a long time, so the idea of putting a cynical music blogger in the driver’s seat of a horror story started to take hold. Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You is kind of a fusion of multiple threads in my life.
And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
That’s a good question and I’m not sure I know the answer. Ideas generally hit me out of the blue. And then they’ll often germinate for a year or more before I have enough of a hold on one of them to sit down and start writing. So there’s nothing specific in the swirling, ambient mediascape that I can point to as a direct inspiration. I will say for the last several years, I’ve been reading a huge array of creator-owned comics, where some brilliant science fiction and fantasy is unfolding.
What I love about comics as a medium is how deeply imaginative the scope can be; there doesn’t seem to be an aesthetic boundary, and I just love how creative or innovative these stories can be. I think that sense of “anything goes” in comics is definitely infusing the work I have coming up in the near future.
Good places to start would be Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda, East of West by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta, and The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I think the earliest genre fiction I remember really loving was the Chronicles of Narnia. The other standout for me is A Wrinkle In Time. For science fiction, I think the Dune books were my gateway in. But you know, I was also the right age to appreciate the first Star Wars movies in theatres, and to watch the first Battlestar Galactica series on TV, and that stuff definitely sparked my imagination big time. Then I took a science fiction class in college and finally got a good orientation about some standouts of the genre — the one I remember specifically is The Forever War, which alone made the class worth it.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love being a writer. I got my degree in theatre, imagining I might be an actor, but I became much more interested in playwriting. I experimented with writing science fiction novels during and shortly after college, but I really started to grow and learn and take off when I committed to playwriting as my primary focus. After fifteen years of writing plays, it’s been super enjoyable to get back into novel writing, which has fewer constraints on my imagination in a lot of ways. I mean, working creatively within constraints is part of what makes good theatre; I’m just excited to tell stories on a different scale for a while. As far as working within publishing, we’ll see how it goes!
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Mostly I just become very obsessed when I’m heads down on a project, to the exclusion of everything except my day job. I think that’s probably not uncommon, where you just cancel your social life and stay in the chair until it’s done. My writing desk is currently in our living room, which helps me feel connected to my housemates even though I can’t properly interact with them like a human while I’m focused on writing. Researching over the years has frequently involved collaborating with some very smart friends who are subject matter experts in various scientific fields. It’s a lot of fun to shoot ideas back and forth with friends who can steer you in the right direction for additional research, and plant seeds that might eventually surprise you as you gain more insight about a topic.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I wrote a trilogy of fantasy screenplays when I was in grade school, for instance. But my first really serious effort was a science fantasy book I wrote in high school — really just an interconnected series of twenty short stories, because I couldn’t fathom how to truly write long-form at the time. I still pull characters, ideas, and settings from that book, so yeah I am definitely fond of that experience. I’m a big fan of remixing ideas that I didn’t nail the first time, trying to attack them from different angles after time has passed to see if I can make something better this time. So I’ve raided that book on a frequent basis over the years.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I’m actually not sure where Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You fits into the horror landscape, because I’m not familiar with the genre. I don’t read or watch modern horror because I’m very easily freaked out by it. This novella kind of spilled out of me without warning, and in its way it’s science fiction too, but the main thread and aesthetic is horror. But I can’t recall the last non-Lovecraftian horror I read outside of some very dark comics I’ve come across over the past few years.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Just this past week, I finished a draft of a new novel and sent it off to a bunch of friends. So I’m on a hopefully brief hiatus until I get feedback, and then I’ll have rewriting to dig into.
For context, my musical Silhouette was a major endeavor which I started working on in September 2017 — I wrote book, music, and lyrics, and co-arranged the songs, over the course of six months, and then I co-directed the play which took another two months. It was an amazing experience, but I was also very, very burned out at the end of that process and had no idea when I’d want to tackle another big project. I tend to do one big project a year and a smattering of smaller things, but Silhouette was just so big that I was ready for a long sabbatical.
But then I went to WorldCon in San Diego this past summer, and some of the panels there were particularly inspiring, so I became very hyped about writing again much sooner than I’d anticipated. About two months ago, I launched myself into this new novel. I’d classify it as contemporary psychedelic science fantasy, and I’m too superstitious to describe the story, but I will say the narrator is one of my favorite characters I’ve written.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I can’t actually read anything while I’m heads down on a writing project; my brain just wants to focus exclusively on planning what’s coming next in the story. The last book I read right before going heads down on my new novel was Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, which was outstanding. The two genre books that are next in line for me now that I’m in between drafts are Infidel by Kameron Hurley and The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross. Also I’ve been wanting to read Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir ever since Warren Ellis reviewed it in his email newsletter last year, and I keep hearing great things about it so I’m hopefully going to get to it sooner rather than later.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
The novel I’ve recommended the most to people over the past few years is The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. I still feel inspired by that book. It’s a dark modern day fantasy about a deity teaching its adopted children the ropes while hanging out in suburbia. That is a total oversimplification of an ingenious, mind-bending story. It’s probably past time that I reread it.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I sang in small a cappella groups for many years, probably most of a decade. The score for Silhouette is entirely a cappella, written for twelve performers.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You comes out in February, so that should be reasonably exciting. And then I’m kind of vibrating in anticipation of getting feedback regarding the new thing — largely because I can’t predict even slightly what the reaction will be. After the new book is rewritten and eventually finished, I should have a break to recharge and just be a living room DJ for a while.
Scotto Moore’s You Favorite Band Cannot Save You is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK on February 5th, 2019.